Father Joe the Man Who Saved My Soul

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9781419306075: Father Joe the Man Who Saved My Soul

When he was 14, Tony Hendra has an affair with a married woman. One afternoon, her husband, a devout Roman Catholic, discovered the two in each other's arms. The husband, acting more out of concern for Hendra's soul than out of anger, arranged for the teenager to spend several weeks under the tutelage of Father Joe at a Benedictine abbey in England. Expecting cruel treatment similar to that handed out by the monks in his Catholic elementary school. Hendra was surprised to meet instead a rotund, knobby-kneed confessor whose thoughtful, open manner changed Hendra's life forever. As Hendra reveals in this graceful, humorous tale, Father Joe acted not only as a confessor, but also as a friend and as the guiding spirit of Hendra's life (the author is now married with three children). Under the influence of Father Joe. Hendra passionately decided to follow the monastic life. At every turn, he met Father Joe's gentle insistence that he wasn't yet ready to enter the monastery. At Cambridge, Hendra discovered a new passion- comedy- and pursued it as ardently as he'd pursued religion. Hendra writes well (he spent several years as the head writer at National Lampoon), chronicling the failure of his first marriage, his descent into substance abuse, his self-hatred and his incessant search for meaning in compelling prose and with clear-eyed honesty. Throughout Hendra's life. Father Joe stands by his side, like a gentle shepherd leading a lost sheep back to a place where it can graze safely.

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Review:

How I met Father Joe. I was fourteen and having an affair with a married woman. These are the opening lines to the first chapter of this outstanding memoir by former National Lampoon Editor Tony Hendra. How could we resist diving into this deliciously satisfying story about a lifelong mentorship with Dom Joseph Warrilow, a.k.a. Father Joe? After the devout Catholic husband catches the illicit couple in the kitchen, the husband does not attack Hendra. Instead he decides the young boy needs salvation. Amazingly, the husband leads Hendra to the one man who could save his soul: Father Joe. This is a tribute to a spiritual mentor, written in an easygoing, guy-talk style. It is no small feat to be brilliantly funny, ruthlessly honest, and spiritually profound at the same time, but Hendra has the winning combo. For more than 40 years Hendra would return to this mesmerizing old soul to tell him everything---from the details of his first sexual encounter, through questioning the social value of satire, to his crisis in faith after losing two children through miscarriages. But it's not just the North Star wisdom of Father Joe that captivates readers; it is the chance to follow Hendra as he gradually matures into a humble and spiritually solid man who can still crack a wicked good joke. Such a gift. Thank you, Tony Hendra. --Gail Hudson

From the Inside Flap:

A key comic writer of the past three decades has created his most heartfelt and hard-hitting book. Father Joe is Tony Hendra's inspiring true story of finding faith, friendship, and family through the decades-long influence of a surpassingly wise Benedictine monk named Father Joseph Warrillow.
Like everything human, it started with sex. In 1955, fourteen-year-old Tony found himself entangled with a married Catholic woman. In Cold War England, where Catholicism was the subject of news stories and Graham Greene bestsellers, Tony was whisked off by the woman's husband to see a priest and be saved.
Yet what he found was a far cry from the priests he'd known at Catholic school, where boys were beaten with belts or set upon by dogs. Instead, he met Father Joe, a gentle, stammering, ungainly Benedictine who never used the words "wrong" or "guilt," who believed that God was in everyone and that "the only sin was selfishness." During the next forty years, as his life and career drastically ebbed and flowed, Tony discovered that his visits to Father Joe remained the one constant in his life--the relationship that, in the most serious sense, saved it.
From the fifties and his adolescent desire to join an abbey himself; to the sixties, when attending Cambridge and seeing the satire of "Beyond the Fringe convinced him to change the world with laughter, not prayer; to the seventies and successful stints as an original editor of "National Lampoon and a writer of "Lemmings, the off-Broadway smash that introduced John Belushi and Chevy Chase; to professional disaster after co-creating the legendary English series "Spitting Image; from drinking to drugs, from a failed first marriage to asuccessful second and the miracle of parenthood--the years only deepened Tony's need for the wisdom of his other and more real father, creating a bond that could not be broken, even by death.
A startling departure for this acclaimed satirist, Father Joe is a sincere account of how Tony Hendra learned to love. It's the story of a whole generation looking for a way back from mockery and irony, looking for its own Father Joe, and a testament to one of the most charismatic mentors in modern literature.

"From the Hardcover edition.

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