The LAST CRUSADER
A Novel about Don Juan of Austria
Louis de Wohl
Ignatius Press 2010
I am a Louis de Wohl fan. When I first saw this reprint of a 1956 copyrighted book of Louis de Wohl I was interested both because I had not yet read it and because it was not the life of a saint but rather of a very interesting figure in the life of the Christian West. I ordered the book from Ignatius Press finally last year and this year picked it up and read it on my way back to Kyiv. I was not disappointed.
Normally you can count on Louis de Wohl to put an edifying spin for his own day and time (an early to mid 20th Century update, if you will) on the life of a saint and I was curious what he would do with a great military man. Well, destiny or God's plan for this great man is woven all through de Wohl's novel. Free will and human frailty do indeed have their place even in the life of Juan de Austria, but his encounters with saints, the great couples which took the place of the parents he never knew, especially the great women of faith who directed him to the counselors who would be key for his success, all of them are not only credible characters but larger than life, as is Juan himself by the grace of God.
"The Last Crusader" is lots of things, but for me in this moment of time it is a tale of hope about perfectibility and mission. God's plan for you or for me might not be of epic dimensions, but ultimately His love can with our openness to His grace transform our brokenness into something which freely inspires others and gives them hope as well. Soldiery and chivalry may no longer be a young man's dreams, but giving primacy to God's Will for each and every one of us has never and will never go out of fashion.