Recently, in thanks for a small contribution to “Home of Hope India” (which helps neglected, abused and abandoned girls in Southern India), I received a wonderful gift: a copy of In Due Season: A Catholic Life–autographed, no less, by its author, Paul Wilkes. (He is also executive director of “Home of Hope India.”)
I wasn’t much familiar with his work, except for a terrific short film on Thomas Merton he made many years ago, and which I viewed at a weekend retreat held at St. Mary’s. Because the glowing blurbs on the back cover were written by some of my favorite Catholic writers–Joan Chittister, James Martin and Andrew Greeley–I put down a book that had been putting me to sleep most nights and started to read Wilkes’ biography. Though I could have finished it easily in two or three nights, I paced myself and read it over about ten days.
I haven’t reflected on it enough to offer any significant insights, but I will recommend it to anyone who is looking for a good book, or searching for a last-minute holiday gift for a friend or family member. Feeling called to many vocations over his lifetime, including priest and Trappist monk, Wilkes has ended up living an incredible life as a writer, speaker, filmmaker and, most of all, seeker. His observations are honest (sometimes painfully if not brutally) throughout–especially about himself, as this son of an immigrant moves from a New York Catholic Worker house to the New York literary scene, and from a Trappist monastery to a house in the country, complete with family of four.
Chittister says In Due Season “has all the marks of Augustine’s Confessions or Merton’s Seven Storey Mountain,” while Greeley calls it “a memoir of the century.” I simply call it a beautifully written memoir of a life well-lived, with none of the kind of embarrassments, mistakes and false steps that most of us would prefer to forget left out.