Monday, February 14, 2011

Things Left Undone: The DNF Files

One of my goals is to have a whole year in which I finished every book I started. This is not the year. Passionate Uncertainty: Inside the American Jesuits by Peter McDonough and Eugene C. Bianchi, is my first DNF. We parted company at the 100-page mark.

Although I was brought up Protestant, I've had a fascination with the Roman Catholic church for almost as long as I can remember. I've also been intrigued by the Jesuits who are legendary for their work as missionaries and educators. My Catholic acquaintances over the years have assured me that Jesuits are the toughest and the most brilliant of all the orders. When I read that the pope issued an order to shut the society down in the 1700s, (an edict which lasted about 40 years) that seemed to add to their badass patina. When I found Passionate Uncertainty at my library, I was eager to learn more. That's not this book's job, however.

Passionate Uncertainty is a 2002 sociological study of the American Jesuits AKA The Society of Jesus and it is much dryer and more academic in tone than I had expected from the title. I was expecting a stronger narrative style and a more thorough rendering of the history of the order. Instead, it's more of an inquiry into why the number of Jesuits has been dropping with great velocity even before Vatican II (1962-65) and what (if anything) can be done to reverse the trend.

Many Jesuits -- those who have stayed in the monastic life and those who decided to leave -- are quoted in the book, but it is nearly anonymously (they are identified by age and sometimes by career if they no longer have the religious vocation) and the quotes are used to bolster the assertions of the authors. The reader doesn't get to know any particular person's whole story. These men are data, but that's the type of book it is. This isn't what I expected, but then again, I am not the intended audience.

1 comment:

Carrie#K said...

I can see why you didn't finish it - it took a fascinating subject and subtracted all the drama and humanity out of it.

Oddly enough, Jesuits keep popping up in the books I pick up lately. They really are amazing. Both fervent and practical.