Saint Helena’s Belated Mission as a Late-Comer to Christ

(This Article is dedicated to the memory of Anthony Fraser on the anniversary of his death by Dr. Robert Hickson. Requiescat in pace.)

Two years after Evelyn Waugh had published his long-incubating, and especially moving, historical novel on Saint Helena, entitled Helena (1950), he published a short non-fictional book of some personal and historical importance, entitled The Holy Places. In this short presentation of earlier and then-current Israeli history, he also examines the mystery and special place of Saint Helena in the history of the Catholic Church, and in light of the special (as well as the general) Providence of God. We shall see in this little book many glimpses of Evelyn Waugh’s deep thought and deep-heartedness.

Although he was almost twenty-seven years of age when he quietly entered the Catholic Church on 29 September 1930, he too, like Saint Helena, was a late-comer to Christ and very grateful. As he suggestively and deftly puts it in his semi-autobiographical 1957 novel, The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold:

The Pinfolds were Roman Catholic, Mrs. Pinfold by upbringing, Mr. Pinfold by a later development. He had been received into the Church—“conversion” suggests an event more sudden and emotional than his calm acceptance of the propositions of his faith—in early manhood [like Waugh himself at Farm Street in London], at a time when many Englishmen of humane education were falling into communism. Unlike them Mr. Pinfold remained steadfast. But he was reputed bigoted rather than pious.”

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