Every once in a while a religious leader comes along who ignites strong feelings among the faithful. I think of the Dali Lama or Pope John the 23rd. Now I think of Pope Francis. This bishop from Argentina gets elected pope and he is making huge connections across many ethnicities and cultures. He is so open around crowds and he has such a remarkable sense of humor and a large dose of humility. He seems to go about as far as he can toward making believers out of ex-Catholics who believe the Catholic church has lost its way.
In writing about religious leaders, I like to draw them as dramatically as possible. Leaders who go against type, who are even rebellious toward some teachings in the church they lead. I think of Thomas Merton, the Trappist monk who lived in the second half of the 20th century. He thought the church had lost its way and was not addressing real issues in the world.
There is instant tension and conflict when my story includes such a character. Will the leader get in trouble with authorities? Will the leader get tossed out? Will the leader do something really outside the limits such as when a celibate priest decides to get married? On the other hand, there are also religious leaders who are going through internal conflicts, such as the priest in George Bernanos’ Diary of a Country Priest. That kind of conflict is exciting because the person feels he or she can’t live up to the demands of the vocation and has to make a decision to keep up or give up. Such characters bring lots of drama to stories when handled with sensitivity.
Author, The Magic Fault, published by Second Wind Publishing, 2011