US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Read: Learning to Die in Miami

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Learning to Die in Miami
By Carlos Eire (Free Press, 2011)

In 1962 Carlos Eire was one of 14,000 children evacuated from Cuba by Catholic parents who believed Fidel Castro would be ousted within months. Those evacuees still living are now grey-haired Cuban-Americans. Eire has written a compelling memoir of that era’s repeated losses (the “dying” of his title), and of what he ultimately gained.
Before he boarded the plane, his mother had given Eire The Imitation of Christ. The book angered him—telling him to let go of anything that might become precious to him when he had already lost so much. Ironically, he wouldn’t let go of the detested book: It was all he had of his mother.

Eire was 11 years old when he and his brother departed from Cuba, unaware that their landing in Miami marked the death of their childhood. They would soon come to depend upon the kindness of strangers in separate foster homes. When the Bay of Pigs invasion closed Cuba off to America, their temporary foster placements ended. The brothers were moved to a facility where they suffered hunger and beatings.

Eire’s prior book, Waiting for Snow in Havana (a National Book Award winner), credits his first foster parents, a Jewish couple who made him go to Mass, as his proof for the existence of God. His nine months with them was the source of his understanding of how Christian values emanate from Judaism and the genesis of his later career as a professor of history and religious studies at Yale University.

In this book Eire makes a case for a belief in the soul, which he sees as more difficult than belief in God. Summarized, his ultimate proof for an immortal soul is: “This book, from cover to cover, and its readers, including you.” By the time you get there you will know just how Eire gained his wisdom, and you will be moved. This theologian has a heart, pulsing and grateful.

This article appeared in the March 2012 issue of U.S. Catholic (Vol. 77, No. 3, pages 43.)