Madeleine L'Engle - RIP
Her books were some of the better influences I had growing up, along with CS Lewis' Narnia series (less beneficial was my attraction to Susan Cooper's "Dark is Rising" series, though that too has, in the end, influenced me for more good than ill I think. At least it helped me to clarify some of the WRONG ways of thinking - at the same time, I don't really recommend those books to kids anymore and don't think they should be on the Catholic school's bookshelf. Whaddya know, Mom and Dad were right in their disapproval at the time!).
"A Wrinkle in Time" is what Mrs. L'Engle is perhaps best known for, and it was my first book of hers that I remember. Great book - I'm honestly not sure why it has been so popular, as it is really quite a confusing book to read, for an adult or a kid. In fact, I'd say that it's confusing aspects are better suited to kids, who don't expect to know everything, compared to adults who come across made-up lingo (that's not QUITE totally made up, as anything dealing with physics and space-time continuums ends up like) and feel somehow compelled to know WHAT exactly is being meant. With L'Engle's books, like "Wrinkle", the story is (as she so eloquently put it) "underneath" the words and it's only when your mind's eye becomes comfortable with that kind of gaze that you really get her story - and love it. Even so, I've found that the book is definitely still an enjoyable read as an adult, in fact I just reread "Wrinkle" again about a week or so ago after finding a copy at the local Goodwill.
Many of you have read "Wrinkle" at some time in your life, but did you know that there are three other books in the "Time Quartet" book series, all about the adventures of the Murray family? Now there's a great set of books to give to your young teen readers for Christmas!
To be honest, I think my favorite one is actually the final book, the fourth one, "Many Waters". It also happens to be the one that veers away a little from the storyline of the first three and concentrates instead on the two twin boys and what happens to them when they land in Noah's tent - literally. :) This is the Murray tale that is most blatantly Judeo-Christian-based (though done in a very historical/a-orthodox way - not that it is "unorthodox"... just a completely different way of looking at a Biblical story than I've ever seen before, without being offensive or "cute"). L'Engle's faith does obviously play a role in all of her writings though, there are hints of a very sacramental and theistic worldview in all of them, very much like Tolkien (though it a little more fantastical sense).
For the medically-inclined readers out there, the third book, "A Wind in the Door", is the most fascinating - Charles Wallace's mysterious illness is due to his mitochrondria being "tempted" into disordered frenzy, instead of well-ordered living. I always thought this was the most insightful storyline on the problem (from Original Sin - our inclination to disordered passions and desires) behind all of the painfulness of sin and death in our world. The fact that a cherubim makes an appearance in very fine literary fashion is a definite bonus too!
And for those who love space travel and "time paradoxes", the second book is for you! (Yes, yes, I know I'm doing this all out of order... so sue me!) In it, Charles Wallace is given help from God (not named, but well, it is Him) in the form of an angelic being that appears in material form as a winged unicorn. Charles Wallace then goes on many adventures through time - but never far from the same spot, which happens to be a rock in their backyard. Interspersed throughout this tale is the idea that "what we do in life, echoes in eternity" (as our favorite Gladiator might say) and that all of us are interconnected with one another, all of us matter, and what we do or don't do MATTERS. It's a great tale, and the rune that frames of the story (which reminds me a lot of the canticle from Daniel 3:52-90) will stick with you like Tolkien's Ring verses.
I regret that I haven't read much else of Mrs. L'Engle's, but perhaps in the future I will be able to. Today, however, I will add her to my list of souls to pray for:
Saints of God, come to her aid!
Come to meet her, angels of the Lord!
[Response] Receive her soul and present her to God the Most High.
May Christ, who called you, take you to himself;
may angels lead you to Abraham's side. [Response] Receive . . .
Give her eternal rest, O Lord,
and may your light shine on her for ever. [Response] Receive . . .
Let us Pray.
All-powerful and merciful God,
we commend to you, Madeleine, your servant.
In your mercy and love,
blot out all the sins she has committed through human weakness.
In this world she has died: let her live with you for ever.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
These verses may also be used.
V/. Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord.
R/. And let perpetual light shine upon her.
V/. May she rest in peace.
V/. May her soul and the souls of all the faithful departed,
through the mercy of God, rest in peace.