This book is a compilation of homilies of Fr. Henry Charles composed and delivered over a period of at least twenty years. The homilies were written out and were eventually typed up and it is possible that Fr. Henry had himself thought about publishing them, though we do not know this for sure. While many persons were privileged to receive emailed copies and others actually heard his preaching, the homilies were thought to be deserving of a wider audience. The underlying message of his preaching is that discipleship of Jesus Christ requires not only the grace of faith but also demands perseverance, courage and discipline, critical elements of the process he terms “ongoing conversion.” In addition, Fr. Henry advocates moral excellence, not settling for the merely moderate or the mediocre, but striving always to “be perfect.” Fr. Henry faces up to and wrestles with the “perplexities” of the Gospel and he believed that one of the keys to overcoming these is an appreciation of its many paradoxes and that as a consequence, we are required to see things from a different perspective, not as we are normally inclined to see them, but as God sees them. The homilies have been arranged thematically—On God; On Jesus; What Jesus Calls Us To Be; What Jesus Calls Us To Do; Faith; Hope; Love; Loss, Suffering, Death and Heaven; Virtues and Vices; Human Dignity; Spirituality; Church, Liturgy and Ritual and Culture Society and Leadership. There is of course considerable overlap among the various themes. The subjects he refers to and the examples he gives are contemporary and relevant, not only to a Caribbean audience, but we think to audiences globally. The style is informal and conversational for the most part and this quality of the writing has been maintained. The homilies have been edited for clarity and for obvious errors and omissions in the transcripts, and some have been retitled, but they have otherwise been reproduced and stand as he wrote them.
Fr. Henry J. Charles was born in Trinidad on January 9 1944. He studied at St Mary’s College where he was awarded an Island Scholarship in Languages (Greek, Latin, and French). He received an honours Bachelor’s degree in Classics from University College, Dublin, Ireland followed by an STL (magna cum laude) from the Gregorian University. He pursued further graduate work in the United States receiving a Master’s degree in Ethics from Harvard Divinity School, and a PhD in Religious Studies (Ethics) from Yale Graduate School. He was rector of the Regional Seminary of St. John Vianney in Trinidad where he taught Ethics and Theology. He also taught theology and ethics at St. Louis University, Missouri and at the University of the West Indies and Medical Ethics at the University of the West Indies, Faculty of Medical Sciences, and Mt. Hope. He earned a JD at George Washington University, Washington DC and was admitted to practise law in New York and in Trinidad and Tobago (2001) and he also obtained an LL.M from the University College London. He ran a legal aid service, Humanum out of the St. Mary’s R.C. Church, Mucurapo, Port of Spain. Fr. Henry served as parish priests in several parishes in Trinidad including Maracas-St Joseph, St. Patrick’s, Newtown, Port of Spain and St. Mary’s in Mucurapo, as well as parishes in the United States. He also served on the selection panel for the Anthony N. Sabga Caribbean Awards for Excellence. Fr. Henry Charles died on January 15 2013.