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Waiting for the Apocalypse: A Memoir of…
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Waiting for the Apocalypse: A Memoir of Faith and Family

by Veronica Chater

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It is hard to imagine a more bizarre Catholic childhood than that of Veronica Chater and her ten siblings.

Chater, a widely published essayist, gives us an impressionistic portrait of a family immersed in Catholic traditionalism. Her father was convinced that Vatican II was "the greatest crime in history apart from the Crucifixion" and Chater's imagination was steeped in the prophecies of Fatima, the expectation that "the world was teetering on the brink of the Holy Chastisement: an apocalypse so huge that entire nations would be annihilated..."

Waiting for the Apocalypse is written from the perspective of the child and adolescent Veronica Chater was, and she is successful in letting the reader experience the odd chaos that was her family life. When this memoir begins, Chater's father is a California Highway Patrolman and the family lives a comfortable and outwardly normal suburban life. His disgust with the American Catholic Church and friendship with Harry Doten, a wealthy (and eventually untrustworthy) traditionalist, leads him to quit his job and move the family to Portugal, expecting to find dogmatic fidelity.

When Portugal proves to be a disappointment the financially impoverished family returns to California and her father (believing that “the Crusades of the twentieth century had begun”) becomes an activist in the "counter-revolutionary movement." The children are sent to a traditionalist school and they worship with the schismatic Society of St. Pope Pius X (SSPX), the group founded by Archbishop Lefebvre.

Their daughters, meanwhile, are forbidden to wear modern clothes and Veronica's deception ("keeping a single pair of pants was like having a fire extinguisher on hand") leads to "a long series of self-preservations for years to come." Not surprisingly she and her older sister experiment with drugs, listen to suggestive music, go to discos, and become sexually active. When these secrets (and her sister's pregnancy) are discovered, their father disowns them, but a few days later their mother, an exemplary prodigal parent, seeks them out and brings them home.

That incident serves as a metaphor for the abiding loyalty to family, not faith, that emerged from this childhood. Chater writes about her complex father with affection, ambivalence and, ultimately, acceptance, but the heart of this book is her mother, the indomitable woman who was his backbone but who "refused to let religion come between her and us." This book is a worthy testament to her mother's legacy of love.

by Rachelle Linner

Copyright ForeWord Magazine, vol. 12, no. 1 ( )
1 vote ForeWordmag | Jan 23, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0393066037, Hardcover)

Growing up Catholic in a family where the reforms of Vatican II are seen as the work of Satan.

It is 1972, and Veronica Chater's parents believe that Vatican II's liberalization has corrupted the Catholic Church, inviting the Holy Chastisement—an apocalypse prophesied by three shepherds in Fatima, Portugal. To spare his family this horror, Veronica's father quits the highway patrol, sells everything, and moves the family of eight from California to an isolated village near Fatima.

But Portugal is no Catholic utopia, and the family schleps home penniless to join the nascent Catholic counterrevolution: attending the Latin Mass in truck garages and abandoned buildings, serving meals to religious soldiers, breeding a new member of the faithful every year. As Veronica comes of age on the fringes of the American Dream, she rebels against a fanaticism that forbids anything modern—clothes, movies, or music. This is the story, both sad and funny, of a family torn apart by religion and brought back together in spite of the injuries it inflicted on itself.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:15 -0400)

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W.W. Norton

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