While browsing the website of the Cincinnati public library I came across a gem, the autobiography of Father Francis Finn. I ordered it into the Harrison branch and picked it up last week.

Many people know Father Finn from the childrens books he wrote. The Tom Playfair series were his most famous. He wrote many others including several set in Cincinnati in and around St. Xavier parish on Sycamore St. downtown.

He states “…I was, in 1901, put in charge of St. Xavier School, a position which I have held for twenty-seven years.”

Father Finn makes a statement early on in the book that sums up a feeling that my wife had instinctively from the time our children were very young and which I have, over the years, come wholeheartedly to agree with.

“Came a day, as movie writers would have it, when I learned to read. Along with this new gift came a period of sickness, and I buried myself in what books I could get. My beloved nurse Connie fell dangerously ill at this time. Having made her peace with God and convinced she was no longer for this world, she disposed of many of her belongings. To me she gave five or six books, among them “Fabiola,” by Cardinal Wiseman, “Scalp Hunters,” by Marion Leeds, and “Rosemary,” by Huntington.
Connie recovered, but I kept the books; and with reading “Fabiola” came a new period in my life. The beautiful story of those early Christian Martyrs had a profound influence on my life. Religion began to mean something to me. Since, the day of reading “Fabiola,” I have carried the conviction that one of the greatest things in the world is to get the right book into the hands of the right boy or girl. No one can indulge in reading to any extent without being largely influenced for better or for worse. Only yesterday, just before I took up these recollections, word came to me that a brilliant young man, an outstanding student of our college in Cincinnati, had lost the faith. I was more shocked than astonished. I had known the boy well and thought much of him. But I had also known that even in his callow youth he had read books against the faith, books dangerous to morals, and books of every kind provided they had some claims to literary merit. In a word, he had browsed without discriminating between the good and the poisonous. The result was as might have been expected.”

I would think in this day and age we could add movies, TV shows, music, video games and social media to the things we need to discriminate.

P.S. Another interesting tidbit of this is that Xavier students were losing their faith long before Father Overberg showed up on campus.

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