My childhood was spent in Roman Catholic institutions and my mother was a novice nun before her marriage (see ‘Whatever Happened To Ishtar?’), so these two books were of personal interest to me. But of course they are both well written and interesting books in their own right, well worth the reading.
Carla Van Raay’s book God’s Callgirl is a perspective of the depths, in my opinion, of how far Catholicism has sunk since the beginnings of Christianity and the teachings of Jesus. Carla tells us about her life from her upbringing within a strict Catholic family, sexual and physical abuse by her father, to her entry into a convent as a teenager and her later life as a sex worker. Her life in the convent was spent in prayer and unpaid drudgery, such as cleaning, teaching and needlework (which the convent sold) and when she finally leaves the convent she discovers her parents, who were not well off, were charged by the nuns for Carla’s board and keep! She re-enters the real world as an innocent in every sense of the word. The convent was run by spiteful and cruel nuns within a strict hierarchy. The convent’s inhabitants were called ‘The Faithful Companions of Jesus’, ironic to say the least. Carla triumphs despite the best efforts of her parents and Catholicism.
My mother’s life was also one of hardship and emotional abuse in her convent which was called the ‘Home Of Compassion’. My mother and I, like Carla, never experienced or witnessed any real and heart-felt compassion in any Catholic institutions! In light of what is being exposed within the Catholic Church in recent times, it brings to my mind that saying ‘The higher you fly, the further you fall’.
-Anne Frandi-Coory 8 July 2010
Mario De Carvalho’s book A God Strolling in the Cool of the Evening is well researched which is apparent when he takes the reader back to Rome around the time of Jesus. The narrator is a Roman provincial official with whom we travel on his rounds of duties in the township where he lives, in amongst slaves and the rest of the populace. We learn how Roman officials spent their days and how they treated their women and their slaves. He describes in detail his living quarters and official buildings and how governing decisions of the time were reached. The book is set in the era of Jesus’ preaching and that of his ragtag bands of followers. Rome was then suspicious of their motives, before the time when Rome would eventually embrace this new religion as the state’s own. Added to that, many felt threatened and alarmed by the way these ‘new sect’ devotees dressed and behaved. It just wasn’t the Roman way. Persecutions and killings of Jesus’ followers was rife but in spite of this, the bands grew in number and they willingly became martyrs for their new beliefs; they felt close to Jesus spiritually, copied his acts of compassion for the poor. His God seemed a more humane one than the various Roman gods. Rome and her officials were sinking into corruption and the poor suffered greatly at their hands. For a Roman Official to speak out for a pleb or a slave, was not self-serving; demotion or exile from one’s town , often both, would be the outcome. -Anne Frandi-Coory 8 July 2010