“I don’t want to go to Hell; I think I’ll go to the Novitiate!”

Excerpt from a talk on Fr. Vincent McNabb, O.P., given to the UK League of the Kingship of Christ by its Treasurer, Michael Hennessy, at St Georges House, Wimbledon, on Saturday 15th June 2002.

Although born in Ireland, by the age of 14 he had moved with his family to Newcastle-upon-Tyne, on account of his fathers work. A move to London had been considered but the capital was thought to be too terrible a place for the bringing-up of children. For a short while Joseph McNabb continued to board for most of the year at St Malachys in Belfast until he was 16. However, the influence of his time in Newcastle was important to him, for his family moved into the parish of St Dominics which was – unsurprisingly – run by the Dominican Order. He was profoundly impressed by all he saw of Dominican life and spirituality, of their asceticism, their love for Holy Scripture and their profound learning; and so, after leaving St Malachys and taking one unsatisfactory year at St Cuthberts Grammar School in Newcastle, he decided to become a Dominican. Curiously, what appears to have been the principal human motive behind Father McNabbs vocation was the same thing that drove Chesterton into the Catholic Church – fear of Hell. As he put it: “I dont want to go to Hell; I think I’ll go to the Novitiate!” Undoubtedly, while many reasons can be identified for the motivation behind his vocation, the simple fact was that he felt God was calling him to become a friar in order to save his soul.