Who is Joseph F. Girzone, and what has he contributed to American literature?

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kipling2448 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Joseph Girzone is a retired priest from the Carmelite order who, upon leaving the priesthood for medical reasons, began writing novels to support himself financially. His most well-known works are the “Joshua” series of novels, the first one, Joshua, having been published in 1983. The title character in the series, “Joshua,” is a Christ-like figure who takes up residency near a town and proceeds to impress the town’s residents with his kindness, devotion, and commitment to do good. The subsequent series of novels surrounding this “character” proved enormously successful and made Girzone, for a time, a very wealthy individual. When sales began to decline, however, he was dropped by his publisher, Doubleday, and eventually became destitute once more. His spirit, though, hasn’t flagged. In a 2011 interview with his hometown newspaper, the Albany Times-Union, Girzone was quoted as stating,

"I'm right back where I was when I started writing, nearly penniless again," he said. "It's actually a freeing thing to be poor."

Girzone continues to take pride in the positive message his books conveyed to a loyal following. Lest anyone make the mistake of thinking his journey has lacked doubt, however, in 2006 he published My Struggle with Faith, in which he discussed the trials and tribulations he endured along his path to the present – a path that led to a greater sense of the meaning of faith:

“If you want to have peace of soul, learn to forgive. Jesus' secret was His ability to see into people's hearts. Seeing their anguish and pain helped Him to understand their nastiness. So He could pity them rather than become angry with them. That is what we have to do: try to understand the pain in people's lives...and not take personally what they do to us.”

When he retired from the priesthood for health reasons, his bishop was remarkably uncaring and denied Girzone any kind of assistance by way of medical insurance or retirement annuity.  Doubleday's unceremonious decision to drop him from its ranks would later prove another major obstacle.  That he has retained his faith in the face of such obstacles, however, strengthens his message about love and caring.