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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
This is the story of one man's faith, told with unrivaled reflection and candor. William F. Buckley, Jr., was raised a Catholic. As the world plunged into war, and as social mores changed dramatically around him, Buckley's faith?a most essential part of his make-up?sustained him. In Nearer, My God, Buckley examines in searching detail the meaning of his faith, and how his life has been shaped and sustained by religious conviction.
In highly personal terms, and with the wit and ...
This is the story of one man's faith, told with unrivaled reflection and candor. William F. Buckley, Jr., was raised a Catholic. As the world plunged into war, and as social mores changed dramatically around him, Buckley's faith—a most essential part of his make-up—sustained him. In Nearer, My God, Buckley examines in searching detail the meaning of his faith, and how his life has been shaped and sustained by religious conviction.
In highly personal terms, and with the wit and acuity for which he is justly renowned, Buckley discusses vital issues of Catholic doctrine and practice, and in so doing outlines for the reader both the nature of CathoLic faith and the essential role of religious belief in everyday life. In powerfully felt prose, he contributes provocatively and intelligently to the national interest in the nature of religion, the Church, and spiritual development. Nearer, My God is sure to appeal to all readers who have felt the stirrings of their own religious faith, and who want confirmation of their beliefs or who are seeking a guide to understanding their own souls.
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.
William F Buckley Jr: Thank you.
William F Buckley Jr: It seems to me a balanced life begins by acknowledging the insufficiency of purely materialistic considerations, and therefore instinctively looks out for the other dimension that religion supplies you with.
William F Buckley Jr: I don't know how to answer that question except to give the instinctive reply my mother.
William F Buckley Jr: I believe that the Catholic Church speaks with authority initiated by Christ. Those of its tenets with which I disagree I tend to forget or ignore.
William F Buckley Jr: I think that The Weekly Standard is doing a splendid job. It's lively, it's on base, and it's very thorough and distinctive on Washington issues, and I'm very pleased that most of the people working on it grew out of the Review tradition. The New Republic is a pleasingly hectic journal, and although the thrust of its policies is liberal, conservatives can get from it a lot that is instructive or even gratifying.
William F Buckley Jr: You have no prayer about getting someone elected if you are fussy about your specifications as I tend to be.
William F Buckley Jr: Yes, that distinction exists, and the interesting question at this point is where one draws the line.
William F Buckley Jr: The act, in my judgment, doesn't sufficiently take into account geopolitical and economic requirements. I hope that it will only have an important symbolic victory.
William F Buckley Jr: I can't answer this satisfactorily in the amount of time allowed. But if the inquirer wants to investigate, they should write to the National Review and ask for the specialty issue on drug policy.
William F Buckley Jr: Vatican II attempted a great many things. Some of these were instantly apparent. For instance, the alterations in the liturgy and the transfer to vernacular language. These particular changes I have found unrewarding and distracting. Other changes that are designed to encourage the incorporation of the laity in religious life have been welcomed and may move themselves out, but I think it is too early to tell.
William F Buckley Jr: A chapter in my book deals with the Hollywood phenomenon and deals with its possible derivations. Hollywood features tend to suffer most from the presumptive objectionality of men and women or members of religious orders. As such it tends to demean the religious calling the way it wasn't done in such classical films of years gone by, like what one associates with Bing Crosby.
William F Buckley Jr: Maria Valtorta was a visionary who thought that she had received special insights into the life of Christ. These were never acknowledged by the Church as authentic. This doesn't mean that she made them up, but it does mean that they may be products of her imagination. I did find a chapter on the crucifixion meaningful enough to include in my book. Yale is no different from comparable universities, of which I mean that the role of religion is much less important than it was 50 years ago. That doesn't make it a Godless place. They give God a seat at the back of the bus.
William F Buckley Jr: I think removal of religious lore is a result of a fanaticization of the clause in the first amendment that guards against the establishment of religion. I think it's preposterous to deny students access to religious commandments.
William F Buckley Jr: What happened was that I was asked by a producer who had access to the Vatican; for the first time in history, he filmed a program using its facilities. He enlisted Malcolm Muggeridge, David Niven, Princess Grace, and Charlton Heston. Their assignment was to take two parables, "The Prodigal Son" and a second parable, and to give examples of how, in their experience, contemporary examples of those parables were reenacted. It was an exciting experience, though the documentary itself was never aired because there were too many distractions to make it viewable.
William F Buckley Jr: Multiculturalism is only objectionable if it denies a primacy of the regnant culture. The entire point of America is to accept foreigners and transform them into Americans.
William F Buckley Jr: My father was a devout Christian, as was my mother, and there is no doubt that I "inherited" their faith.
William F Buckley Jr: My position on celibacy for clergy is to respect the judgment of 2000 years that, in the case of Catholics, celibacy is encouraged, to focus the energies of the clergy on the spiritual aspects of life.
William F Buckley Jr: A sailboat. Sloops, cutters, yawls, and schooners.
William F Buckley Jr: Beethoven's fourth.
William F Buckley Jr: No, not any single poet, though there are many I honor who were practicing Christians.
William F Buckley Jr: There is considerable sentiment in favor of omitting birth control through the use of mechanistic devices. The Vatican has been adamant on the subject since 1968. And there is no evidence of any change in official opinion. However there is much evidence that the Vatican's position is widely discountenanced. And in my book I speculate how there can be a reconciliation between teaching and practice and its effect.
William F Buckley Jr: The irreverence of Evelyn Waugh was primarily a literary device by which he managed to make his point. This device is most evident in his remarkable book BRIDESHEAD REVISITED.
William F Buckley Jr: Not necessarily. My wife has a superb sense of humor -- he could have gotten it from either one of us, or both.
William F Buckley Jr: Never felt close to any miracle. I do believe in them, and I do feel that there is overwhelming evidence that they have occurred.
William F Buckley Jr: A very good night to you all.
Posted March 31, 2008
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.'
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