Lord of the World by Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson. I started this book because I thought I was going to get to take a short "June term" class at the college next month called Apocalypse Now: the20th Century Dystopias and What they Mean. The reading list was Orwell's Animal Farm, O'Brien's Father Elijah, and Benson's Lord of the World. I had read the first 2 already, but had never read anything by Benson, though I actually own one of his other books (purchased--never read).
As (bad) luck would have it, I won't be able to take the class, but I finished the book anyway. It's the kind of book that you can't really say you "enjoyed", but I am glad I read it. Published in 1907, it is a look into the future (and I kind of assumed its future was our current time). Communism has taken over, the state is large and in charge. Religion is widely marginalized, society largely secularized. The Catholics hang in around the edges, but most people just aren't very convinced any more. Priests are losing their faith right and left. Euthanasia is common--even expected. It is man who is transcendent--not God.
Into a world tense with waiting--Europe and the East are at odds--steps Julius Felsenbergh. He saves the day, and is acclaimed supreme leader. He is the Antichrist. He is soon proclaimed redeemer, messiah, the One. He wipes out Rome itself (and all its inhabitants), the Church is down to its last few priests and cardinals. And finally it is the end. The really big THE END.
Many of Msgr. Benson's ideas were interesting. The thing that caught at my heart the most were how the apostate priests became leaders of the liturgy of the new "religion." They knew that there was a need in peoples' lives for beauty and mystery and ritual. And they perverted it for the new age. It was heartbreaking.
Hard book to read. Hard things to think about. After reading it, I picked the lightest, fluffiest, most meaningless book on my shelves to read next. From Msgr. Benson to a Rita Mae Brown murder mystery? I couldn't bear anything else.