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A book is a literary compass that has the potential to direct our thoughts and actions:

"Everything we read stimulates our mind to think, and what we think determines what we desire, and desires are the seedbed of our actions. Given this iron law of human nature--from reading to thinking, to desiring, to acting--we are shaping our destiny by the ideas we choose to have enter our minds through print." - Fr. John Hardon, S.J., The Catholic Lifetime Reading Plan

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"Every soul that uplifts itself uplifts the world." --Elisabeth Leseur

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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Is Purgatory Like a Novel?

What makes fiction so powerful and so poignant? Thornton Wilder sums it up in one of the most moving quotes I have ever read:
If Queen Elizabeth or Frederick the Great or Ernest Hemingway were to read their biographies, they would exclaim, "Ah, my secret is still safe." But if Natasha Rostov were to read War and Peace she would cry out as she covered her face with her hands: "How did he know, how did he know?"
Is this what the pain of Purgatory might be like: reading the story of our life as seen by God, and finally understanding that He sees and knows all? Will we, like Natasha, cover our faces and say, "How did He know, how did He know?"

Death is the moment when we realize that none of our secrets were safe.

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posted by Nick Senger at 8:41 AM

Comments on "Is Purgatory Like a Novel?"


Anonymous Paula said ... (Tuesday, June 26, 2007 8:27:00 PM) : 

I love this quote! I cut it out many years ago and pasted it into a scrapbook, but I failed to make a note of the source. Can you tell me where it was first published?

And yes, it's a moving analogy for the final judgment. Thank God we have Jesus to intercede for us!


Blogger Nick Senger said ... (Thursday, June 28, 2007 8:02:00 AM) : 

I wish I could help you, but I'm not sure of the original source myself. I found it in Steven Gilbar's The Reader's Quotation Book, and no reference is given. I'll do a little digging to see what I can come up with. Thanks for the comment!


Blogger Nick Senger said ... (Thursday, June 28, 2007 8:17:00 AM) : 

Well, it didn't take as long as I thought. According to an article in the New York Times (October 25, 1981), Elinor Langer writes that just before he died, Wilder said these words to Garson Kanin, one of his colleagues. Langer found the quote in a Reader's Digest she read in a doctor's office. I imagine it's from a biography of Wilder. If this link works, you can find the New York Time article here. Scroll to the bottom.


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