Excerpt: The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne by Brian Moore
I just finished reading this tragedy by an Irish writer (with a Catholic background, of course, for those who know my obsessions). It was recommended to me, but I can’t remember by whom. It was brilliant and relentlessly bleak. Here is a section where the protaganist begins to lose her faith:
Was there nothing to pray to? Was the confession she had just made a form, something you went through to ease your conscience? If it was, then how easy it was to explain all the miseries, the follies, all the useless novenas, the prayers that never got an answer. And if it was true, then all the priests, all the bishops, all the cardinals, are wrong. Deluded men, believing they are being helped by a God who is not there. An unhelpful God. Why does he make men suffer?…
If no one hears?
No one. The church, an empty shell, nobody to hear, no reason to pray, only statues listen. Statues cannot hear.
And if I am alone?
If I am alone it does not matter what life I lead. It does not matter. And if I die I am a dead thing. I have no eternal life. No one will remember me, no one will weep for me. No one will reward the good I have done, no one will punish the sins I have committed.
I finished reading this book this morning and when I went outside to get lunch, right in front of me, walks an elderly woman in a red coat and red hat, her face rouged noticably, just how the character Judith Hearne was dressed in the book, when having her breakdown and crisis of faith. The minute I saw her my heart leapt- was this some sort of a sign? (The character Judith Hearne wants desperately a sign from God that he exists. It never comes in the book.) I must have had a stunned expression on my face and I worry that I hurt her feelings with my expression. The woman walking by my stoop was sad and lonely seeming, with a cane, ridiculous and brave in her garish red outfit, walking so slowly, a look of anger on her face. And a look of pride. I paused on my steps to let her pass. I looked down, in shame, or an attempt of respect. When I looked up, she was looking down. We had eye contact though, beforehand. I thought- I should have charity. I should have charity for this woman. How to have it? Just in my heart? That is not enough. (I wish I had smiled at her, but I was so stunned. I wish I had told her she looked lovely.) But- I take it – the seeing her—as a sign. And it makes me feel a bit off, a bit mad. Are there such things as coincidences?