Research assistance is invited–especially from England and Wales where he spent most of his life, but also from elsewhere. (This website has no commercial association with any business: any links are for the information/convenience of the reader.)
Once a household name among Catholics…
“[Fr. Dudley is the author of] a stream of best-sellers that made his name a household word in five continents.” If that Catholic Missionary Society claim contained hyperbole, it was not much!
Fr. Dudley was omnipresent as a speaker throughout England and Wales, and he made a speaking tour of the USA, New Zealand, Australia, Fuji, Pago-Pago, and Jamaica.
Fr. John A. Hardon’s The Catholic Lifetime Reading Plan notes: “[Fr. Dudley’s novels] have become standard in English Catholic literature”–and his books have been translated into several languages. Fr. Dudley was a favorite of Daniel A. Lord, SJ, who worked to create a literary revival in the United States patterned after the British model. At one time, The Masterful Monk “was the best circulating Catholic book in over forty American cities” and his books were discussed in groups throughout the land.
Fr. Dudley lived during dramatic times, and ideas that formerly would have been considered too shocking to discuss in polite society became common among the elite—often urged on by people whom we don’t think of today as being especially radical (e.g., George Bernard Shaw, H.G. Wells, Bertrand Russell, and John Maynard Keynes). This included “free love” which was already a quaint, old-fashioned expression of our grandparents’ time when it was used in the 1960’s. Advocates for the growing decadence especially focused on the Catholic Church as the strongest and most unyielding foe.
The Catholic response…
Against this, an astounding group of Catholics arose–many of them converts like Fr. Dudley and G.K. Chesterton. (Some of this group–such as Graham Green, Compton Mackenzie, and Evelyn Waugh–were not noted for devoutly living the Catholic life…but most were.) And there were Protestant allies as well such as C.S. Lewis and Dorothy L. Sayers.
This approach (although certainly not without flaws) was confident and direct: and was tremendously successful in attracting converts–including prominent intellectuals–and few left the Church. And once you understand how confrontative they could be (and how hard-hitting British humor can be), then it’s amazing how gentle and accepting they often were: not the harsh stereotype we might imagine.
- Born in England in 1882–the son of an Anglican vicar.
- Became an Anglican minister in 1911.
- Became Catholic in 1915.
- Ordained a Catholic priest in 1917.
- Became a Catholic Chaplain in the British Army, serving in France and Italy (and was wounded).
- Joined the legendary Catholic Missionary Society (a project of the Bishops of England & Wales) after that war.
- Served as Superior for the Catholic Missionary Society from 1933 until 1947.
- Novelist, evangelist, world lecturer, newspaper columnist.
- Died in 1952.
Why read him?
Fr. Dudley’s books addressed the problems of happiness, the spiritual dimensions of beauty, the errors of his time which are also largely our own errors, and his books are readable and witty.
Additionally, his books provide a window into an interesting period of history concerning Catholicism: the local, lived experience of the faith. And he illustrate a communications approach which should not have been jettisoned so completely.
- Encourage the reading and study of Fr. Dudley and other authors involved in the Catholic literary revivals.
- Discuss the communications approaches of these writers.
- Encourage research and writing on these subjects by provide research information and assistance (hopefully serving as a collecting point for sharing information).
Comments and suggested guest articles are welcomed! The editor of this site may be reached through: editor at owenfrancisdudley dot com.