Thursday, 10 October 2019

Priests de la Resistance! by The Revd Fergus Butler-Gallie

Priests de la Resistance! The loose canons who fought Fascism in the twentieth century by The Revd Fergus Butler-Gallie
Published in the UK by OneWorld Publications on the 3rd October 2019.

One of my 2019 New Release Challenge reads

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Whoever said that Christians had to be meek and mild hadn't met Félix Kir - parish priest, French resistance hero and inventor of the Kir Royale. And they probably weren't thinking of Archbishop Damaskinos who, when threatened with the firing squad by the Nazis, replied, 'Please respect our traditions - in Greece we hang our archbishops.'

Whether pushing down country roads atop a tank or taking a bullet for an innocent schoolgirl, these fifteen extraordinary people were willing to give their lives to fight for the world they believed in.

Wherever fascism has taken root, it has met with resistance. From wartime Athens to sixties Alabama, Vichy France to military dictatorship in Brazil, these are the priests who dared to speak out (and act out) against those who would persuade us that hate is stronger than love.

I loved the title of Revd Butler-Gallie's new book, Priests De La Resistance! In it he discusses the lives and, often, premature deaths of fifteen clergy - who actually turn out to include several nuns as well as priests - all of whom took the courageous decisions to attempt to thwart fascism. Some I already had an awareness of, such as Princess Alice who made an appearance in Les Parisiennes, but others were stories I don't think I had read before. Butler-Gallie mostly focuses on Resistance to Nazism across Second World War Europe, but finishes up across the Atlantic in Brazil and then Civil Rights era Alabama.

Each of our clergy gets a potted biography exploring their pre-ordained life and the immediate events which led or pushed them into making a stand. Several, such as Canon Kir, were larger than life characters with a lot of influence. Others, such as Jane Haining were quietly dedicated, but no less inspirational. I appreciated Butler-Gallie's sense of humour and the often irreverent way in which he describes his protagonists. I did initially feel this made the book feel a little too light for its subject matter so had gone with a three-star rating, but on thinking it over again in order to write this review, I am now of the opinion that the writing style actually benefits the eork by making it more accessible. Priests De La Resistance comes from the same tradition of religious writings as the Lives Of The Saints books I saw in childhood, but it is a long way removed from those dry worthy tomes!

In an age where fascism is making a resurgence across Europe and in America, Priests De La Resistance is a worthwhile read for sly tips on how to burst its bubble and for inspiration to stand up for what is right rather than popular. I'm not religious myself, but still found plenty to admire and to wish to emulate in Butler-Gallie's chosen figures. Priests De La Resistance would be suitable for older teenage readers - perhaps those studying the Holocaust at school - as well as adults.

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  1. you always have the most unique titles here!

    Glad to hear all the priests were inspirational!

    I love how much thought you put into your reviews and how you reconsidered the 3-star review

    I just finish reading Pan's labyrinth and find myself with a refresh hate for fascism!

    1. The humour in the title reflects that of the book which is an entertaining read.
      I hoped you loved Pan's Labyrinth as much as I did?