Cover image for The father and the son : my father's journey into the monastic life
The father and the son : my father's journey into the monastic life
Murray, Matt.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : HarperCollins, [1999]

Physical Description:
ix, 260 pages ; 22 cm
Personal Subject:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
BX4705.M9765 M88 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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"The year I turned thirteen, my father declared himself the patron saint of frustrated housewives from the time I started ninth grade I lived in constant danger of coming home from school to find a group of his disciples gathered in my living room."

So begins The Father and the Son, a funny, moving, and sometimes painful story about a son's rediscovery of his father and a father's discovery of a new life of faith as a monk and priest.

In this powerful work -- part memoir, part reportage--journalist Matt Murray explores the reasons his father, a middle-class homeowner and government worker, abandoned his life and moved to a rural monastery. The search takes the author back into his father's past, from his dirt-poor Depression-era childhood to his days as a struggling young writer in New York to his successful yet sometimes frustrated life as a husband and father. Murray recounts his mother's tragic death from cancer at the age of forty, and the difficult five years that followed for him, his farther, and his three siblings. He wrestles with the impact of his father's return to the Church at the age of fifty-two and subsequent decision to follow a life of faith, and the dramatic reshaping of his family that ensued.

As Murray tracks his father through his conversion and delves into his beliefs, he questions not only his father's faith, but his own, and offers, with stark honesty, profound reflections on the relationships between fathers and sons.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

In order to understand his father's mystifying decision to become a Benedictine monk, Murray embarks on an intensely personal journey into the past. Reliving the painful years that followed his mother's death, the author recalls his father's inexorable drift toward the sacred. Wrestling with his own feelings of anger, embarrassment, and abandonment, he details the disintegration of his family unit as his father became more involved in spiritual matters and less involved in his children's daily lives. Eventually reconciling with his remaining parent's new vocation, he delves into his father's childhood, young adulthood, and marriage, thoughtfully tracing the path that eventually led to the monastery. A piercingly honest examination of a unique father-son relationship. --Margaret Flanagan

Publisher's Weekly Review

In his first book, Murray (former Chicago Tribune journalist and current staff reporter at the Wall Street Journal) grapples with his 59-year-old father's decision to enter a Benedictine monastery in central Illinois, a thousand miles and several light-years away from the shape and tenor of his former life as a successful personnel manager in Washington, D.C. More poignantly, the author, who did not have extensive religious grounding in childhood, has difficulty understanding his father's conversion. Murray first explores the dysfunctional nature of his father's family, but the reasons for his father's choices are not wholly there. Next, he analyzes his parents' relationships partly through his father's love letters and the journals left by his mother before she died of cancer. The author describes his bereaved father as a retired, widowed single parent who is trying to reinvent himself, and presents his own adolescent self as embarrassed by his father's crying copious tears during mass. Murray observes, but does not initially comprehend, his father's conversion process. Ultimately, the question of why his father embraced monasticism becomes a question of spirit rather than of sociology or psychology. Some insight comes when the father describes his conversion as a response to God's call and reflects upon the peace he's found in living in the present moment, open to God's gifts and graces. Murray's chronology and accounts of family relationships are awkward to follow in places, but the book seems genuine and without pretense, gently exploring the impact of a father's religious conversion on his family. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

In his first book (based on his 1995 article), Wall Street Journal staff writer Murray offers a touching portrait of his family, centered around his widowed father's spiritual quest. Murray's parentsÄJames, a lapsed Catholic, and Michele, a convert to CatholicismÄwere writers who raised four children. After Murray's mother died (from cancer, when he was eight), his father, a police civil-service administrator, started on a spiritual quest that sparked major changes in the Murray household that ended in his becoming a Benedictine monk and an ordained priest in his sixties. The author, who had minimal religious training, tells of trying to understand his father's new lifestyle and deep spiritual encounters. Quoting from his mother's journals and his father's letters, Murray draws a picture of a loving and understanding family. The writing is clean and clear. An inspiring tribute by a son to a father; recommended for general collections.ÄAnna M. Donnelly, St. John's Univ. Lib., Jamaica, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.