How I met Father Joe. I was fourteen and having an affair with a married woman.
These are the opening lines to the first chapter of this outstanding memoir by former National Lampoon
Editor Tony Hendra. How could we resist diving into this deliciously satisfying story about a lifelong mentorship with Dom Joseph Warrilow, a.k.a. Father Joe? After the devout Catholic husband catches the illicit couple in the kitchen, the husband does not attack Hendra. Instead he decides the young boy needs salvation. Amazingly, the husband leads Hendra to the one man who could save his soul: Father Joe. This is a tribute to a spiritual mentor, written in an easygoing, guy-talk style. It is no small feat to be brilliantly funny, ruthlessly honest, and spiritually profound at the same time, but Hendra has the winning combo. For more than 40 years Hendra would return to this mesmerizing old soul to tell him everything---from the details of his first sexual encounter, through questioning the social value of satire, to his crisis in faith after losing two children through miscarriages. But it's not just the North Star wisdom of Father Joe that captivates readers; it is the chance to follow Hendra as he gradually matures into a humble and spiritually solid man who can still crack a wicked good joke. Such a gift. Thank you, Tony Hendra. --Gail Hudson
From Publishers Weekly
When he was 14, Hendra had an affair with a married woman. One afternoon, her husband, a devout Roman Catholic, discovered the two in each other's arms. The husband, acting more out of concern for Hendra's soul than out of anger, arranged for the teenager to spend several weeks under the tutelage of Father Joe at a Benedictine abbey in England. Expecting cruel treatment similar to that handed out by the monks in his Catholic elementary school, Hendra was surprised to meet instead a rotund, knobby-kneed confessor whose thoughtful, open manner changed Hendra's life forever. As Hendra reveals in this graceful, humorous tale, Father Joe acted not only as a confessor, but also as a friend and as the guiding spirit of Hendra's life (the author is now married with three children). Under the influence of Father Joe, Hendra passionately decided to follow the monastic life. At every turn, he met Father Joe's gentle insistence that he wasn't yet ready to enter the monastery. At Cambridge, Hendra discovered a new passion-comedy-and pursued it as ardently as he'd pursued religion. Hendra writes well (he spent several years as the head writer at National Lampoon
), chronicling the failure of his first marriage, his descent into substance abuse, his self-hatred and his incessant search for meaning in compelling prose and with clear-eyed honesty. Throughout Hendra's life, Father Joe stands by his side, like a gentle shepherd leading a lost sheep back to a place where it can graze safely.
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