A cloistered Eastern Rite Catholic monk drew upon his lifelong love of comics to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ. Amadeus, the nom de plum of the author who is part of the Maronite Monks of The Most Holy Trinity in Petersham, Massachusetts, penned the short graphic novel “The Truth Is Out There” (2013) to explain the truths of the faith in an understandable manner.
The germ for the graphic novel was based on a conversation that the author had prior to entering the monastery with several cradle Catholics who were born and raised in the faith. As they conversed, Amadeus realized how little any of them knew the faith. He concluded that the ignorance of this splendor of truth was a stumbling block for his generation of Catholics.
“The Truth Is Out There” depicts two space aged mail carriers discussing life, the universe and everything at a coffee bar. As the protagonists Brendon and Eric contemplate the right path to truth and true happiness , one finds his answers ensconced in the Catholic Church.
Although Amadeus seeks to educate readers, since the characters start at the very beginning readers do not have to possess any faith to appreciate the thoughful ideas which they will encounter. “The Truth Is Out There” seems to avoid shallow and syrupy characterizations typical of Christian media. And the plot allows the space aged couriers to put their coffee house principles to the test in the real “world”.
The author Amadeus had a lifelong love of comics and was inspired by the “Adventures of Tintin”. His love of drafting prompted him to become an aerospace engineer. Yet in 2003, he answered the call to become a contemplative monk, so Amadeus tried to put those illustration influences aside for his vocation of Eucharistic Adoration as well as praying the Divine Office and the Divine Liturgy.
|Maronite Monks in worship
Amadeus found that: “[T]he moment I entered the silence of the cloister, it was like my head was flooded with cartoons. It was nonstop: I just had all these great ideas.” With much mortification, Amadeus put the project off for a couple of years. But Amadeus wanted to share the riches of Truth in philosophy and theology which he had discerned in his life as a contemplative monk.
Initially, Amadeus thought of sharing these insights in an illustrated letter, copying the traditions of illuminated manuscripts. But he found that too boring and decided to do a series of comic strips because that is what he does best. Amadeus opined that: “The harder an idea is, the more helpful it is to draw it out.”
Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI proclaimed this liturgical year to be the Year of Faith. While it celebrated the Golden Anniversary of the start of the Vatican II Council, it also embraced Pope Blessed John Paul II’s call for the New Evangelization. The New Evangelization is meant to repropose the Gospel to those who have heard and forgotten the Good News as well as to those never exposed to the Christian message.
Even though a cloistered Maronite Monk seems like an unlikely messenger for a contemporary call to faith via pop art, the Holy Spirit works in mysterious ways. Bishop Gregory Mansour, of the Maronite Eparchy of Brooklyn, wrote that :
[S]omehow the words ‘comic book’ and ‘intellectually challenging’ don’t usually go together, but they do in ‘The Truth is Out There’ by Amadeus…Thank you, Amadeus, for presenting the journey from the prison walls of our mind to the exhilarating freedom of the truth in such an exciting way.
While comics are not my favored medium of entertainment or education, if a graphic novel can inspire other readers to see that “The Truth Is Out There” and contemplate eternal truths, that’s wonderful.
h/t: Catholic News Agency