Fiction has a way of revealing truths to us that sometimes non-fiction has a hard time doing. Maybe because it shows us how to live instead of just telling, or because it involves us in the characters’ own journeys. Since this year is the Year of Mercy, why not focus your spring and summer reading on the theme of mercy? The following fictional works came to my mind when I thought of mercy. These books cover a few genres; mystery, fantasy, and historical fiction. Some of the books are focused more on the giving of mercy, and the others on receiving it. Interestingly, all the authors are Catholic.
The Father Brown Mysteries by G.K. Chesterton: Not only are these fun to read, but unlike many other detective stories, Father Brown is focused on more than just apprehending the criminal. He often encourages the criminals to repent, and tries to keep them from harming both themselves and others. Father Brown warns them that starting with smaller crimes only leads to greater ones, so he urges them to stop before they are locked into a life of crime. One of the main criminals in the stories takes his advice, using his skills for good as a private detective. Father Brown does not hold grudges against the criminals he encounters, but still sees their humanity, hoping that maybe someday they will repent and be open to God’s mercy.
The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien: Throughout the story of Middle Earth, we see characters choosing mercy for their enemies, even though they know harm may come of it. Both Bilbo and Frodo spare Smeagol’s life many times, and their mercy leads to the saving of Middle Earth. More importantly, the series shows us the effect being merciful, or not being merciful, has on the characters themselves. This is more clearly shown in the books, which is why I encourage you to read them.
Fabiola by Nicholas Cardinal Wiseman: In this novel on the persecution of early 4th century Christians in Rome, we see the effect that the witness of the martyrs had on a pagan noblewoman and one of the persecutors. Not only do we see the works of mercy being lived out by the martyrs, but we see how the other characters respond to it. Some respond by repenting and becoming Christians, others are driven to madness. Of those that converted, some took many years to get there, but they ultimately chose to respond to God’s mercy.
The Spear by Louis De Wohl: The Spear is a novel about a Roman soldier and a young woman who encounter Jesus; one when he pierces Him with a spear, and the other when she is about to be stoned for adultery. The story starts before that, mainly showing the soldier living the life of a typical Roman soldier of that time, and then the young woman’s fall into sin. Their encounters with Christ, though, starts them on a journey for truth and repentance.
Not only are these books engaging, they help us ask some fundamental questions about ourselves. Do I understand the relationship between justice and mercy? Am I motivated by love or selfishness, and how does this affect my attitude toward mercy? Do I practice the spiritual and corporal works of mercy in my life, so others may encounter Christ’s love through me? Am I open to God’s Divine Mercy, and do I hope that even my enemies will someday be open to His Mercy? I hope these books will start you on a journey to answer these questions, and if there are any fictional works that taught you more about mercy, let us know in the comments.
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