This interview for Traces, the Italian language journal of the Catholic lay movement Communion and Liberation, appears in its July 2007 edition. The interviewer is Dr. Edoardo Rialti, a professor of literature in Florence, Italy, and translator of Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Thomas Howard and others.
During the 30 years I have been a painter and writer, I have noted a distinct pattern in myself: Whenever my prayer and sacramental life grow lax, the work suffers. It may continue to be clever and even dazzling to the eye, yet it becomes more and more shallow. Here is the vine and the branches that Jesus speaks of with a certain urgency. If creators of Christian culture hope to produce work that will bear good fruit, we must draw our life from the true source — our living Savior. He is real. He is present. But all too often we reduce him to an abstraction, giving him intellectual assent, but not our hearts.
What about this whole End Times scenario? What does the Catholic Church believe? IgnatiusInsight interviewed author Michael O’Brien whose fictional work Father Elijah is built around the character of a priest who is a convert from Judaism. Father Elijah is sent by the pope and the cardinal secretary of state to penetrate the inner circles of the man they believe is the Antichrist and call him to repentance. The plot for O’Brien’s book came to him in one inspiring moment while he was praying in a parish church for the state of the world and the Church. O’Brien, who is first and foremost the married father of six children and a Christian painter, went on to write an entire series, published by Ignatius Press. He is known as a strong voice for the Church’s moral values in Canada and in the West. Most recently, O’Brien gave a talk about the Apocalypse and Christianity at St. Patrick’s basilica in Ottawa, Canada.
An interview with the internet journal Ignatius Insight, on the writing of Sophia House and other novels in The Children of the Last Days series.
Ignatius Insight: Sophia House is the sixth novel in the series. How has that series of novels evolved over time? What has surprised you or intrigued you about the development of the series over the years?
Michael O’Brien: In the late 1970s I wrote two novels, A Cry of Stone and Strangers and Sojourners, simply responding to an interior prompting to write down these stories which just kept fountaining up in my imagination. They were overtly Catholic in content, and I was young enough, naïve enough too, to think it was possible for them to be published in Canada. Over more than a decade I amassed a hefty collection of rejection letters from publishers, who usually said something like, “Loved the characters and the writing, but the reading public is no longer interested in this worldview.” Translation: no orthodox Catholic vision of reality is acceptable in the mainstream of culture. I didn’t even ponder venturing south of the border, just tucked my novels away in a box, chalking it up to experience, an exercise in writing, and no more. Years later a friend high up in the Canadian literary establishment, who was himself an agnostic, assured me with utmost conviction that the problem with my books was their Catholic vision.
Question: This is your second visit to Croatia. What has brought you to our land?
O’Brien: I came to Croatia for the first time in 2003, at the invitation of my Croatian publisher, Verbum in Split, and the association of Catholic lay apostolates, MI, who co-sponsored the trip. I fell totally in love with your country and its people, and for that reason when Verbum suggested I make a return journey I was very eager to do so.
Q: What is it about our country that impresses you most?
O’Brien: As an artist and a writer, of course I was moved by the great beauty of your land, the mountains, the sea, the variety of landscapes and communities, the high level of culture. But what impresses me most profoundly is the character of your people.
From the publisher: A Cry of Stone is the long-awaited fifth novel in his series, Children of the Last Days, Michael O’Brien explores the true meaning of poverty of spirit. Loosely based on the real lives of a number of … Continue reading
Father Elijah is the tale of a Carmelite priest, Father Elijah (born David Schäfer), and his confrontation with the spirit of Antichrist. Set in Rome, Poland and Israel, the events of this novel take place approximately the same time as … Continue reading
Plague Journal is set in the near future. The novel is composed of both written and mental notes made by Nathaniel Delaney, Ann and Stephen’s grandson, who is the editor of a small town newspaper. The story takes place over … Continue reading
Strangers and Sojourners, set in a remote valley of the interior of British Columbia, is about the lives of two exiles, an Englishwoman, Anne, and her husband Stephen, an Irishman. Beginning on the first day of the 20th century, and … Continue reading