Adapted to English by Michael McGrade
(St Austin Press, 1999, sewn cloth hardback, 144pp, $25.00 (including postage). Available from R.M. Pead, 1 Fraser Place, Yarralumla, ACT 2600. Cheques payable to R.M Pead. Michael McGrade's Death of a Catholic Parish is available from the same address)
Michael McGrade's Death of A Catholic Parish documented, among other things, the destruction several years ago of the beautiful interior of the historic Benalla parish church of St Joseph in the Sandhurst diocese.
But if McGrade's raw presentation of a parish in tumult on the eve of the new millennium proved too traumatic for some, they will find no such grounds for avoiding his latest offering, which, although inspired by the Benalla experience, represents a complete change of pace: altogether more classical in form and subtle in approach.
As the author explains in the Preface, "the ongoing Benalla tragedy, as with the Catholic crisis in general, is in essence a matter of missing virtues." Obedience and reverence are the two he stresses here as "the sure antidote to the disease which has emaciated parishes, seminaries and religious houses for three decades" - essential to "re-establishing lasting peace and unity within each parish community and thus throughout the universal Church and the world."
As exemplars of the practice of these virtues and the heavenly rewards when practised, McGrade relates the extraordinary life of the fifteenth century Swiss couple, St Nicholas von Flue and his wife Dorothy. The book is effectively in two parts. The first consists of a translation from the German and French of a beautiful short story of the von Flues' life from Dorothy's perspective. It is a classic of its Catholic genre - simple, pious and profound. To this McGrade has added a fascinating short history of the life and times of St Nicholas, which he researched in Europe, since information in the English-speaking world about this saint is threadbare to say the least.