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Nearer, My God: An Autobiography of Faith

Nearer, My God: An Autobiography of Faith

4.0 1
by William F. Buckley Jr.

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This is the memoir of one man's faith. The renowned social and political commentator, William F. Buckley Jr., turns to a highly personal subject -- his faith. And he tells us the story of his life as a Catholic Christian. "Nearer, My God" is the most reflective, poignant, and searching of Bill Buckley's many books. In the opening chapters he relives his childhood, a


This is the memoir of one man's faith. The renowned social and political commentator, William F. Buckley Jr., turns to a highly personal subject -- his faith. And he tells us the story of his life as a Catholic Christian. "Nearer, My God" is the most reflective, poignant, and searching of Bill Buckley's many books. In the opening chapters he relives his childhood, a loving, funny, nostalgic glimpse into pre-World War II America and England. He speaks about his religious experiences to a world that has changed dramatically. He is unafraid of revealing the most personal side of his faith. He describes, in his distinctive style, the intimacy of a trip to Lourdes, the impact on him of the searing account by Maria Valtorta of the Crucifixion, the ordination of his nephew into the priesthood, and gives a moving account of his mother's death. And there is humor, as Buckley gives a unique, hilarious view of a visit to the Vatican with Malcolm Muggeridge, Charlton Heston, Grace Kelly, and David Niven. Personal though this book is, Buckley has gone to others to examine new perspectives, putting together his own distinguished 'Forum' and leaning on the great literature of the past to illustrate his thinking on contemporary Catholic and Christian issues.

Editorial Reviews

Michael Wright
. . .[A]n appealing, straightforward account of a life marked, as many are, by unexpected successes and crushing failures.
New York Times Book Review
Wall Street Journal
The story of the abiding, sustaining faith of a true believer. . . As always, his thoughts are invigorating. . . . His doctrinal investigations reveal a religious temperament that is respectfully questioning but not doubtful. In this Mr. Buckley, despite his formidable intellect, is probably not so different from the average American churchgoer.
Baltimore Sun
You can rage and rail at his politics. People have been doing that since he wrote his first book after his graduation from Yale in 1950. You can find his manner insufferably mid-Atlantic. . . But it would be extraordinarily hard to cite anyone writing today in English who more prodigiously combines civility, prolificness and versatility than William F. Buckley, Jr . . . Breathtakingly powerful. . . The core of the book is a rollicking adventure story of the spirit, an elaborate trek around and about the lofty peaks of belief and conviction. . . . It is compelling, and profoundly informative. . . . It presents a fascinating, intelligent and deeply humane demonstration of belief in the face of the most rigorous intellectual tests and challenges. . . Buckley's book is wonderfully exciting -- whether you are a believer or a skeptic.
Robert Sirico
This is the most respectful and serious treatment of the sweep of Catholic theology coming from a lay person -- and published by a mainstream house -- that I have seen in many years. -- Detroit News
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Buckley's account of a 1930s and '40s Catholic childhood spent at English boarding school and of a family life spent traveling Europe, living in huge homes peopled with butlers and beloved tutors will not whistle up similar memories for most Catholics of his, or any other, generation. Though the book includes autobiographical sections, this is less an autobiography than a collection of the author's opinions about things Catholic. Buckley and several prominent Catholic converts he consulted give the reader an informative and entertaining earful on everything from post-Vatican II liturgy, which Buckley finds aesthetically and theologically inferior, to the old Latin Massto and such current Catholic hot-button issues as the ordination of women and the use of contraceptives. An appendix presents a summary of the status of religious observances at a number of exclusive private secondary schools. This is a book by an author who eschews the merely trendy and speaks his own mind.
New York Times Book Review
The author may be an imposing public intellectual but he's also a debout Christian, and this unusually personal essay is both a celebration of his lifelong Roman Catholicism and a doctrinal apologia for the church. "It is certain to provide many insights into the mind of a polished writer...and it will do much to explain how the hopefully changesless faith of a Catholic jubes with the politics of a late-20th-century American political conservative," William R. Everdell wrote here in 1997. - The New York Times Book Review, October 12, 1998 END
Kirkus Reviews
This eloquent spiritual 'autobiography' is, disappointingly, almost entirely about people other than Buckley, and about theology rather than faith. Buckley, erstwhile leader of the political right (founder and editor of the National Review) has departed from his usual subjects here. (Refreshingly, he humbly admits that this book took five years to write and that he was dissatisfied with the finished product, feeling that it lacked the fervor and narrative vigor usually associated with spiritual memoirs.) The book begins wonderfully: Buckley recounts his Catholic childhood in England and America, describing his devout parents, his privileged life of tutors, travels, and boarding schools. With his customary humor, he offers a teenager's view of Jesuit education; he also reveals a tender side, recounting his early prayers for his beloved mother's health (somewhat precarious after bearing 11 children). Yet the tenor of this chapter is in no way sustained throughout the book, which becomes an argumentative debate about the great issues of the Catholic Church. Even here, Buckley does not reveal much of himself, choosing instead to recount the intellectual struggles of adult friends who converted to Catholicism, among them Malcolm Muggeridge, Clare Boothe Luce, and Richard John Neuhaus. Buckley calls these pundits "the forum,' and he solicits their advice about many of the great theological debates: theodicy, the meaning of the crucifixion, papal infallibility ('the forum is divided on the issue of contraception," he tells us). Even the chapter entitled 'Experiencing Lourdes' is primarily a detached observer's discussion of the site's history and the Church's lengthy process forauthenticating miracles. One of the few hints we get about Buckley's own position is his restrained comment that 'the spiritual tonic is felt' by pilgrims at Lourdes. But despite the aloofness, Buckley remains, as ever, a witty and controversial commentator. Readers looking for meaty discussions of Catholic doctrine could do a lot worse.

