In good Catholic fiction, characters live in a broken world, like ours today, and they are fallible people, as we are. What’s important though, is the absolute truth that God’s grace breaks into this reality. God is now, and always will be, present to the characters in Catholic Fiction—just as He is in real life for us.
There are plenty of sinners in my novel, A Hunger in the Heart. I’d like to tell you about one of them today, and to point out that God never leaves this character alone, even in her sinfulness—just as he never leaves you and I alone.
Sarah Neal Bridgeman is an alcoholic, a vindictive mother and wife. This is a woman who’s lost a lot. And because she’s somewhat narcissistic, she can’t handle that loss. She’d like to, but she just can’t let go of her own self-importance and prejudices. Yet, she doesn’t let God go either.
Her greatest loss is in the deficiency of the perfect husband she used to have. Sarah Neal wants him to be like he was. She prays for it. She surrounds herself with symbols of God. She wears a crucifix around her neck and hangs one in every room of her house. But Sarah Neal is a person, like many of us, who wants to blame someone else for her sorrows.
Surprisingly, she doesn’t blame God. She never says, “Why did God do this to me! Instead, she blames the soldier her husband saved in the war. She even blames her alcoholism on this soldier.
And her drinking affects everyone around her, especially her son, Coleman. Her sin changes her, just as sin changes us. God still loves her, but she can’t love him as she ought to, because whiskey has become her primary love. Addictions do that. They take over our lives.
God’s grace is available to Sarah Neal, as it is for all of us. He waits for us to take it. The problem is, until we see ourselves as the sinner—-until we notice we’re the only one in the room responsible for our sins—-we can’t recognize that Grace so we don’t reach for it. And just like Sarah Neal, if we don’t recognize and reach for grace, how can we use it in our lives?
In real life, if we take a truthful look at ourselves, we will see our sins and how they affect others. That truthful look at ourselves can cause us to change our behaviors and return to the God who loves us, who waits for us with open arms.