‘The Father’s Tale’

Michael O’Brien’s publisher’s claim that his latest magnus opus merits “inclusion in any list of the world’s greatest novels” — right up there with Dickens, Austen, Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky — is stunningly audacious, and falls far short of the mark. (Nor, despite its 1,072 pages, does the work even earn a place on the list of the world’s longest novels.) 

It tells the story of a Canadian middle-aged widower and bookshop owner, Alexander Graham, who leaves behind his safe, isolated world to track down his son who goes missing during a study abroad program. 

Great literature “The Father’s Tale” (Ignatius Press, $29.95) is not. O’Brien’s yarn too frequently reads like a thinly veiled vehicle for his moral and religious message or modern culture critique. That, unfortunately, seems to be a common trait among much of what passes for Catholic fiction these days. 

And yet, O’Brien’s novel, which he describes as a modern retelling of the parables of the Good Shepherd and the Prodigal Son, is well worth the read. He spins an engaging story, with credible, compelling characters, and shows his artist’s eye in color-rich details. 

What of the “message” he barely hides? He takes the wisdom of the greats in Eastern and Western Christian spirituality on the mystery and mechanics of mercy, forgiveness, authentic love and dying to self to attain true life and communion with God — and delivers it deftly and in a way that is likely to prompt many readers, more than once, to self-evaluation and even prayer. No small feat.


Welcoming Catholics home

A new advertising campaign aims to bring Catholics back to church with ads airing on major television networks such as CBS, NBC, USA, CNN and Fox News through Jan. 8. 

The campaign, sponsored by the Atlanta-based organization Catholics Come Home, aims to reach 250 million television viewers in more than 10,000 U.S. cities. 

Tom Peterson, the organization’s founder, said the campaign’s “inspiring messages” are an invitation to Catholic neighbors, relatives, and co-workers to come “to the largest family reunion in modern history.” 

The ads focus on the richness and history of the Catholic Church and highlight Catholic traditions of prayer, education and help for the poor. 

“If you’ve been away, come home to your parish, and visit today” is part of the ad’s message scheduled to air more than 400 times through the feast of the Epiphany on Jan. 8. 

— CNS 


‘The Greatest Miracle’

Every Sunday, Catholics worldwide are obligated to attend Mass, but do they understand what a privilege it is to do so? 

A new 3D animated movie, “The Greatest Miracle,” aims to remind the faithful in a family-friendly way. Now in limited release, the movie follows three people — a young widow grieving her husband and struggling to raise her son, a bus driver who has just received bad news and an elderly woman wondering if her life still has purpose — as they learn to see the power and beauty of the Mass and of life itself. 

The movie is rated PG for mildly frightening images. Moviegoers accustomed to Pixar films may find the animation a little rudimentary in comparison, but the depictions of the church and Jesus are quite beautiful. 

“The Greatest Miracle” has won kudos from Catholic leaders.“Perfect for the Christmas season, [“The Greatest Miracle”] makes an important religious statement that appeals to people of all ages,” according to the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights.  

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