A poignantly candid memoir artfully combined with a rigorous critique of institutional religion.

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A writer reflects on the solace he sought in seminarian life from childhood trauma, and the ways in which the Roman Catholic Church failed him.

Debut author Ward grew up in a drearily chilly household—his mother was violently domineering and his father was a depressive alcoholic who eventually committed suicide. The coldness of his home was often punctured by the vicious beatings his parents delivered—the “angry outbursts and surprise attacks” cultivated an environment of cowed fear. As a result, the author was emotionally tortured and suffered a “dark and dismal” existence. He turned to the Catholic Church for “relief from loneliness and a life without purpose.” He knew he wanted to be a priest since he was 8 years old. At first, when he joined the seminary, he experienced it as his “place of serenity” and the world outside of it the mere “domain of survival.” But he was flummoxed by the lack of spiritual seriousness, the dogmatically rigid adherence to doctrine, and a corrosive environment that was a “breeding ground for sexual pathology.” In his memoir, Ward affectingly relates the grim torment he experienced in his youth as well as his “spiritual evolution” from an enthusiastic Catholic to a principled critic of the church. Ultimately, he came to the conclusion that the church’s obsession with institutional hierarchy was an impediment to its devotion to the spirit of Jesus’ teaching: “I was becoming more and more convinced that the core message of Jesus was being directly eclipsed by the needs and purposes of the organization, the bureaucratic Catholic Church.” In elegant and often stirring prose, intellectually thoughtful but always accessible, the author argues for a more personal understanding of spiritual life, shorn of inelastic doctrinal commitments and the demand for blind obedience to clerical officials. While the crux of Ward’s argument traverses very familiar ground, this is not a mere recounting of his preference for personal over institutional theology. He provides a meticulous argument that the inherent demands of any bureaucratic organization will conflict with a satisfying spiritual life. 

A poignantly candid memoir artfully combined with a rigorous critique of institutional religion.

Pub Date: Feb. 21, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-64492-977-3

Page Count: 236

Publisher: Christian Faith Publishing, Inc.

Review Posted Online: Jan. 22, 2020



This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996




An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

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