Obedient Men by Denis Meadows, 308 pages, ©1954. $4.50 – $11.93 on Amazon.com.
Category: Biography | Rating: Recommended
The dust jacket of Obedient Men provides an excellent summary of this book: “A moving and exceptionally honest account of the author’s ten years as a Jesuit.” Indeed, Denis Meadows opens the book with a recollection of his cab ride to the Jesuit novitiate house, essentially his passage into his otherworldly association with the Catholic Church’s Society of Jesus.
Set in the UK near the turn of the twentieth century, Meadows recounts his 2 years as a Jesuit novice, 3 years as philosophy student, and subsequent years as a teacher. He explains the peculiarities of Jesuit life, touching on their rituals, traditions, vows, speaking habits, daily routine, hierarchy, and clothing. He even discusses ascetic practices, such as the use of a metal cilice worn on the thigh as a way to mortify the flesh. The conflict between Protestantism and Catholicism is a quiet but recurring theme.
The prose is engaging, told in a matter-of-fact, narrative style. Meadows avoids sensationalism or romanticism, keeping his story tightly bound to his own experience and avoiding speculation. He draws you into his thought process, as he frankly shares the doubt and conflict that plagued him regarding his choice of Jesuit life. The story culminates part way through World War I, where Meadows ultimately determines to leave the Society and join the military to serve his nation in its time of need.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, so much so that completing the last page felt like boxing up a friend I’d come to know.