For someone of my background and sensibilities, it is very easy to become depressed with the state of religion, politics, and culture in our country. I tend to hang onto any hope I encounter. A large source of such hope is provided by the young people I am privileged to worship with every Sunday. When I find out that these young adults are reading Jane Austen, I have a renewed hope for our nation and Christian civilization. I often feel like my generation messed up in so many ways; theological liberalism that destroys the chance to know both ourselves and God, unrestrained greed masquerading as economic liberty, and the sexual "revolution". In short, my generation of both extended adolescence and adolescents (60+ years for some of us) broke the chains of restraint that bound us to both our ancestors and our progeny. We partied on 401ks, easy credit, easy divorce, and rootlessness. The rebuilding is now up to the young. Reading Jane Austen is as good a start to reconstruction as I can think of. For those young men who might eschew Ms. Austen as "girlie lit", I would offer Peter Leithart's, advice that "Real Men Read Jane Austen". If Rev. Leithart is not "manly" enough, how about a half-educated redneck gun nut, sheepherder, and woodcutter who reads and profits from her?
My wife shares a birthday with the anniversary of the death of Miss Austen. While she is not considered a saint officially on any church calendar, many revere her memory as a woman who lived a Christian life and left an exemplary body of writing behind her. At least one Roman Catholic layman, prolific historian Paul Johnson, directly invokes her in his prayers. Anglicans are divided on this devotional practice, but we agree on revering the memory of the faithful departed by thanking God for their lives and contributions. In that spirit, Nicholas from the Comfortable Words recently composed and published this collect.
O ALMIGHTY God, who granted unto Jane Austen varied charms of character, and ennobled her by Christian faith and piety; to whom thou didst give grace to open her mouth in wisdom, and upon whose tongue thou didst set the law of kindness; Grant also unto us both to perceive and know what things we ought to do, and also grace and power faithfully to fulfill the same. For the sake of Thine only Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.
I offer it here in the hopes that it may be of use to others, and trust that Nicholas will not mind it becoming a well worn prayer of thanksgiving for this remarkable young woman. I also commend his recent essay on her, found here, as well as prayers she composed, found here.