Back F. Scott Fitzgerald, “Benediction”

F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896–1940)
From F. Scott Fitzgerald: Novels & Stories 1920–1922

Photograph of the statue of Mary in a rock formation alongside a path through the woods near Woodstock College, Maryland, c. 1930, by John Brosnan, S.J. Courtesy Georgetown University / Woodstock Theological Library Collections.
When Fitzgerald was a teenager, he visited a cousin studying to become a Jesuit priest—one of several clerics who would be mentors to the young writer. One priest whom Fitzgerald idolized in particular was the headmaster at his high school, Monsignor Cyril Fay, who made the Church seem "a dazzling, golden thing, dispelling its oppressive mugginess and giving the succession of days upon gray days, passing under its plaintive ritual, the romantic glamour of an adolescent dream.”

Yet, beginning with his college years, Fitzgerald’s relationship to Catholicism was, at best, conflicted. On his birthday in 1917, Fitzgerald wrote in his journal, “A year of enormous importance. Work, and Zelda. Last year as a Catholic.” Two years later, he wrote to literary critic Edmund Wilson: “I am ashamed to say that my Catholicism is scarcely more than a memory—no that’s wrong it’s more than that.”

Fitzgerald’s religious upbringing did influence his fiction—often subtly, sometimes overtly, and most famously in his debut novel, This Side of Paradise (which features a monsignor modeled after Fay and was dedicated to him). Written about the same time, the short story “Benediction” was inspired by that first visit to a seminary years earlier, and we present it in full as our Story of the Week selection.

Read “Benediction” by F. Scott Fitzgerald

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