An arousing tale of a celibate | Daily News


An arousing tale of a celibate

The book was shortlisted for the Gratiaen award and that gives “Celibacy Factor” a certain recognition which I think it richly deserves.

The author, the former rector of St Joseph’s College is definitely an erudite with a British PhD among his long list of accomplishments. Leaving the lofty pedestals aside, let me talk about this meaningful story he has written. I found the ‘Celibacy Factor’ very interesting, arousing a sense of curiosity in me. No, it is not an intriguing and fascinating narrative, but in its simplicity, the author has cleverly crafted a saga of human and humane factors revolving around a somewhat naïve young priest, a fishing village and its inhabitants. The book is a delightful read creating contradictory thoughts going against the accepted norms of social behaviours. Many times I was reminded of Cronin’s masterpiece ‘Keys of the Kingdom’ when reading ‘Celibacy Factor.’ Author Quintus is no Cronin, but he has undoubtedly given us something that has similarities with what the Scottish author wrote when he narrated the deep rooted religious beliefs of his protagonist, Father Francis.

The setting is a poor village on the west coast of Sri Lanka. The people, the run of the mill fisher-folk eking out a meagre living from the generosity of the sea. The story is true to life, the exploited poor who suffer the multiple burdens of poverty with religion being their only solace. It is the all-powerful Bishop who ordains the cleric and drops him at the deep end to find his way preaching and ministering to these unpretentious people. The novice is in the pulpit; the congregation is stoical or the better expression would be ingrained in accepted rituals, time worn and cemented according to relentless tradition. Here lies the dilemma of the ‘new comer’ to the trade of ‘saving souls’. Does he dish-out his own beliefs of a moral religion or become a conformist of the socially accepted doctrines of the high church

The author cleverly addresses a multitude of situations; of faith and obedience, tests and temptations, of calamities and powers of prayer, the loneliness of a solitary man in a cassock thrust upon a beach hamlet of simple fisher-folk. Out here there is only the church and the sea, the refectory and an old cook. The contradictions are many for a credulous priest, most times groping in the dark making his best attempts to find answers to the questions that spill out of the garments that cloak him as a clergyman.

As the months change he makes progress, being accepted and trusted by the parishioners and finding comfort in the success of the small steps he is taking to reach out to the people by improving their living and means of livelihood.

But all that changes like the vanishing sea mist in the morning. He is now transferred to another position by his Bishop who represents the higher echelons of the church. Poor fishermen and poorer new comers to the fold do not merit much consideration in the cause of advancement of the church order.

That in essence is the book, nothing fancy, but deep in meaning.

The writing too I did appreciate very much. Beautiful words minted to match moods. The priest sits on the beach with a child, Limping Lucy, she calls herself due to a wobble when she walks. He watches her as she talks to the waves, the sun, the sky and the winds. It is poetry, creatively connected about a day from sunrise to sunset.

‘to kiss the earth, whisper to the trees,

And blow white bubbles in the sky’

The rest if you are interested in reading, go get the book.

Celibacy Factor will be launched to the public at the Annasi and Kadalagotu Literary Festival on 14th May at the Aesthetic Centre Colombo 7. The author is 82 years old, but then that is chronologically. Biologically he would be nothing more than in his sixties and he will be there at the launch to autograph books. Meet him and get a copy, it certainly is a worthy read. This sure is a writer who is a rebel – but, I must categorically state – he does seem to have a cause.

All book lovers are welcome. 100 rupees a ticket for the entire day at the festival. 

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