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Never Be Able

Never Be Able

Never Be Able

Catholicism as a Symbol: A Modern Take on Cain and Abel

In the short story Never be Able, I brought together elements of Catholicism into a modern family drama. Here’s a list of religious symbols used, along with their explanations.

First, let’s discuss the origins.

The story of Cain and Abel is a biblical narrative found in the Book of Genesis, exploring themes of rivalry between brothers, envy, and the repercussions of wrongdoing. Cain and Abel were the first two sons of Adam and Eve. Abel was a shepherd, while Cain was a farmer.

Each brother made an offering to God: Cain offered produce from the soil, and Abel offered the fat portions from the firstborn of his flock.

God favored Abel’s offering over Cain’s, which led Cain to become bitterly jealous. This jealousy consumed Cain to the point where he lured Abel into the field and killed him. When God asked Cain where Abel was, Cain famously responded, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

As punishment for his crime, God cursed Cain to a life of wandering and marked him to prevent others from killing him. This mark is often interpreted as a sign of God’s ongoing protection, despite Cain’s sin. This story serves as a powerful example of how envy can cause immense harm, highlighting the dire outcomes that can occur when anger and violence go unchecked. It also explores themes of divine justice and mercy.

If you are interested in reading the story itself, check it out on Bible Gateway.


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Religious Symbols and Their Meanings

Easter Gathering

The celebration of Easter, central to the Christian faith, symbolizes resurrection and new beginnings. In the story, it’s a setting for family renewal and a reflection on spiritual themes.

Cain and Abel

The two brothers, Elie and Charlie, represent the biblical figures of Cain and Abel, respectively. Their relationship explores themes of jealousy, rivalry, and eventually, redemption.

The Cane

Elie’s accident and his subsequent use of a cane echo the biblical mark of Cain. It’s a physical manifestation of his internal struggle with bitterness and envy.

Stuffed Mushrooms and Meat Pies

The Easter feast, laden with dishes like stuffed mushrooms and meat pies, reflects Momma LaCroix’s love for her family and symbolizes the Eucharist, emphasizing the familial and spiritual communion.

Charlie’s Hollywood Fame vs. Elie’s Struggles

This juxtaposition parallels the offering story of Cain and Abel, where Abel’s offering is favored by God, igniting Cain’s jealousy.

How to Use Religious Symbolism

Based on how I used Catholicism in Never be Able, here are ways other writers can employ religious symbolism and adapt ancient stories into modern ones:

Identify Relevant Symbols

Start by identifying symbols, themes, or characters from religious texts that resonate with the story you want to tell. Consider how they can be transformed to fit a contemporary context.

Analyze the Original Story

Understanding the original story, its context, and interpretations will provide a solid foundation. This helps in creating a modern version that maintains the essence of the original.

Blend Ancient and Modern Elements

Think about how ancient symbols can be manifested in today’s world. In Never be Able, the biblical story of Cain and Abel is played out through modern relationships, careers, and even food.

Develop Multilayered Characters

Using religious archetypes can lead to creating complex, multifaceted characters. Explore their motivations, conflicts, and growth, as seen with Elie’s transformation from jealousy to empathy.

Respect Cultural and Religious Sensitivity

When adapting religious stories, maintain respect for their cultural and spiritual significance. This awareness ensures that your adaptation is thoughtful and meaningful.

Focus on Universal Themes

Connecting with broad themes such as love, redemption, and betrayal will make the story accessible and engaging to readers of various backgrounds.

Here are some examples of literature works and film that use Catholicism as a symbol:

Recommended Works of Literature and Film


Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh: Catholicism symbolizes grace and redemption. The sacraments, especially confession and communion, as well as the chapel at Brideshead, are recurring symbols representing the characters’ spiritual journeys and transformations.

Silence by Shūsaku Endō: This novel explores the symbol of martyrdom, as Jesuit missionaries in 17th-century Japan face persecution. Symbols like the fumi-e (an image of Christ to be trampled as a denial of faith) represent the painful choices between faith and survival.

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce: Catholicism is symbolized through rituals, prayers, and church teachings that reflect the protagonist’s struggle with religious conformity and individualism. The fear of hell and the idea of sin are prominent symbols depicting his spiritual conflict.


The Mission (1986): The film uses Catholic symbols like the cross, Jesuit missionary robes, and liturgical music to depict the conflict between faith and colonialism. These symbols represent commitment, sacrifice, and the complex relationship between the Church and indigenous peoples.

Of Gods and Men (2010): Catholicism’s symbols of community, prayer, and martyrdom are at the core of this film, which tells the true story of French Trappist monks in Algeria. Scenes of communal prayer, liturgical chants, and the monks’ simple monastic lifestyle symbolize their deep faith and commitment to peaceful coexistence, even in the face of extremism.

Calvary (2014): The protagonist, a priest, is a living symbol of Catholicism’s principles of forgiveness and redemption. Elements like the confessional booth, the church building, and the priest’s vestments represent both the challenges and the ideals of living a faithful Catholic life amid modern cynicism.

Final Thoughts

Catholicism’s rituals, doctrines, saints, and moral teachings provide authors and filmmakers with a vast amount of symbolism to work with. Whether examining internal spiritual journeys, moral dilemmas, social injustice, or human connection, Catholic symbolism serves to deepen the narrative and provide layers of meaning. It connects the particularities of the faith tradition with universal human experiences, bridging the gap between the sacred and the mundane. The versatility of Catholicism as a symbol allows for a broad exploration of themes that resonate across cultures and beliefs, reflecting the complexities of human existence.

Never be Able is an example of how religious symbolism, specifically from Catholicism, can add depth and complexity to modern storytelling. By carefully blending the ancient with the contemporary, and employing symbolic elements like Easter and the story of Cain and Abel, the story is crafted into a tale that resonates on multiple levels. Other writers can find inspiration in this approach, using religious symbols to enrich their narratives and connect with timeless human experiences.

If you enjoyed how I used Catholicism as a symbol in storytelling then you’ll like my short story Toxic Eden where I showcase a modern tale of Adam & Eve. You can also check out my other short stories that discusses other themes.

Never Be Able