Come All Yee Faithful – by Robert J. Sawyer – (Cdn – Mississauga, Ontario) – Find it here
Premise: The sole Catholic Priest on Mars is ordered to investigate an apparent visitation by the Virgin Mary. There’s a great deal at stake, not least the rejuvenation of a dying religion.
Rating: Great fun. Though I am not a Catholic, I am a sucker for SF tales wherein devout Catholics confront a phenomenon which threatens their core beliefs. Catholicism is a very complex creed.
On the one hand you have mere superstition as evidenced by the scene in a Fellini film where, a passing allied fighter having strafed a bus in the countryside, the survivors fall to their knees to praise a statue of the Virgin Mary which has begun to bleed. In fact the statue being transported conceals illegal moonshine which is now leaking because of several bullet holes in the plaster.
On the other hand you have the kind of sophisticated conundrum as exhibited by A Case of Conscience, a wonderful 1958 novel by James Blish, possibly his best, in which a Jesuit Priest is sent to examine a race of sentient reptiles dwelling on a newly discovered planet, a race apparently living in a state of grace without sin much as Adam and Eve did before the fall. Is this truly a manifestation of God’s grace? Or a Satanic trap? It takes a Jesuit to figure things out and ponder the implications.
Fact is there is such a thing as “a Catholic sensibility.” I once wrote a short story about a dying Pope, the last of a schismatic line, receiving a delegation of non-human Catholics from the continent of Australia. Several Catholics in the workshop asked if I were Catholic and were surprised to hear not. They felt I had captured the Catholic point of view quite convincingly, that my story exhibited a true Catholic sensibility. Possibly so.
Point is the Catholic Priest in Sawyer’s story is quite convincing, despite his doubts, maybe because of his doubts. The character “feels” Catholic to the reader. Seems quite genuine. In short, Sawyer achieves “a Catholic sensibility” superbly well. Good thing too. The story wouldn’t ring true or be credible otherwise.
The ending of the story may or not please you, depending not so much on your faith or creed so much as which sort of ending your personal nature dictates you prefer. But it does work. The whole story works. I found it quite fascinating.