Product Details

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
Harvest Book Series
Edition description:
First Edition
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.75(d)

What People are Saying About This

William J. Bennett
A splendid story about a modern pilgrim's progress. . . erudite, engaging, poignant, and inspiring. -- Author of The Book of Virtues

Meet the Author

William F. Buckley Jr. is the founder of National Review and was the host of what was television's longest-running program, Firing Line. He was recently awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The author of thirteen other novels, including Spytime and Nuremberg: The Reckoning, he lives in Connecticut.

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Nearer, My God: An Autobiography of Faith 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Nearer, My God, is densely written and salted with such words as: animadversion, antimony, minence grise, funicular, *objurgations, piquant (a favorite), *proleptically, solipsism and *zucchetto. The asterisked words were not even listed in my 180,000 word Oxford Pocket American Dictionary. That fact makes me believe that many of the people who bought this book did not finish it, which is a loss for them. Speaking of 'people' there are not many who, like William F. Buckley, Jr., can work the word funicular into everyday conversation and experience. p For this baby-boomer born in the fertile fifties, and growing up watching Bill Buckley on his Firing Line program and making special appearances elsewhere on television, it really was something to get a prolonged look into bits of his personal life. p Nine brothers and sisters, fluent in three languages, a father richer than Croesus raised in multiple family homes in both America and Europe, with nine full time servants could explain his trademark relaxed pose as during interviews or discussions, he seems almost like a wet towel carefully draped over the chair to dry. p And as an adult he filmed a never-seen documentary inside the Sistine Chapel, met with two Popes and beginning in 1959 was able to 'take off' two months each year, to 'write and ski' in Switzerland calling as neighbors, actor David Niven and Princess Grace, who were also friends. In addition to being recruited by the CIA, when the words 'world traveler' are looked up in the encyclopedia, or these days Google, there is a photo of William F. Buckley Jr. looking out at you. p Nearer, My God was one of the very few non-fiction books in which I read every single word, from the tear-page's, 'Praise for William F. Buckley, Jr.'s Nearer My God', squinting at the microdot-sized footnotes, and all the way through Appendix A and B located prior to the twelve pages of the Index. p This is a fascinating, personal and explicit book about why this vastly accomplished man believes as he does. Having been raised in the Lutheran Church (broken away from the Catholic Church in the 1500s) I had a little more insight into Catholicism than another non-Catholic reader might have. p He steps through church history and along the way provides concrete evidence for Man's creation by a loving God. He visits most arguments for and against God and also why, other than being raised in it, he continues to abide with the Catholic magisterium, even after and its major manipulations of various facets of the faith. p While he answers many questions a non-Catholic, or as in my own case, being a lapsed Lutheran, an 'anti'-Catholic might have, he still hasn't convinced me that the Catholic church is the 'One Church'. On many of his points, the answers hinge on the belief that the Pope in Rome is the voice of God, and what that Pope states is gospel truth. To which he himself, might respond in another discussion by citing, 'That that is circular reasoning.' Of course, in actuality, he would use six and seven syllable words, not heard outside of a national spelling bee, to say the same thing. p The last chapter is a tribute to his mother Alois Steiner Buckley, which I loved since so many accomplished and successful men fail to recognize the almost absolute necessity of having a loving mother during childhood. p Nearer, My God An Autobiography of Faith should be read by any well-educated person who is questioning the existence of God, for this book has many answers. All non-Catholic practicing believers should also read it. And it certainly must be read by all Catholics, and as the National Catholic Reporter stated, 'Read it and wince, read it and weep, read it and smile, but read it.'