Sunday, April 15, 2012

Fr. Philip Caraman, S.J. And Sir Alec Guinness

Alex Guinness with Mark Hamill, R2D2 and C3PO
Born in London in 1911, Philip George Caraman was the middle son of nine children - two boys and seven girls - of devoutly Catholic Armenian parents who immigrated to Britain after brutal civil war in their own country, and settled in Hampstead. Both boys became Jesuit priests and two of the girls became nuns.
Both boys attended the famous Jesuit college of Stoneyhurst. There Caraman first met Fr Martin D'Arcy, the renowned Jesuit academic, leading intellectual and later the founder and Master of Campion Hall in Oxford, where he was to renew the friendship. This college of the intellectual elite had a priceless library and manuscript archives of former Jesuits who were martyred during the Reformation, opening up a rich pile of history for future historians of whom Caraman was the most prominent.Young Phillip's forte being historical biography, this led him to make  inroads into these archives for his famous books on the heroic lives of the Jesuit martyrs at the time of the Reformation. His book on the Jesuit missions in Paraguay told the truth about the cruelty Jesuit missioners had suffered; their exiles, hardships, and martyrdoms. So successful was the book on the Reductions, titled The Lost Empire, that the famous writer, Robert Bolt, used the book which was transferred to the screen as The Mission. Caraman's career began early when his old Master from Campion Hall, Fr D'Arcy, took him under his wing and prepared him for the task of reviving the Jesuit periodical, The Month. It was on its last legs at the time, and dying fast. Fr D'Arcy appointed him editor, with unbounded confidence. He was not to be disappointed. His protegé was a brilliant success and an editor to match the best of British magazine editors. He changed the print, the layout, the cover design, and anything else that enhanced the quality of the magazine. He employed distinguished writers, such as Evelyn Waugh, Graham Greene, Edith Sitwell, Muriel Stark, and the American Trappist monk, Thomas Merton.
Not only were many of his writers non-Catholics, he converted many of them to Catholicism, baptising their children and marrying them. He was also a regular guest in their homes.The actor Alec Guinness, one of his converts, became one of his closest friends, as well as an admirer. Humour characterised many of the letters Guinness wrote to Philip in Norway. "Do you think that the ridiculous Star Wars is giving rise to a new heresy and shall I be called before the Inquisition?" he asked jokingly.

1 comment:

John Donohue sj said...

The Lost Empire is on the Jesuits in Ethiopia, not the Reductions.