reconciling things

“Allow it all to happen: beauty and terror…” Rilke

I read Brother Lawrence’s The Practice of the Presence of God when I was a seventeen, I think. It quickly became one of my treasured books. I read A Man For All Seasons and watched the movie. St. Thomas More was the man! I read Tolkein and Lewis. At my wedding my Bridesmaids carried the Prayer of St. Francis in the language of flowers and herbs and the prayer was written in the wedding program. Shortly after I got married I read St. Augustine’s Confessions. I wanted to name my next son Augustine, but my husband vetoed that. I read St. Basil The Great and how he defended the church against heresy, how he wouldn’t embrace unity at the price of orthodoxy. I wanted to name my next son Basil. Too artsy-fartsy, my husband said. (and he’s probably right…)

When Mother Teresa died I kept the newspapers that announced her death and reported on her funeral. She was my hero.

Great Catholics

Through their writings over the years I have fallen in love with Flannery O’Connor, St. Therese of Lisieux, St. Hildegard Von Bingen, Brennan Manning, Thomas Merton.  GK Chesterton is like my BFF–I mean who else can write an entire essay on Stilton AND a book like Orthodoxy???

After a while it occurred to me that so many–not all, but most–of my favorite writers were very Catholic.  By far my favorite theologians were Catholic. I could read Chesterton all day long and I carry Hildegard around in my purse. And it’s not that I haven’t been exposed to a wide array of theological thought. As my husband was going through Seminary I would read most of his books, simply because I find theology rather fascinating. (Maybe I should have officially enrolled…) I’ve read Quakers and Reformed theology. I’ve read Karl Barth and John Calvin. I’ve read them all. The ones I return to over and over again, the ones I read and ponder and send quotes out of to my friends–are the Catholic writers.

And there was always this….thing. This big elephant in the room of theological thought. This writer is amazing and spot-on when it comes to everything—except that they are Catholic. They are right on everything, except that whole Pope thing. They are the most converted person I have ever read, except that Marian theology.

How could I with any intellectual integrity make these distinctions?!

Growing up I heard such thing as, “Some Catholics are really saved. Some are just caught up in empty religion.” (As if the same thing could not be said for every single Protestant denomination I know!) It was always said with the flavor of “very few Catholics are really saved. The majority are caught up in empty religion.”  I gave mental assent to that. Until…..

Well, I found myself nearly surrounded with Catholics! And they were all Jesus-loving, genuine, beautiful people who were faithful and devout and thoughtful and intentional. If the premise were true that most Catholics were just mindless sheeple or worse–idolaters–how is it that all the Catholics I knew weren’t? Did I just happen to become friends with all the genuine ones?! Well, that just didn’t make any sense.

My favorite writers. My favorite theologians. My favorite people. Catholics.  Something was not adding up.  Either they were all wrong or I was. Because the kinship I felt with them, the truth I saw leap from their writings, the beauty of their holy lives–could not come from nothing. A bad tree does not bear so much good fruit.

Maybe I was the one who needed that slice of humble pie. Maybe I was the one who needed to take a good hard look at what I believed and be converted.

The Greats and The Real

“…she was converted to the religion she already believed in, and her imitation of Christ began.” (Paul Elie writing about Flannery O’Connor)

2 thoughts on “The Greats and Real Christians

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