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  • Writer's pictureProfiles in Catholicism

With Thee Tender is the Night

Reviewed by Eileen Quinn Knight, Ph.D. Profiles in Catholicism

The author sent me a message written by Pope Francis thanking him for sending this book he wrote. It is a fascinating book as it takes some major themes of the author and parses them into very detailed mediations. It was written at a time when Pope Francis announced an extraordinary Holy Year of Mercy (in 2016). He did this on Friday April 10th while celebrating a penitential service in St. Peter’s Basilica. The author sees this as prophetic as so many have come to fear God to feel unloved and unlovable. Pope Francis said when he announced the Holy Year that the whole Church which has much to receive mercy because we are sinners, “will find the joy to rediscover and render fruitful the mercy of God, with which we are called to give consolation to every man and woman of our time.”

O’Brien states that we are on a journey to discover the real face of God and allow his love to pardon, heal and transform us. We will be transformed in the same passage from Isaiah to read: “Do not be afraid, for I have redeemed you. I have called you by your name. you are mine.” (Isa 43:1)

The text is made up of 7 Chapters with a conclusion and a bibliography. It is filled with meditations that call us to ponder God in our hearts. One of the chapters that stood out for me is Chapter 5: The Appalling Strangeness of the Mercy of God. He tells the story of Graham Greene’s audience with pope Paul VI. The Pope said he enjoyed the Power And the Glory, one of Greene’s books. Greene quipped that he was surprised that the Pope would read this one. Why, asked the Pope, Greene explained that the book had been banned by the Vatican! Pope Paul smiled and said maybe some might not like what was in it, especially the alcoholic priest but Greene should continue. Greene suffered from depression and knew the conclusion that engendered in his life. His characters were fallible and made mistakes, bit Greene always saw they were held by the mercy of God. One of Greene’s earlier works “Brighton Rock” contains a small time gangster called Pinky. He is a mean psychopath and is a killer. Rose is a gentle waitress but she could be a witness against Pinky, so Pinky charms her and marries her. Rose loves Pinky and refuses to betray him but she now believes she is damned because she is now Pinky’s accomplice. Pink is killed and Rose despairs. But she receives this reassurance: ”You can’t conceive my child nor can I or anyone the

appalling…strangeness of the mercy of God…if he (Pinky) loved you…That shows there was some goon in him” in the end perhaps Rose is Pinky’s salvation. She is not far from God in her love of Pinky. Human love is a redemptive force in Greene’s works. The characters are tempted to despair at their inadequate response to God and what they perceive as their unworthiness of His love. Yet there is above all this the “appalling strangeness of the mercy of God”. When Greene was dying he was asked was he afraid. No, he said, because he knew that mercy of God, he knew the appalling strangeness of the mercy of God.

O’Brien writes with purpose and meaning and provides many meditations to the readers. He enjoyed writing it and you will enjoy reading it!

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