An abbreviated version of this interview with Michael O’Brien appeared in the August 15, 2004, edition of Our Sunday Visitor. The interviewer is Thomas Szyszkiewicz.
The Canadian Parliament recently passed Bill C-250 which amends the federal hate crimes law to include speech against sexual orientation. Some Canadian groups have complained about it, saying even the Bible could be seen as hate literature. What’s wrong with what was passed?
O’Brien: A number of aspects of the new law are profoundly disturbing. For one thing, there already exists in Canadian law abundant protection of human rights, including protection against discrimination on grounds of “sexual orientation.” What is distinctive about the new law is the criminalization of negative criticism of homosexuality as such.
The following interview was published in the July-August, 1998, issue of Gilbert!, a journal devoted to the ideas of G. K. Chesterton.
Gilbert! Its subtitle is “An Apocalypse.” It is a view of the end-times. Are we there now, at a time near the end of the world?
O’BRIEN. I don’t know. Every generation has to stay awake and watch, as Our Lord exhorted us to in the Gospels. Each is called to an attitude of vigilance. The scriptures warn us that the generation that is least vigilant is, in fact, the one that will be visited by the ultimate test. So my novel, unlike a number of other end-times novels which have appeared in the last couple of years, does not so much try to predict specific details of an apocalypse or to pinpoint certain characters and personalities on the world stage, as to ask the reader to go deeper and to ask himself, am I personally in a fit condition to meet the spiritual crisis into which I will be plunged if these are in fact the last days to which the prophets were pointing? True Christian prophesy is about preparing the heart and the mind to embrace the truth. Therefore, wanting neat fortune-telling packages about the near future is really in a sense undermining a true spirit of vigilance.
Ignatius Insight: Your most recent novel, A Cry of Stone, is the fifth book in the Children of the Last Days series. What was the inspiration and idea behind this series of novels?
O’Brien: It began one day in the mid-1990’s, when I was visiting the Blessed Sacrament in my local parish. I was praying for the Church. Suddenly overwhelmed by the reality of how many particular Catholic churches in the Western world have been seduced by materialism and have slid into grave sin and error, I was stricken with a deep grief. Though I am not an especially emotional person by nature, I began to weep….a profound weeping and groaning that was more spiritual than emotional. I begged God to purify and strengthen the Church in my land, in all the Americas and Western Europe.
Ignatius Insight: In some of your essays you’ve lamented the state of the arts in the Church. What are the unique challenges faced by Catholic novelists, artists, and musicians? What can be done to revitalize the arts within the Church and within secular culture?
O’Brien: This question is so monumental I hesitate to reply with a short answer. I’ve written many essays on it, and even they, lengthy and packed with ideas as they were, only scraped the surface of the problem.
But let me say this at least: A new springtime of evangelization and hope is beginning for the Church and the world. It is strong, but still fragile enough that it can be swept away or severely reduced by many factors.
MI: The Croatian publishing house “Verbum” recently published your voluminous novel Father Elijah, translated as The End Times. What inspired you to write this neoapocalyptic novel?
O’Brien: It began one day a few years ago, when I was visiting the Blessed Sacrament in my local parish. I was praying for the Church. Suddenly overwhelmed by the reality of how many particular Catholic churches in the Western world have been seduced by materialism and have slid into grave sin and error, I was stricken with a deep grief. Though I am not an especially emotional person by nature, I began to weep . . . .