Since Pope Francis referenced Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton in his address before Congress, there might be people looking for more information on these two important figures in modern Catholic history. Well, there’s a perfect source to find out about them along with two other great authors – Flannery O’Connor and Walker Percy.
Check out the Christopher Award-winning book “The Life You save May Be Your Own: An American Pilgrimage” by Paul Elie.
Here’s the book description:
The story of four modern American Catholics who made literature out of their search for God
In the mid-twentieth century four American Catholics came to believe that the best way to explore the questions of religious faith was to write about them-in works that readers of all kinds could admire. The Life You Save May Be Your Own is their story-a vivid and enthralling account of great writers and their power over us.
Thomas Merton was a Trappist monk in Kentucky; Dorothy Day the founder of the Catholic Worker in New York; Flannery O’Connor a “Christ-haunted” literary prodigy in Georgia; Walker Percy a doctor in New Orleans who quit medicine to write fiction and philosophy. A friend came up with a name for them-the School of the Holy Ghost-and for three decades they exchanged letters, ardently read one another’s books, and grappled with what one of them called a “predicament shared in common.”
A pilgrimage is a journey taken in light of a story; and in The Life You Save May Be Your Own Paul Elie tells these writers’ story as a pilgrimage from the God-obsessed literary past of Dante and Dostoevsky out into the thrilling chaos of postwar American life. It is a story of how the Catholic faith, in their vision of things, took on forms the faithful could not have anticipated. And it is a story about the ways we look to great books and writers to help us make sense of our experience, about the power of literature to change-to save-our lives.
Four 20th-century writers whose work was steeped in their shared Catholic faith come together in this masterful interplay of biography and literary criticism. Elie, an editor at Farrar, Straus & Giroux, where three of the four writers published their work, lays open the lives and writings of the monk Thomas Merton, Catholic Worker founder Dorothy Day, and novelists Flannery O’Connor and Walker Percy. Drawing comparisons between their backgrounds, temperaments, circumstances and words, he reveals “four like-minded writers” whose work took the shape of a movement. Though they produced no manifesto, Elie writes, they were unified as pilgrims moving toward the same destination while taking different paths. As they sought truth through their writing, he observes, they provided “patterns of experience” that future pilgrims could read into their lives. This volume (the title is taken from a short story of the same name by O’Connor) is an ambitious undertaking and one that could easily have become ponderous, but Elie’s presentation of the material is engaging and thoughtful, inspiring reflection and further study. Beginning with four separate figures joined only by their Catholicism and their work as writers, he deftly connects them, using their correspondence, travels, places of residence, their religious experiences and their responses to the tumultuous events of their times. This thoroughly researched and well-sourced work deserves attention from students of history, literature and religion, but it will be of special significance to Catholic readers interested in the expression of faith in the modern world.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.