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Afterwards, Bartholomew told himself that what had occurred must surely be no more than a mood of petulance, an eruption from his half-stifled impatience with the embroidery and frills that dressed the simplicity of truth with invasive, sentimental stories that somehow made faith easier, the hymns he hated. For Bartholomew, the mystery that was the source of all spiritual belief, present through catastrophe and plague and evil, was a strength now too, and more than it had ever been. Yet there was disquiet, a stirring in his vocation he had brought upon himself and wished he had not…Bartholomew – not knowing what he should otherwise do – continued to visit the lonely and the sick, to repeat the Te Deum, the Creed, the Litany. He felt he should not and yet he did.
It’s Week 24 of my Deal Me In 2018 short story project and I finally selected a Two – the Two of Hearts to be exact – which I’ve designated as a Wild Card for which I pick whatever story I want. I’ve been preparing to read a William Trevor story whenever I selected a Two so here it is. And though I’m not surprised, “Faith” is one of Trevor’s many masterpieces.
Bartholomew, a passive clergyman and his sister with the prickly personality, Hester, move to a small parish in Oscarey outside Dublin – mostly at the doings of Hester. The congregation is few and made up mostly of elderly people. So in a sense its a dying church. Bartholomew suffers what might be called a crisis of faith but continues to conduct his duties as a pastor. Hester confronts head-on her own terminal illness.
Trevor makes these characters and situations so real and intriguing that just reading the story is enough. A reader doesn’t have to analyze anything for the story to be satisfying. But then there’s that title. It at least makes me want to ask a few questions. Does it take more faith to move on in the face of looming doubt or to move on in the face of looming death? And is faith the same thing as courage? I find both of these characters courageous in their own way.