Vows: The Story of a Priest, a Nun, and Their Son

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9781400101979: Vows: The Story of a Priest, a Nun, and Their Son

The 1950s was a boom time for the Catholic Church in America, with large families of devout members providing at least one son or daughter for a life of religious service. Boston was at the epicenter of this explosion, and Bill Manseau and Mary Doherty - two eager young parishioners from different towns - became part of a new breed of clergy, eschewing the comforts of homey parishes and choosing instead to minister to the inner-city poor. Peter Manseau's riveting evocation of his parents' parallel childhoods, their similar callings, their experiences in the seminary and convent, and how they met while tending to the homeless of Roxbury during the riot-prone 1960s is a page-turning meditation on the effect that love can have on profound faith. Once married, the Manseaus continued to fight for Father Bill's right to serve the church as a priest, and it was into this situation that Peter and his siblings were born and raised to be good Catholics while they witnessed their father's personal conflict with the church's hierarchy. A multigenerational tale of spirituality, Vows also charts Peter's own calling, one which he tried to deny even as he felt compelled to consider the monastic life, toying with the idea of continuing a family tradition that stretches back over 300 years of Irish and French Catholic priests and nuns. It is also in Peter's deft hands that we learn about a culture and a religion that has shaped so much of American life, affected generations of true believers, and withstood great turmoil. Vows is a compelling tale of one family's unshakable faith that to be called is to serve, however high the cost may be.

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Review:

Peter Manseau's deeply personal memoir is a meditation on family, church, faith and self. Oh, and God too. The story of rejecting the faith you are given, only to embrace it again in some form (or at least make peace with it) may seem familiar, but lost within the loving detail of Manseau's writing the reader discovers it anew. A spirit of tenderness and generosity permeates the pages of this story, but always leavened by unflinching honesty, the salt that keeps the flavor from the first page to the last. Manseau brings us into his sense of wonder as he traces the journey of his priest-father and his nun-mother who, if they had stayed true to their initial calling into the Catholic church, would have ensured he and his siblings never came to exist. Vows also brings us into the strong Boston Catholic culture of half a century ago, and near its end we find an unexpected left turn into the very heart of the sexual abuse scandal that has rocked the Roman church in 2005. But however intrinsic to the book these elements are, they only inform the story, and never overwhelm it. Primarily, as he traces the journey first of his parents, and then himself, we are left with a sense of joy over seeing how life itself tends unruly and writes its own story while we are busy making our plans. And though religion itself is on every page of the book, in forms both personal and institutional, the heart of the book is its humanity.--Ed Dobeas

About the Author:

Peter Manseau is coauthor of Killing the Buddha and a founding editor of the award-winning online magazine of the same name.

Patrick Lawlor has recorded over three hundred audiobooks in just about every genre. He has been an Audie Award finalist multiple times and has garnered several AudioFile Earphones Awards, a Publishers Weekly Listen-Up Award, and many Library Journal and Kirkus starred audio reviews.

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