“From the Underground Church to Freedom” is the title of Tomáš Halík’s autobiography, which has now become the best book of 2019 in the field of religion-based books in the USA.
Tomáš Halík is a man of many talents as he is a Catholic priest, theologian, religionist, sociologist, psychologist, and philosopher. Moreover, he is the pastor of the Roman Catholic Academic Parish at the Church of the Holy Saviour in Prague. In his autobiography, Halík maps the functioning of the underground church and his path to faith and the priesthood.
The best books of the year in various genres are awarded annually by the American literary-critical monthly Foreword. Halík’s autobiography has so far been published in Czech, Polish, German, Portuguese and Dutch.
According to Halík, the most interesting for the English-speaking world and readers from other countries might be his experience from the underground church. “Perhaps the book helped them understand why communism stayed with us for so long and what this historical period left in people. They probably also realized that the transition from an authoritarian police regime to democracy is a long-term and demanding process,” said Halík, who works at the Institute of Philosophy and Religious Studies, Charles University.
Halík’s memoirs connect several levels: Halík’s life story, including his spiritual path and intellectual development, a reflection of the time, and the transformation of society and the church during the 70 years of modern Czech history.
“Of course, some memories did not come to my mind easily. For example, the dramatic events around 1989, when I felt that I was torn down by a wild river. Experiences of that time still merge as in an accelerated film. Or traumatic disappointments from the development of the Catholic Church, which missed the unique opportunities that opened up around the fall of communism.“
Halík’s book is supplemented by testimonies of meetings with personalities of the ecclesiastical, political and intellectual world, such as Václav Havel, Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, Cardinals Tomášek, König and Roger Schütz.
“In my book, I emphasize several times that I am not trying to write an objective history, but I acknowledge and reflect on the position of an insider who is well aware that every view is limited by the perspective of one’s own experience, culture, education and philosophy of life. No one is immune to the temptation of pride and self-styling,” concluded Halík.
Title image: Czech priest and philosopher Tomas Halik poses for photographers after receiving the 2014 Templeton Prize, after a ceremony at St Martin-in-the-Fields church in London, Wednesday, May 14, 2014. The Templeton Prize honors a living person who has made an exceptional contribution to affirming life’s spiritual dimension, whether through insight, discovery, or practical works. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)