CREDOS : The book of Joe — I

Paul O’Donnell

Tony Hendra was the editor of National Lampoon, and invented the British satire show “Spitting Image,” all after giving up his first career: Teen Monk. Hauled before Father Joseph Warrilow for having a love affair with a married woman, Hendra found Father Joe was unlike any priest he’d ever known, and, deciding he wanted to be like Joe, aspired to monasticism. His best-selling book, “Father Joe,” tells how life took Hendra in other directions, not all of them happy, but all leading back to his confessor, counselor and stabilising force.

Is this the book that you thought you’d end up with?

Not at all. When I came to see Joe the last time, the book I was planning was just recorded dialogue, two men talking. After he died, that obviously became impossible, but I discovered that Joe had had quite a little ministry going. I thought it would be a non-self seeking way to celebrate Joe to get lots of other impressions of him. The abbey was reluctant to cooperate with that, understandably, because it meant invading people’s privacy. So I became very frustrated. I desperately wanted to write about Joe, because of the void that he’d sort of left in my universe. But I was not really equipped to do it. Whenever I tried, it would come out sort of hideous mush. The only muscles I had were comedic ones, you know — ridicule and diminishing and so forth. Not exactly a way to celebrate a saint or someone who looked like a saint. As it happened, I had been asked by a storytelling group here in Manhattan called “The Moth” to tell a story. I decided I would tell the story of my relationship with Joe in capsule form. It was terrifying, but the audience loved it. —