By Robert Hickson
Theme: Toward an Integral Catholic Culture: Variations on a Theme of Father Feeney
Title: What Is It, Then, To Be a Priest? – Some Examples From The Culture of Catholic Literature and Their Effects
In consideration that 2009 has been declared by Pope Benedict to be “The Year of the Priest,” Dr. Hickson pays tribute in this exquisite eulogium to several priests who either died ministering to soldiers on the Russian front, or survived the same that they might be a living witness to the heroic sacrifices unto death of those men (and their suffering families) who were the victims chosen by God to expiate the sins of Christendom.
With Eugenio Corti's historical novel, The Red Horse, and his war memoirs, The Last Soldiers of the King: Wartime Italy, 1943-1945, as his references, Dr. Hickson introduces the deeper realities of Catholic culture as they manifested themselves in confrontation with the theatre of war and death, in conjunction with the human will’s awesome power to embrace hope or despair, eternal life or everlasting death, in the most oppressing and horrific of circumstances. To carry the gift of supernatural hope to the very end, with faith and charity, to persevere unto death, as our speaker so forcefully underlines, is the magnum donum, the great gift of God.
These Italian priests who are presented in these books, their heroic deeds on the frigid battlefields, in forty degree below temperatures, hearing confessions, anointing the dying, sometimes even those of their Russian enemy, make the face of Christ crucified to live vividly in the single eyes of these selfless giants of compassion. Eugenio Corti draws from personal experience in writing the historical novel The Red Horse. What Corti put into prose Dr. Hickson delivers in spoken words (his written essay is also available), all to stir our hearts, to change us from mediocrity to magnanimity, to transform us through grace into more worthy members of Christ’s Mystical Body. This is the great value of the most excellent works of Catholic literature, which, like a cultured soil, can nourish us to grow in wisdom, fortitude, and nobility of character.
2009 SBC Conference
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