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Lord of the World, by Robert Hugh Benson



There is something intriguing about a book recommended by a Pope. Lord of the World, therefore, is doubly intriguing, having been recommended by both Pope Francis and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. It is not only the love from Rome which causes me to recommend Lord of the World; it is a wholly remarkable book.

Written in 1907, Lord of the World chronicles a futuristic and technologically advanced world, one in which the rise of Socialism has pushed the Catholic Church largely underground. Christianity has been replaced by a Religion of Man, euthanasia is freely available, and all nations have willingly placed themselves under the leadership of a relatively unknown, but highly successful, U.S. Senator from Vermont. The result is striking—war is virtually eradicated.

Under this setting, the reader follows the lives of two characters. The first is a Roman Catholic priest from England, whom the audience follows as he navigates the rising persecutions facing Christians at the hand of the new global government (curiously, this priest also bears a striking resemblance to the aforementioned U.S. Senator). Additionally, the audience follows the life of the wife of an English bureaucrat in the new government, demonstrating the average existence in the socialist regime; even more fascinating, it is through her story that we become aware with the intricacies of the new humanist religion.

Of the many merits which this novel has to offer (not the least of which is that it is thoroughly enjoyable), two stand out above the rest. The first is the premise of the plot: Can world peace be achieved through secular means? The response to this quandary is neither parochial nor overly dogmatic, enabling the audience to complete a fascinating thought experiment.

Even more substantial than this satisfaction of the mind’s desire to ruminate on quandaries, Lord of the World is a spectacle of hope. Throughout the novel, we are faced with notions of despair, either at the hands of persecution or purposelessness. In response, the audience is presented with the necessity for hope, through a myriad of positive and negative examples, culminating in a conclusion which can only be described as hope fulfilled.

Evan Holguin is a senior in the Program of Liberal Studies. On Black Friday, he purchased five books, lengthening an already long list of “Need to Reads.” If you would like to recommend a new entry for that list, please message him at eholguin@nd.edu.

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