The SparrowBook - 1996
The Sparrow is a novel about a remarkable man, a living saint, a life-long celibate and Jesuit priest, who undergoes an experience so harrowing and profound that it makes him question the existence of God. This experience--the first contact between human beings and intelligent extraterrestrial life--begins with a small mistake and ends in a horrible catastrophe.
Baker & Taylor
The sole survivor of a crew sent to discover a new planet, Jesuit priest Emilio Sandoz discovers an alien civilization that raises questions about the very essence of humanity, an encounter that leads Sandoz to a public inquisition and the destruction of his faith. A first novel. 35,000 first printing.
Blackwell North Amer
The Sparrow, an astonishing literary debut, takes you on a journey to a distant planet and to the center of the human soul. It is the story of a charismatic Jesuit priest and linguist, Emilio Sandoz, who leads a twenty-first-century scientific mission to a newly discovered extraterrestrial culture. Sandoz and his companions are prepared to endure isolation, hardship and death, but nothing can prepare them for the civilization they encounter, or for the tragic misunderstanding that brings the mission to a catastrophic end. Once considered a living saint, Sandoz returns alone to Earth physically and spiritually maimed, the mission's sole survivor - only to be accused of heinous crimes and blamed for the mission's failure.
The sole survivor of a crew sent to explore a new planet, Jesuit priest Emilio Sandoz discovers an alien civilization that raises questions about the very essence of humanity, an encounter that leads Sandoz to a public inquisition and the destruction of his faith
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pg 60 "It became more apparent to him that he was truly called to walk this strange and difficult, This unnatural and unutterable path to God, which required not poetry or piety but simple endurance and patience."
pg 288 He spoke from his heart and Deuteronomy: " 'You have seen with your own eyes what the Lord your God has done.'"
"I've seen what human beings can do--"
"You've seen WHAT, Emilio conceded, " but not WHY.That's where God is Anne. In the Why of It--in the meaning."
Faced with the Divine, people took refuge in the banal, as though answering a cosmic multiple-choice question: If you saw a burning bush, would you (a) call 911, (b) get the hot dogs, or (c) recognize God? A vanishingly small number of people would recognize God, Anne had decided years before, and most of them had simply missed a dose of Thorazine.
"The poor you will always have with you," Jesus said. A warning, Emilio wondered, or an indictment?
As many as thirty or as few as ten years later, lying exhausted and still, eyes open in the dark long after the three suns of Rakhat had set, no longer bleeding, past the vomiting, enough beyond the shock to think again, it would occur to Emilio Sandoz to wonder if perhaps that day int he Sudan was really only part of the setup for a punchline a life-time in the making.
It was an odd thought, under the circumstances. He understood that, even at the time. But thinking it, he realized with appalling clarity that on his journey of discovery as a Jesuit, he had not merely been the first human being to set foot on Rhakhat, had not simply explored parts of its largest continent and learned two of its languages and loved some of its people. He had also discovered the outermost limit of faith and, in doing so had located the exact boundary of despair. It was at that moment that he learned, truly, to fear God.
For he could not feel God or approach God as a friend or to speak to God with the easy familiarity of the devout or praise God with poetry. And yet, as he had grown older, the path he had started down almost in ignorance had begun to seem clearer to him. It became more apparent to him that he was truly called to walk this strange and difficult, this unnatural and unutterable path to God, which required not poetry or piety but simple endurance and patience.
No one could know what this meant to him.
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A group of scientists, led by a Jesuit priest cross the universe to observe and initiate contact with an alien culture. They get more than they bargained for. A book about colonization, assumptions and beliefs.