Stefan van Dierendonck
And It’s Raining Bread
Een fatale botsing met het geloof in een indrukwekkende debuutroman
Stefan van Dierendonck has written a debut novel with an improbable story actually based on the true fact of a young priest with an allergy to the Eucharist. The church, right up to the Vatican, refuses to adapt the hosts for the main character. The writer has used own experiences to compose an unusual and intelligent story, which unsettles and raises important questions.
The novel has a classical story-within-a-story structure. An elderly father has a meeting with the monastery’s abbot one morning. The abbot gives him a box left behind by Clemens Driessen, an apprentice priest who died young in unclear circumstances. He returns to his monastery cell to commit young Clemens’s life to paper.
Van Dierendonck skillfully builds up the tension and tells how this small boy was impressed by the grandeur of a cathedral his father took him to. When his father mentions in passing that Jesus lodges in your heart when you eat the hostand remains there until you commit your first sin, his life becomes an exhausting battle to remain pure.
He avoids his peers and keeps his piety secret – he plays Marian hymns on his Walkman and carries a rosary in his pocket. He walks away from the only girl he falls in love with because of his calling. Clemens is clearly planning on hanging onto Jesus for as long as he can. Then fate strikes and his father dies when they are out jogging together.
He enrols in a seminary but things go wrong there too. Clemens is assaulted by a fellow student and his supervisors fail to react. He feels estranged from the churchgoers who scarcely believe in anything anymore but are happy to receive the host he gives them. He must preach things without agreeing with them. He feels like an actor.
And to make matters worse, he turns out to have a gluten intolerance: ‘Imagine this: I’m ill. The holy bread has made me ill. God has made me ill.’ After long insistence, the church comes up with an apparent solution: gluten-free hosts. They still make him ill, but it is a cross he has to bear.
In the end, Clemens opts to take his own life, but even in his darkest hour, he continues to consider others. And It’s Raining Bread is a book which questions the role we give religion in our lives and shows how adhering to rules can lead to us losing, rather than finding ourselves.