DAILY CATHOLIC    WEDNESDAY     July 28, 1999     vol. 10, no. 140


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      In each issue as we countdown toward the new millennium, we are bringing you the countdown of the TOP 100 CATHOLICS OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY as voted upon by the readers. We will spotlight each of the 100 Top Catholics chosen by readers over a three month period of time earlier this year. We received a total of 23,455 votes nominating 728 candidates for "Top 100 Catholics of the 20th Century" consideration. The top five vote-getters garnered 9,477 with the top ten registering a total 13,470. The Top 100 chosen received 21,603 votes or 92% of the total with those 628 candidates not making the list receiving 8% of the vote.

      Caliber-wise in the final tally, DAILY CATHOLIC readers made excellent choices and there is a good balance throughout the century list. Eight of the nine Roman Pontiffs of this century made the list except for Pope John Paul I whose pontificate lasted only one month. There are five Saints and six Blesseds as well as seven whose cause for Beatification has been introduced to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. The voters selected fifteen cardinals, seven bishops, nineteen priests, seven nuns and two lay brothers. The laity is well represented with four entertainers, four politicians, six renowned secular authors, and numerous dynamic Marian luminaries that have proved their worth through the fruits they have produced by their efforts. Education checks in with several who made the list in all aspects of scholastics including two university presidents and the pro-life movement also has several organizers who made the list as well as well-known leaders of various Catholic non-profit organizations dedicated to upholding the truths of the Church.

97.    Evelyn Waugh

          The 97th person chosen in the TOP 100 CATHOLICS OF THE CENTURY poll was British satirist Evelyn Arthur St. John Waugh. His nomination came from many of the intellectuals out there, most probably through their exposure to the award-winning PBS series "Brideshead Revisited" and from college students immersed in English literature. This work, considered by many to be his finest, is quite spiritual in essence and prompted many to rethink their own values and turn away from the secular trappings of the world.

          Evelyn Waugh was born in London on October 28th 1903 in the Hampstead district during the early days of Pope Saint Pius X's pontificate during the transition from Pope Leo XIII's twenty-five year papacy. However few took notice of that for young Evelyn was not born Catholic but rather converted later in life. He was educated at Hertford College at Oxford. He had begun writing creatively as a child, due largely to the fact that his brother was a novelist and his father worked for the prestigious British publisher Chapman & Hall. Thus, with these connections the young Waugh had privately published his first work at the age of 13. He established himself as England's leading comic novelist with the novels "Decline and Fall", published in 1928, and "Vile Bodies" released two years later. In 1934 his satire "A Handful of Dust" came out. His writings caught the mood of English upper-class life and criticized it harshly albeit comically for its inanity and irresponsibility, particularly highlighting the period between the two world wars.

          After an early life of depression when he almost committed suicide by trying to drown himself at sea in 1925, he bounced between colleges and jobs, and, after several bouts with alcoholism and a failed marriage to Evelyn Gardner, Waugh found God and converted to Catholicism in 1930. It was another example of how God allows a person to plummet to the depths in order to build one back up. From that time on he began traveling with a purpose and in 1935 wrote a biography of Saint Edmund Campion, the Elizabethan Catholic martyr. In 1937 he married Laura Herbert and settled down, fathering a daughter Teresa. Two years later another daughter Mary was born but died shortly after birth. Before his conversion this tragedy would have sent him over the edge but his faith gave him the strength to persevere. Evelyn served in the Royal Marines during World War II, yet found the time to write what is considered by many to be his masterpiece "Brideshead Revisited: The Sacred and Profane Memories of Captain Charles Ryder" which was published in 1945. Evelyn was later to describe "Brideshead Revisited" as "an attempt to trace the workings of the divine purpose in a pagan world." Brideshead describes the relationships of one of England's great old Catholic families, and is a complex story of sin, grace, and redemption. There are elements of the story that are probably autobiographical, and the drawing of the individual characters, even those playing a minor role in the story, is particularly masterful.

          A year before "Brideshead", another daughter Harriet was born, who gave renewed hope to Evelyn and Laura after the death of their second child. In 1948 he published the humorous satire "The Loved One" which was made into a movie twenty years later about Forest Lawn Cemetary in Hollywood. In 1950 the Waughs had a son who they named Septimus. He wrote "Love Among the Ruins" in 1953, a year after he published "Men at Arms", followed in 1955 by "Officers and Gentlemen" and in 1961 "Unconditional Surrender" which completed the trilogy of his books he called the "Sword of Honour". In 1964 his autobiography was published entitled "A Little Learning.". The results of Vatican II greatly bothered Evelyn for he could see the modernization of the Church and he didn't like what he saw, clinging to the traditional orthodox Church he had embraced when he was 27. He died two years later at his home at Combe Florey in Sommerset, England on April 10, 1966 at the age of 63, having lived a full life and warning all about the problems the Church faced for he could foresee the schism being forged by the liberal factions trying to wrest control. Though he led a wild, sinful life in his earlier years, in the manner of the Prodigal Son and Mary Magdalen, he atoned for his sins after his conversion and used his God-given talent as a masterful wizard with the pen to right wrongs and tweak the conscience of England and America through his writings. Overall he published over 25 books, many of which can be considered classics in English literature.

      We are grateful to Tracy Dowling for her contributions to this biography.

July 28, 1999       volume 10, no. 140


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