By Gerald J. Roy
Special to Wreckhouse Press Inc.
All living creatures, from the tiniest of plants to the largest animals behave in a manner that ensures harmonious behaviour promoting the survival and evolution of the species. This is also true of the sentient beings, the human race. That is the Inner Compass of which O’Keeffe speaks. Of course, there are exceptions to this as to any other rule, and he does address this later in his book.
This is in essence the story of one man’s journey of discovery, where in his search for what or who God is, eventually the author finds who he is instead. It opens while he is growing up during the war pitting Ireland against the oppressive rule of England. That conflict shaped his parents, and thus himself.
His journey takes him first to Africa where he begins to understand that, contrary to the belief of the time, there is goodness in others who are not strictly adhering to the rites of the Catholic Church. From Africa he then brings his pastoral duties to Newfoundland’s west coast. Still in search of the truth, he tends to the needs of his parishioners in Stephenville and then in Port au Choix. Eventually he realizes that he needs a time of reflection, and obtains permission to relinquish this aspect of his life, and becomes a self-professed hermit in the Codroy Valley.
This period is marred by a sense of betrayal, by the very Church to which he has devoted so much of his life. That betrayal was brought about when one priest recognized as a predator and pedophile, rather than be excised from the Church, was moved about from parish to parish and thereby enabled to continue destroying lives. This was also a time when it became apparent that the Church was more concerned with its reputation and public image than to carry out its true mission. He felt further betrayed when a Bishop he had looked up to was arrested trying to bring child pornography into Canada. This eventually led him to decide to leave the priesthood.
Before I finish the story, I feel I need to address the literary aspect of the book. I found that the numerous letters, e-mails, quotations from various authors and interactions with some individuals to be repetitive and distract from the message. Although the author does not say so in so many words, it becomes obvious to the reader that he does find that God was within him all along in his love of his fellow humans and of all things beautiful.
This is the story of one person’s journey of self-discovery, but it is also much more. For my reading this has forced me into my own retrospection. It has brought to the fore my successes and failings – those past actions of which I am proud, and those others I still regret today. It also made me realize that although I do enjoy the company of my family and my few close friends, I am most happy during my times of solitude and reflection, and allowed me to uncover some greater personal insights.
Aside from this minor literary criticism I am convinced that any reader of this book will likely find inspiration to help discover who they are, and help them fulfill their dreams and ambitions, thus making the world around them a better place. It’s well worth the read.
My rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars.