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I Alone Have Escaped to Tell You

By Dr. Jeff Mirus (bio - articles - email) | Sep 06, 2007

This is the title of the engaging memoir of Notre Dame philosopher Ralph McInerny, who is famous for just about everything, including his deep commitment to the Catholic Faith. The title comes from the book of Job, where various servants report a sequence of utter catastrophes to Job, each concluding with “I alone have escaped to tell you.”

It is a fitting title for McInerny’s autobiography (subtitled “My Life and Pastimes”) because the author really is one of relatively few academics who have survived the intellectual upheavals of the past half-century with both their Faith and reason intact, and so lived to explain clearly and honestly how things went. His concluding chapter is significantly titled “On the Banks of the Mainstream”.

Ralph McInerny is a Renaissance man. In addition to being a distinguished professor at Notre Dame for nearly his entire academic career, he has served as the director of both the Medieval Institute and the Maritain Center there. As a scholar he is known for such works as Thomas Aquinas and Praeambula Fidei: Thomism and the God of the Philosophers. He was the founder of two magazines, Crisis and Catholic Dossier, and of the International Catholic University, in conjunction with EWTN.

But as an author McInerny is known for far more than his first-rate philosophical work. He has written several novels, both serious and humorous. Perhaps the most widely acclaimed is Priest, a best-seller which explores the life of a young priest assigned to teach moral theology just as the Church was hit with post-Vatican II factionalism. McInerny is also the author of the well-known Father Dowling mysteries, both books and short stories, some of which have been made into a television series. He has written many other fictional works and mysteries under various pseudonyms.

As if all this were not enough (and Ralph would definitely assert that it wasn’t), he and his wife Connie had seven children, the first of whom sadly died of illness at age three, and the rest of whom went on to graduate from Notre Dame, marry wisely and generally continue what their parents began. Connie herself died in their fiftieth year of marriage and, at age 78, Ralph has now survived his wonderful wife by five years.

At the suggestions of friends, McInerny published I Alone Have Escaped to Tell You earlier this year. It is at once a gentle, warm, poignant and telling reflection on both the life he has lived and the cultural shift he has survived, and it is well worth reading. But then so are all of his books and, amazingly, you can select from Ralph McInerny whatever suits your literary taste.

[Ralph McInerny, I Alone Have Escaped to Tell You: My Life and Pastimes. University of Notre Dame Press, Notre Dame, IN. 2007. 167 pp. Hardback. $25 on Amazon.]

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