Waugh and the Jesuits

The Jesuit magazine America runs an article in its latest issue about a recent conference on the Roman Catholic Literary Imagination. One of the participants, Mark Bosco, S.J., used the occasion to look back over the 20th century to identify writers who had interacted with Jesuits. One of these was Evelyn Waugh:

In Great Britain, the Jesuits Martin D’Arcy and Philip Caraman informed Evelyn Waugh’s Catholic imagination. Father D’Arcy… shows up everywhere in Waugh’s correspondence and biography—noted at his dinner parties, family gatherings, liturgies and on various retreats. It was Father D’Arcy who gave Waugh access to the Jesuit archives to write his history of Edmund Campion, the Elizabethan Jesuit martyred for the faith. Waugh’s imaginative history, Campion, is still a good read today. (In 1947 Waugh gave a share of his royalties from Campion to the English Province; and in 1948 and 1950 he gave all the paperback royalties from The Loved One and Vile Bodies to the Jesuit missions.)

If Father D’Arcy was mentor to Waugh’s deepening understanding of the faith, then Philip Caraman, S.J., one-time editor of the Jesuit journal The Month, was even more a friend and spiritual companion. Father Caraman, a young protégé of Father D’Arcy, had a remarkable bond with many British writers, Catholic or not. It was Father Caraman who celebrated for Waugh the Easter Mass of 1966, with permission to use the so-called Tridentine rite—Waugh was despondent about the new liturgy—and on the very afternoon after this Easter Mass, Waugh died of a heart attack.

Fr. Bosco goes on to describe Fr. Caraman’s close connections with two other English writers who also converted to Roman Catholicism, Graham Greene and Muriel Spark. In the U.S., writers identified in the article with Jesuit connections include Flannery O’Conner and Walker Percy. Fr. Bosco might also have mentioned that Waugh dedicated Edmund Campion to Fr. D’Arcy.

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