KOCHI: Ajit Lawrence’s first novel ‘Prathi Vachana Sankeerthanam - Vishakanyakaye Pranayicha Purohithan’ (Responsorial Psalm - The Priest Who Loved a Femme Fatale) may probably be described as a commentary on the current happenings in the Catholic Church not only in the state, but also across the globe though the setting of the novel is in a coastal village of Thiruvananthapuram.
The story, which is written in a coastal setting, presents a narrative of the dejected and marginalised people. His main concern is the degeneration of the tree of life which fails to provide the much-wanted shade to the devout faithful. His main criticism is the priests who are expected to lead the faithful deviate from their vows of celibacy, poverty and obedience and indulge in luxury and plunder the laity.
The novel also underlines the fact in a globalised society in the time of neo-liberalism, not only the church but also communism is facing utter confusion and struggling to find a way out. As noted writer Paul Zacharia said in the preface of the novel, it is not only about a place or its inhabitants, it is also about the Church. The protagonist and the heroines are the true representatives of the coastal village from which Lawrence has picked up his characters.
“For them, the Church is the mother, father, beginning and the end. But he tries to breach the masque of the church which has taken over the rights of the faithful as if it had all the rights to do so,” Zacharia points out.
Lawrence points out the overemphasis on accumulating wealth and securing power had led to compromising Jesus’s message of compassion, love, fraternity and simplicity. “Not only the Catholic Church in Kerala, but the entire Churches across the globe are facing crisis. The faithful are facing a loss of hope, frustration and dejection. In the moments of crisis, the church fails to address their apprehensions and confounded confusions. The Church has deviated from the message of Jesus Christ,” Lawrence opines.
“How can the church instill courage and confidence among the faithful when it tries to make money even by selling the cemeteries?” he asks.As Zacharia has pointed out, its readability makes the readers comfortable. But the glaring shortcoming is that it would prompt the reader to think that the author had a grudge towards certain priests and a particular church which had seriously hurt his sentiments and it was not the real inspiration, but a premeditated thought to settle a score that worked behind his venturing out for writing a novel. The book is published by Mythri Publications.