, October 18, 2015
(view all comments by DiDonovan)
Author Michael Barrington was a missionary priest in his youth and tells of his experiences in Nigeria during a turbulent time in the country's history, creating a spellbinding blend of cultural observation, spiritual insight and memoir that reads with the passion and drama of fiction.
As if the title of The Bishop Wears No Drawers: A Former Catholic Missionary Priest Remembers Africa isn't compelling enough reason to imbibe, consider the lure of its first sentence: "Mary, it’s a boy, and he will be the next priest in the family!” I never actually heard these words spoken, since they were addressed by my grandmother to my mother just a few moments after she delivered me. They would, however, establish a family expectation and set off a chain of events that would predictably lead to my eventual ordination."
With that prologue, readers are off and running, following a life preset in its course and seemingly unchangeable in its inevitability. And while one might anticipate that such a memoir would revolve around personal perspective and experience, it's rare to uncover one that combines these elements with a larger perspective on the Catholic Church's interactions in foreign nations, insights on a country at odds with itself, and a priest's struggle to find himself amidst a time of chaos.
Events lead Barrington to question the set course of his life and his very belief system as he seeks to understand his ministry and its demands, his aching loneliness, and the real meaning of brotherhood. What evolves from this quest is a decision to embark on a new direction; one that will challenge his spirituality and very life.
The Bishop Wears No Drawers focuses on this process of revelation and change. Readers interested in missionary work, Catholic Church procedures, and African culture and experience will find it a unique memoir replete with encounters with all of the above; all tempered with the unusual perspective and course of Michael Barrington's life.
In any superior memoir, it's not the life itself that's the driving force so much as events surrounding its evolution. This story's perspective is both spiritual and evocative, and not to be missed by either memoir readers, followers of African history and culture, or those who look for stories of the Catholic Church and personal spiritual change.