Catholic Boy Blues: A Poet’s Journal of Healing

CATHOLIC BOY BLUES: A Journal of Healing
By Norbert Krapf

Reviewed by Fran Salone-Pelletier
Today’s American Catholic, August/September issue 2015

Read the credentials and be impressed. Read the poetry and be engaged. It has been noted that this book is not for the faint of heart. It is, however, one that does not allow readers to feint with truth.

Poetry uniquely allows us to face our demons, fight our dragons, conquer our doubts, and ultimately to see light in our darkness. Poets are prophets, challengers, and consolers. The poetry emerging from the complexity of their being invites the reader to leave the surface of life, dive into its depths, and find beauty in the profundity. 

At its best, poetry sets us free. Norbert Krapf achieves both the beginning dive and its ending deliverance.  He won’t let us ‘move’ on until we have first ‘moved in’—entering the world of the abused and the planet of the abuser.

It has been said that one needs to tell one’s story until it is no longer the story to tell. Krapf adds another dimension. Tell the story until it is heard! ‘Silence reaches its limits,’ he writes. Krapf’s limits were reached. Poems emerged with volcanic force as he tread ‘the rocky road toward forgiveness and healing, putting his experience into perspective and working to move beyond it’ to empower others to do the same— as long as they come along with him on this harrowing journey of courage and  clemency. 

Krapf lets his anger fuel his fight. He trusts in the surprises revealed when individuals find their voice and hurt hearts say ‘you got no choice.’ Harsh truth comes to light in poems which evoke memories of the sounds of abuse, a din which causes the spirit to pretend it cannot hear what is impossible to brace or embrace.

Stark questions abound with irretrievable responses and unreachable answers. God’s presence is disputed. Where is God when the priest is god? How hard is it to testify to the truth? How does one ask for a way to help put a broken person together when the perpetrator is the one who pulled him apart?

Parents’ fragility is at stake. Priesthood is tainted. Sinful silence is stalked as a ‘ghost corpse is carried in men’s heads.’ The obscenity of holy hands performing unholy acts becomes unnervingly real.

As memories bob to the surface and recall becomes razor sharp, the sword of truth cuts to the core. The questions become vehicles for examinations of consciousness and human flaws are exhibited and exposed, although they are not exculpated. Human frailty is at issue. Through the consciousness of the priest, Krapf dares to ask, ‘Have you never violated what you held holy? Only then can you sing my song of condemnation.’ He begs the reader to explore the mind of a pedophile, with poignant concentration on one who is also a priest. ‘Before you write me off as a demon monster with a twisted appetite, remember I was once a boy like you…. Ain’t a priest who done wrong to boys got the right to sing the blues?’

The tale comes full circle. Healing never comes too late. One’s own will, place, voice is apparent. Krapf moves his readers from the crushing acts and chilling words of a sick priest to the challenging words and compassionate acts of a holy priest. He takes us from mayhem to metanoia, tragedy to transformation. As Matthew Fox writes in the introduction, ‘In this book we hear the truth that burns through denial and we pray once again that the truth will make us free.’

CATHOLIC BOY BLUES is, indeed, both an exposition of blues and a journal of healing—however painful a journey it might be. Its title is completely achieved.


Reviewed by:
Fran Salone-Pelletier, included here with her permission, (c) 2015 Fran Salone-Pelletier.

Fran Salone-Pelletier has a Master's degree in Theology and is the author of Awakening to God: The Sunday Readings in Our Lives [a trilogy of Scriptural meditations], Lead Chaplain at Brunswick Novant Medical Center, Religious educator, retreat leader, lecturer and grandmother of four.