The description of Peter’s passing is alone worth the price of this book. Catherine (wife) tells how she sat quietly by his body, draped and covered on the hospital bed, and became aware that his presence and another presence was there in the room with her, which she describes as “vivid” and “transcendent”. After precisely 50 minutes, the luminous presences left the room.
You gotta read this book. His sermons are in the back. These too, are very inspiring.
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As someone related to those who have served in the clergy, I found Catherine Marshall’s ardent tribute to her late husband, Senate Chaplain Peter Marshall particularly heartwarming and inspiring.
As her husband (who became affectinately known as “Twittering-Birds Marshall” because of the flowery phrasing he gave to his wonderful sermons) painted vivid imagery with the parables he told, she paints a vivid image of his all-too-brief life.
Through her words, we see the winsome Scottish lad who suffers the tragic loss of his father at age four, whose hardscrabble experiences and humble beginnings would lead him to have great compassion for others in similar circumstances, the spiritual depth he developed on the occassions when his Inner Voice saved him from accidental death, the inspiration he received from fellow Scottish churchman Eric Liddell, his Scottish wit, and fun-loving style. He was a man I feel I would have liked, as did many, and had he lived a few more years, he might have been highly instrumental in the struggle for Civil Rights, judging from the deferrence he gave to the writings of African American men of faith, James Weldon Johnson, and George Washington Carver, and his expressed concern for underpriviledged minorities. His sermon, “The American Dream”, is still very timely in the modern world.
Readers follow him through his immigration to the United States, his entrance into the clergy, his meeting of Catherine, the difficulty of finding time to spend with her due to mounting ministerial duties, his marriage, his camaraderie with other ministers, the high emotion of embracing U.S. Citizenship, the use of his sharp sense of humor to win people over to Christ, his enthusiasm for board games, sports, life itself, and also his great love for his family and humanity in general.
I can hear the melodic trill of his brogue when his quotes appear in the story as his wife recaptures the rhythm of his speech patterns, and each chapter is headed with appropriate Biblical verses that summarize their contents.
Dr. Marshall was nonimated as Senate Chaplain while serving in the church where Abraham Lincoln once worshipped, and upon his election became a much-loved confidant of Senators on both sides of the aisle. Michigan Senator, Arthur Vandenberg (who himself passed away around the time of this book’s publication in 1951), affectionately called him, “Dominie”, the Dutch word for “Parson”.
We share the couple’s delight at the birth of their son, “Wee Peter” in the years prior to Dr. Marshall’s rise to the Chaplaincy of the Senate, the challenges to their faith brought on by Catherine’s bout with tuberculosis, and Peter’s heart trouble, and see how much prayer meant in their lives at such time. We also see how Peter’s illness inspired others to pray. But we are also made aware that not everyone admired the Marshalls and that the Good Reverend was subjected to anti-immigrant backlash as well as misinterpretations of the meaning of his sermons. He had his moments of self-doubt, as does everyone.
Dr. Marshall’s instinctiveness in changing his sermon for the graduating class of the Annapolis Naval Academy, which he gave just hours before the announcement of the attack on Pearl Harbor is formidable, and through his warm, consoling mannerisms, Christ became warm and alive in the hearts and minds of many. Through Marshall’s example, many lives were changed for the better.
We also see how this spiritually attuned couple helped produce some of Peter’s best sermons in joint ventures that made their life’s pilgrimage a real partnership.
Five days after his attendance of President Truman’s second inaguration, this fine representative of Christ on Earth was lost to the world. But his sweetness, and love for his wife were evident until the very end. As he passed from this life, the Holy Spirit gave Catherine the strenghth to carry on with her life, and to console others. As she worked on her late husband’s story, he appeared to her in a dream, providing encouragement, but still letting that sparkling Scottish wit shine through, perhaps more eminently, in the afterlife.
The last words he spoke to her, “See you in the morning”, would carry her through the years.–Through the acclaim of this biography, the 1955 film of the same name in which Richard Todd gave an adorable performance as Peter, an eventual second marriage, the entrance of her son into the Presbyterian ministry, her own success with the novel, “Christy” and other religious literature, and eventually, her own undoubtably happy reunion with Peter in March, 1983.
Her son honors the rich spiritual legacy of his parents by continuing the family tradition. As did his own father, Peter John Marshall lost his father in childhood, and perhaps strives to know him by following in his footsteps. Perhaps he knows the Senate Chaplain who was his father better than the elder Dr. Marshall knew…
This book is wonderful! I’m in my teens and love to read everything from biographies to fiction books. A Man Called Peter is one of my favorites. Catherine Marshall’s writing is so down to earth and personal you begin to feel as if you know this Man Called Peter as a friend. My little brother was read this book when he was six years old and a year later he still talks about “Enormous” Peter and Wee Peter, the father and son in the book. This book is one of his favorites, too.