The Clowns of God (1981)

The Clowns of God follows a professor and a retired pope on an adventure to tell the world that the end is near. The pope, having had a vision of a post-nuclear war future, writes an encyclical that the curia works to suppress. They then get him to abdicate. The professor works to tell the true story and get the pope’s message out to the world via newspaper articles and a book.

After the professor gets injured, the story shifts focus onto the retired pope, who leaves Rome and returns to his native France. There he sees some disabled children, who one of their patrons refers to as the clowns of God. As the story progresses the former pope wrestles with his vision and understanding of God. He finally has a vision of the post-war future, but this time, one of God’s clowns is there. Jesus takes her in his arms and makes her well, telling the former pope that he makes all things new; the destruction of the war is humanity’s doing.

Eventually both the professor and the pope end up in a secluded village with their families, friends, and clowns. Jesus appears among them and tells them that the end will be delayed if the former pope takes on his mission to spread news of the world’s need for Jesus. Later that day, the command to fire missiles is canceled and the world has a reprieve from impending doom.

One thing that really stuck out to me was an episode from early in the book: the professor’s son tells him that he is no longer a believer, and the professor tells him to keep his mind open to the truth and his heart open to love. That seems like a helpful response.

I’m also struck by the tension between prophecy and authority. The former pope felt freer to proclaim his message after he was released from his ecclesial duties. He writes a book from the perspective of a clown, so struck was he by the clowns of God. He writes simply and honestly, feeling that he is fulfilling his God-given charge.

 

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