It has occurred to me that the vast majority of readers of this Blog have never read my book “From Illusions to Illumination. The Itinerary of a Franciscan Priest from Catholicism to Atheism”. It contains, like the Blog which is its extension, 227 “Reflections” of the kind that you find here. But it begins with three short autobiographical chapters. The first outlines my life in Sydney as a child and as an adolescent, with emphasis on the religious environment of my life at home and at school. The second records my experience as a young Franciscan student, from the junior seminary through the Novitiate and the two major seminaries in Melbourne, where I spent three years studying Philosophy and four studying Theology before being ordained a priest in 1961. The last of these three chapters spells out my seven years as a Franciscan priest, including the three I spent in the doctoral program in Theology in Paris, France, as well as my decision in 1968 to leave the Franciscans and the priesthood but to serve the Church for the next ten years in the U.S. as a lay Professor of Theology and Director of Religious Education, before returning to France with my wife and children to begin a new career in training Managers of large corporations until my retirement in 2001. (If, frankly, you don’t give a damn about the Life of Frank, feel free to skip this extended interlude in the series of posts you have been reading, now approaching the 400 mark.) I plan to continue posting new Reflections after publishing right here the book’s summary autobiography, which is intended to let readers know where I come from – in every sense of the word. I dare to hope that you will find it interesting, if not enlightening, in the sense that it might help you understand the depth of the faith and the extent of the credulity which were mine, the challenge I faced as a Believer on the Brink to embrace atheism, and the liberty I have enjoyed since I finally learned to see.
My book, which I self-published in 2011, has no preface, but it does feature the usual author’s back-cover blurb. For the record, here it is :
“The author, formerly Rev. Father Leon O’Meara, O.F.M., was, for many years, a member of the Franciscan Order and a Catholic priest. Originally from Australia, he holds degrees in Sacred Theology and Pastoral Catechetics from the Institut Catholique, Paris, France. For ten years he taught Religious Pedagogy in American dioceses and in a Catholic university in Vermont, before finally becoming an atheist. He, his children and their families live in France, where he pursued an international corporate career for over twenty years until his retirement ten years ago.
“His book traces both his religious upbringing and experience, and his reasons for becoming an atheist. It has no pretensions of being a Dawkins discourse on atheism or an Onfray opus on atheology. It is rather a collection of 227 sometimes serious, sometimes entertaining, often wry reflections, teasers and ticklers to help Believers on the Brink realize that their belief has blinded them to the vision and the truth that alone can make them free.”
If you’d prefer to stick with my Blog Reflections, and wait for the next ones, you already have a thick backlog to discover before reading the new posts I will publish here when I’ve finished presenting my life-story. To whet your appetite : I will be visiting Turin and its famous “miraculous” Shroud in a couple of weeks. I suspect that this may inspire a first-hand reaction to a famous example of blindfaithblindfolly . . .