Peter Elliott browses books with fellow Catholic author Anna Eastland at the Catholic Educators’ Conference last month. Agnieszka Ruck

Author brews up own way to evangelize

By  Agnieszka Ruck, Canadian Catholic News
  • March 21, 2020

VANCOUVER -- Bookworms making their way through a copy of The Last Bachelor Of Ales might not expect to be evangelized, and that’s just what first-time Catholic author Peter Elliott is hoping for.

“I want it to be an evangelization that’s open to people who, if you invited them to church, they would say no. But if you said, ‘would you like to read a book?’ they may agree,” Elliott told The B.C. Catholic.

The Last Bachelor of Ales, published in late 2019, is a story about an agnostic man named Jason who begins a soul-searching journey after he finds himself alone in his favourite pub — his friends married, raising children and otherwise having moved on from weekly rounds of beers and meaningless conversation.

He accidentally befriends a quirky philosopher, comes under the mentorship of a Jewish colleague and starts dating a Catholic — connections that have him wondering if there’s more to life than being a bachelor of ales.

“Why is a big question,” said Elliott, a parishioner at All Saints Parish in Coquitlam. “We are created by God for a purpose and until we know that purpose, it’s hard to follow it.”

The book plunges Jason and his young love into an ethical corporate drama, which Elliott hopes might send a reader who is agnostic or curious about Christianity deep into questions about ethics and the meaning of life.

Jason is a fictional character, but the protagonist of the book asks all the real, hard questions Elliott has asked himself.

“I was like Jason at the start (of the book) for most of my life,” Elliott said.

He describes himself as someone who “drifted” through his circumstances, leaving behind the Anglican faith he was raised in and working many varied jobs including as a garbageman, commercial diver, carpenter, boat captain, actor, wax sculptor and English teacher.

“Most of my life was just getting from day to day, paying the bills, making sure my family was looked after, and not much thought about where I am going with my life. I was only going to tomorrow.”

But Elliott, like Jason, would experience a radical shift.

About Grade 12, Elliott decided to reconnect with his father, who had abandoned his wife and children when Elliott was five. He reached out to the man, who lived in California and suggested Elliott move south to live with him and enrol in a local college.

Elliott selected a college program, packed his bags and arrived in California in July. By August, his dad had moved to New Jersey.

“He left me again,” said Elliott. “I spent that first Christmas alone. That’s when I started thinking about the meaning of life and why we exist.”

Also around that time in the 1970s, Elliott started writing a book about a futuristic world where neglect and poor treatment of the planet led to a hostile climate.

Elliott didn’t finish the book then, but went on to explore various sciences and philosophies looking for something to give his life meaning. He would only come to fully embrace faith in God personally after he met his wife and became a Catholic years later.

“You can only find your purpose through faith,” said Elliott. “You can’t find it through science. You can’t find it through economics. They don’t answer the question why; they just answer questions of what happens and how it happens, but not why it happens.”

Several years ago, while reading a popular book about evangelism called Forming Intentional Disciples by Sherry Weddell, Elliott felt called to publicly share his discoveries about what it means to live life with faith and purpose.

“I realized if I want to be an intentional disciple, I have to go out and evangelize.” He asked himself, “How can I do that?”

That book he’d started writing in college 42 years ago gave him a clue.

“I looked at how evangelization would fit in my life, what my abilities are, what my interests are, and I thought: I can write a book.”

He has also found other ways to talk about finding purpose in life. Elliott is a member of the Proclaim Movement, the evangelization initiative launched by the Archdiocese of Vancouver last fall.

He sees his books as supportive of Proclaim’s goals to reach more people with the Gospel in accessible ways.

“I pray and then I write, and when I come to a dry spell, I pray some more,” he said.

(The B.C. Catholic)

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