Saturday, November 17, 2012

Book Recommendation: Come Rack! Come Rope!

Come Rack! Come Rope! is a work of historical fiction by Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson. Msgr. Benson had the distinction of being the son of Edward Benson, who was Archlayman of Canterbury from 1883 to 1896. It must have been a terrible scandal when Robert converted to popery but convert he did in 1903 at the age of 32. In this book, he gives an account of the recusant experience of Catholics during the reign of the genocidal usurper, Elizabeth I.

In an age of Cate Blanchett movies and other hagiographical references to "Good Queen Bess," it's probably a shock to a lot of folks to learn how blood-drenched England was while she was in power. This book does an excellent job of showing what our ancestors in Faith had to endure at the hands of Her Majesty and the rapist, murdering psychos she kept as pets (such as Richard Topcliffe, who features prominently in the story).

Other than correcting the historical whitewash of Liz's reputation, the book serves a couple of other purposes.

1. It shows what measures can be used to compel Catholics to abandon the Church. These can be financial pressures or outright torture. We should be familiar with both of these. The former is being experimented with now in the United States. The latter has been used in some of our neighboring countries (eg- Mexico) not that long ago. Who knows what the future holds here?

2. It demonstrates the lengths Catholics went to in order to preserve the Faith. A couple of saints even make appearances to be sure that we're paying attention. Needless to say, there was a tremendous amount of suffering just to attend Mass. Or, if you were a priest, just to offer Mass. The lack of priests was used as a weapon to drive the believers into despair. One can only imagine the psychological torment, but it's not necessary. Benson paints it in graphic tones.

3. It enhances the awareness of what will happen when everyone isn't faithful. The remnant will be betrayed by their "friends" and family members. They are destroyed by those closest to them and even the smallest act of kindness can result in exposure and condemnation.

I'm not going to say that Msgr. Benson is a fantastic writer. He sometimes tends to redundancy, and his dialogue can be choppy and vague at times. However, when he turns his attention from the actions and plot and focused on the longing of the people for the return of the Faith, he shines very, very brightly. He paints the picture of what was and what should have been so eloquently that the reader can feel his pain from England's wholesale turn to heresy and schism. Praise God that he was spared from seeing the modern wreck of Anglicanism.

Anyway, when the story hardens around the "why" of recusant suffering, you will begin to see what I mean.

I will conclude with a warning and a secondary recommendation. The warning is this: the last pages of this book are the most heart-wrenching literature I've ever read. So there, now you know.

When you are done with this, move on to Msgr. Benson's Lord of the World. Then meditate on current events with both of these works in mind.


Titus said...

Msgr. Benson wrote a couple of delightful children's books (things like "An Alphabet of Saints") as well. Those are excellent.

Taylu said...

I read this novel and it was enduring. I did have a bit of a hard time doing a report on it for school tho.... Happy ready to all who read this novel!!