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Poor Souls
John William McMullen
Paperback
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BOOK SYNOPSIS
Poor Souls, an account of American Catholic parish life laced with subtle yet probing satire, is told through the eyes of seminarian Martin Flanagan.
Set in the Diocese of Covert at the parish of Our Lady of the Poor and Forgotten Souls in Purgatory, Catholics and non-Catholics alike will delight in Hyacinth—the ever vigilant, long-time parish housekeeper, Pastor Emeritus, Father Boniface, the irascible and irreverent Father Jack Ash and a host of other dysfunctional souls.
Through Martin’s eyes, Catholic life beyond the sanctuary reveals a great mix of belief and unbelief among broken believers.
How does one explain “the call” to priesthood?

BOOK EXCERPTS
MY GRANDFATHER, JOHN LOUIS “MOON” MCMULLEN, ONCE TOLD ME, “LIFE’S TOO SHORT TO BITCH. IN LIFE YOU CAN CHOOSE TO DIE LAUGHING OR DIE CRYING.” I CHOOSE TO DIE LAUGHING. IF WE CANNOT LAUGH AT OURSELVES, THEN WE ARE IN WORSE TROUBLE THAN I IMAGINED.

St. Paul wrote, “God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise; the weak of the world to shame the strong; the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something” (1 Cor. 1:27-28).

“IF ANY OF YOU THINKS HE IS WORLDLY WISE, HE HAD BETTER BECOME A FOOL” (1 COR. 3:18B) FOR “WE ARE FOOLS FOR CHRIST” (1 COR. 4.10).

JOHN W. MCMULLEN
EVANSVILLE, INDIANA
29 JUNE 2004
THE SOLEMNITY OF THE FEAST OF SAINTS PETER AND PAUL,
SUPER APOSTLES AND SUPER FOOLS

CHAPTER 1: ST. ALBERT’S SEMINARY

“HERE I AM, LORD.”
– IS. 6.8

How does one explain the call to priesthood? I have no idea.

I grew up in the church—the Catholic Church. As a child, I recall invariably arriving late at church and Mother marching us down to one of the front pews. Observing the altar boys performing their religious functions—dressed in their black cassocks and white surplices, their black dress shoes barely visible as they knelt in humble adoration—I longed to ring the sanctuary bells.

At home, my younger brother and I played Mass; I was the priest and he was the server. It was the one time I had the upper hand over the baby of the family. We didn’t use potato chips or crackers for hosts like other kids. We smashed a piece of white bread—turning it into a pasty piece of unappealing processed yeast—and used a cookie cutter to make it into a perfect circle. Reverently I raised the fake host above my head, closed my eyes, and said the words of consecration.

When I was about ten, my father caught us having Mass one day and asked me, “Martin, do you want to be a priest when you grow up?” Before I could reply he continued, “The priesthood’s unnatural, son. Wait until they let priests marry, then become one if that’s what you want to do with your life. But who the hell would run the cleaners?” Maybe that was when I first considered a call to the priesthood.

During high school, any thoughts of embracing celibacy went out the window, even though the Sisters and priest at my school encouraged us to pursue the vocation.

After high school, I went away to State College. One night during my senior year, I was at one of the local pubs having pizza and beer with a friend. He had just broken up with his girlfriend, and I had just lost the only girl I think I ever really loved. We were both drinking to get drunk; he was already there and I was well on my way.

He leaned over the table with swaying head and crossing eyes and asked me in a slur, “Martin, have you found your passion in life?”

“I’m through with passion. That’s why I’m here getting drunk with you.”

“I’m not talking about that kind of passion. I mean, you know, your purpose in life.”

I knew that a business degree would serve me well in my family’s dry cleaning business, but I had never asked myself that question. Was business my passion? Was managing my mother’s dry cleaners to be my purpose in life? Would providing people with clean, starched, perfectly pressed shirts fill this emptiness, this deeply buried need to give my all, even unto death without counting the cost so that others might know Jesus? I had no idea.

My father lacked passion. He was seemingly trapped in a job that he merely performed as a duty to his wife and children—not to mention his father-in-law, Grandpa Buckner. Mother always said that my father was rescued from the curse of the steel mills by Grandpa Buckner. My father didn’t see it that way. He was pressured by Grandpa to take the job after marrying my mother, thereby abandoning his plans of trying to land a job as a writer for the Cainbrook Evening Press.

BOOK REVIEWS
You may use this quip "...a cross between All Creatures Great and Small and an Andrew Greeley novel...you probably know the people in this novel..." by G.Killgore


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“POOR SOULS gives the reader a rollicking tale of seminarians and priests in their service of the church. McMullen, writing as an insider, masterfully strikes insightful chords of humor without resorting to ridicule.”
– Clark Gabriel Field, Author (The Celibate)


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“McMullen’s tale of seminarian Martin Flanagan is a delightful read, especially in these times when many people are concerned about the future of the Catholic priesthood."– BJ Conner, Author (Irish Legacy)


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“An unexpected revelation of life in the seminary and parish, McMullen reveals the very human lives of Roman Catholic clergy knowingly yet lovingly. McMullen’s novel is so real it will make you laugh and cry at the same time. Uproariously shrewd and marvelously told.” – Doug Chambers, Author (The Orchard)


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“Half of the Catholics who read POOR SOULS will love it; the other half will want to burn the author at the stake.” - Bill Groves, Catholic Apologist and Coffee Klatch Theologian


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“Being a priest isn’t always the easy way in life. And the inhabitants of the Poor Souls parish aren’t all as Catholic as one would wish. POOR SOULS makes you wonder and laugh at the same time...a no-nonsense book, just the way I like it.” Reviewed by Annick


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“A cross between All Creatures Great and Small and an Andrew Greeley novel, there is a realism that made me double check the genre to make sure it wasn't nonfiction. You probably know the people in this novel, just wearing different faces.” Reviewed by Amanda Killgore


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“The narrator of this story, Martin, is assigned to the Parish of Poor Souls, an aging downtown parish, as a seminarian assistant to the Rector, and discovers all the varying weaknesses and foibles to which humans are susceptible, whether layperson or clergy. The first person narrative is analytical and detailed. The author, John William McMullen, clearly demonstrates in this book the breadth of his knowledge of Church and seminary life and mores.” Reviewed by Frost


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“Poor Souls qualifies as a front-runner of the Catholic novel, though this is not immediately apparent because of its unpretentiousness. It doesn’t aim at the high drama of a Graham Greene or the fetching mystical aura of Diary of a Country Priest. The intention of the Catholic writer is to ‘highlight the ordinary, and indeed the sinful, as being transformed by grace into something worthy of God.’
“The parish, in some undefined urban area of the United States, has the unlikely name Our Lady of the Poor and Forgotten Souls in Purgatory. This is the Poor Souls of the title which everyone, with Gogolian irony, miscalls Lost Souls.

“Martin Flanagan, a young seminarian, spends a season of work experience here. The clergy are not models of piety, but they are not fiends in disguise either. The local bishop and his vicar general are seen by the clergy as incompetents. That’s about it, really. Doesn’t amount to much in précis, does it? So why does it haunt me and why do I want to hail it as an outstanding Catholic novel?


MORE BOOK INFO
ISBN: 1593747160
ISBN(13-digit): 9781593747169
Copyright: 2008
Book Publisher: Whiskey Creek Press
Binding: Perfect
No. of Pages: 346
Paper Weight (lb): 15.2



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