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Nearer, My God: An Autobiography of Faith Paperback – Bargain Price, October 15, 1998
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In Nearer, My God, William F. Buckley Jr. turns away from the political concerns that form the crux of his reputation and offers a series of thoughtful meditations upon his Roman Catholic faith. Although the book is subtitled An Autobiography of Faith, only portions of it are strictly autobiographical. Other sections include ruminations on the controversies of the modern Church--such as the continued ban on birth control and the ordination of female priests--and an exegesis of Difficulties, a remarkable 1934 collaborative debate between a Catholic priest and an amateur theologian. ("The volume has slipped from regular use," Buckley writes, "and even from the memory of younger people, but it is not anachronized, though it takes on some questions that no longer vex the religiously curious.")
Buckley writes with consistent intelligence and precision; how, indeed, could it be otherwise? Even those who do not agree with him politically will be struck by the sensitivity of his spiritual inquiry, particularly in his elaboration of the distinction between contemporary Catholic practice and the enduring Catholic heritage. Nearer, My God serves as a splendid testimony to the maintenance of faith. --Ron Hogan
From Kirkus Reviews
This eloquent spiritual ``autobiography'' is, disappointingly, almost entirely about people other than Buckley, and about theology rather than faith. Buckley, erstwhile leader of the political right (founder and editor of the National Review) has departed from his usual subjects here. (Refreshingly, he humbly admits that this book took five years to write and that he was dissatisfied with the finished product, feeling that it lacked the fervor and narrative vigor usually associated with spiritual memoirs.) The book begins wonderfully: Buckley recounts his Catholic childhood in England and America, describing his devout parents, his privileged life of tutors, travels, and boarding schools. With his customary humor, he offers a teenager's view of Jesuit education; he also reveals a tender side, recounting his early prayers for his beloved mother's health (somewhat precarious after bearing 11 children). Yet the tenor of this chapter is in no way sustained throughout the book, which becomes an argumentative debate about the great issues of the Catholic Church. Even here, Buckley does not reveal much of himself, choosing instead to recount the intellectual struggles of adult friends who converted to Catholicism, among them Malcolm Muggeridge, Clare Boothe Luce, and Richard John Neuhaus. Buckley calls these pundits ``the forum,'' and he solicits their advice about many of the great theological debates: theodicy, the meaning of the crucifixion, papal infallibility (``the forum is divided on the issue of contraception,'' he tells us). Even the chapter entitled ``Experiencing Lourdes'' is primarily a detached observer's discussion of the site's history and the Church's lengthy process for authenticating miracles. One of the few hints we get about Buckley's own position is his restrained comment that ``the spiritual tonic is felt'' by pilgrims at Lourdes. But despite the aloofness, Buckley remains, as ever, a witty and controversial commentator. Readers looking for meaty discussions of Catholic doctrine could do a lot worse. (1 b&w illustration, not seen) -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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