Thoughtful Reading for Lent - "Silence" by S. Endo and "Strangers in a Strange Land" by Archbishop Charles Chaput
Those interested in some serious reading for Lent can surely find much to read in the Christian Classics and classic Christian literature, even novels with a Christian theme.
There are two interesting opportunities for spiritual reflection based on contemporary literature:
Silence, an historical novel by Shusaku Endo written in 1966 is the source for a recently released movie of the same name directed by Martin Scorcese. It details the fate of the Catholics in Japan during the severe persecutions of the 17th century through the eyes of two Jesuit missionaries who arrived in Japan to find their Jesuit mentor who had reportedly apostasized. It was first screened at the Vatican for a select group of Jesuit priests after a meeting between Scorcese and Pope Francis.
The film is R rated for violence and gore. At first the Japanese regime tortured the missionary priests who arrived in Japan; later, they tortured the innocent Christians to coerce the missionary priests into abandoning the faith. I'd recommend the novel over the screen adaptation. Critics think the novel better than the movie and the movie surely requires a strong stomach.
A pivotal image is the ritual of e-fumi in which suspected Catholics were required to trample upon an image of Jesus or the Virgin Mary. Those reluctant to do so were labelled Christians and often tortured or executed unless they abandoned the faith. Some of these images survive:
A recent publication by Archbishop Charles Chaput, Strangers in a Strange Land: Living the Catholic Faith in a Post Christian World is his latest book dealing with American Catholicism.
The book may serve as a wake-up call to some who might be surprised to hear a Catholic archbishop call the world, including America "post-Christian" but it will hardly be news to many faithful Catholics who have become more and more disheartened by the direction many of our Catholic educated children and grandchildren are trodding. The book gives encouragement to Catholics, not only because Chaput has the courage to describe our current situation truthfully, but calls on us to live the faith more authentically and prophetically.