This post briefly reviews Veronica Chater, Waiting for the Apocalypse: A Memoir of Faith and Family (New York: Norton, 2009).
Chater here pens an amazing memoir of her childhood years as one of (eventually) 11 children in a super conservative Catholic family. There’s no actual homeschooling in the book (Veronica’s mother threatens her kids with homeschooling to keep them in line) but I mention it on this blog because Chater’s family is precisely the sort of family that a few years later would have taken up homeschooling. Chater’s parents are devotees of the Fatima revelations and understand all of the changes made to the Catholic Church in the wake of Vatican II to be harbingers of The Great Chastisement foretold by the Virgin to the Fatima youth. Chater tells of her father’s quest for a true Catholic community, a quest that led him to move his family from California to Portugal, only to be disappointed that the same modernist trends that had been afflicting the American church were present even there. So the family moved back to the United States and joined various fringe Catholic elements, thinking of themselves as a faithful remnant awaiting the end of days.
Chater’s writing is wonderful. She brings her crazy family to life with humor and pathos, making this the sort of book one doesn’t put down until the last page has been turned. The reason I want to include it in this blog, however, is because of what happened to the children of this very conservative, very religious family. Of the eleven children born to Veronica’s parents, only one remains Catholic as an adult. Recently I devoted several posts to Kathryn Joyce’s, Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement. One of the points I made about the book is that I don’t think all of the children who grow up quiverfull will ultimately embrace their parents’ convictions. Then last week I noted how Rob Kunzman’s, Write These Laws on Your Children finds that the children of the Christian homeschoolers he interviews are usually quite a bit more tolerant and politically ambivalent than their parents. Chater’s memoir provides a remarkable case study of how the religious and political views of conservative Christian parents can sometimes alienate their children profoundly. It’s also delicious reading.