Wednesday, August 20, 2014

BEING CATHOLIC MAY MEAN LOSING FRIENDS





Not long ago, I received an email:

As a mother, an educator, a Catholic, a modern woman, I would love to hear more about your conversion--did you lose friends? Do you sometimes feel like a freak? I'm the only person I know (my age 43) that goes to Mass more than once a week. The internet seems filled with these goody two shoes Catholic mothers who sew all their childrens' clothes and celebrate liturgical feast days and such. What if you are just kind of a slacker? How do you not get so discouraged? That would interest me.

If I had children, I told the woman, I’d probably be dispensing tips on how to refrain from selling them into slavery. But seriously, the short answer is we have to figure out what sets us on fire and then go after that thing with single-minded determination. For me, that's been writing.

The long answer is that Catholicism is a radical search for the truth. We don’t hear nearly enough that grace costs. We don’t hear nearly enough that to follow Christ more or less means being poor. We’re not called to live in destitution but we’re clearly called to not own much more than we can use, which is really not all that much. We’re called to poverty, chastity, and obedience. And what I’ve found is that these are the most exciting, challenging, states possible! They lead to a kind of freedom and a state of being awake is completely lacking in our narcotic culture.

There’s slacking, for example, and then there’s slacking. I myself resolutely resist being “too busy.” I think the kind of busyness that our culture aspires to and values is the work of Satan. Certain Catholic media types say we are obligated to watch mindless films and bad TV so we can meet people “where they are” and to that I say, I don’t think so. The thought of wasting even ten minutes watching some lame TV show so I can make small talk with a “non-believer” makes the hairs on my neck stand on end.

When Christ hung out with the prostitutes and the tax-payers, he wasn’t saying Let’s trade dirty jokes and gossip. He didn’t meet them at their level in that way. He met them at their level by loving them as they were and also calling them higher. You love people by seeing their terrible hunger and thirst (which means getting deeply in touch with our own), by inviting them to contribute, by showing them they have an integral, vitally important mission. By making and showing them great art and great humor, born of a path that is long, rocky, lonely and hard.

I lost my marriage in part because I converted. I quit my job as a lawyer because I converted. I’m not sure I lost friends, but I may have lost a certain closeness with certain friends. That Catholicism is constantly misinterpreted, misunderstood, maligned, scorned, despised, spat upon I can accept. What bothers me more is the view of Catholicism as mindless eccentricity. Right after Obama was elected a friend was gushing about him and after awhile she said: “You love Obama, too, right?” I said, “Well he seems like a nice enough guy but I’m not crazy about the fact that he supports embryonic stem cell research and I bet you anything nothing gets better for poor people and he starts a war or two and in about a year everyone turns around and starts to hate him.” And she said, “Oh well that’s just your Catholicism.” I almost crawled out of my seat. “My Catholicism!” I said. “My Catholicism is my life, my Catholicism is the air I breathe”…

My Catholicism is why I didn’t vote for Romney either. Time has borne me out. In last Sunday’s Los Angeles Times, I read that since 1995, the Pentagon has distributed $5.1 billion in surplus military equipment to U.S. police departments: assault rifles, mine-resistant armored personnel carriers, helicopters. I read of Guantanamo Bay inmate Mohamedou Ould Slahi who, though he has never been charged with a crime, has been in U.S custody since 2001 and has written a memoir describing, among other things, the torture he has undergone at our hands. I read a review of a book called The Invisible Soldiers: How America Outsourced Our Security by Ann Hagedorn and learned that “half of the 16,000 personnel working for the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad since the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops are contractors,” that we spend billions of dollars on mercenaries, and that according to a Blackwater executive, former navy SEAL Erik Prince, “the U.S. military is not large enough to do all the things that a complex, widespread, expensive mission like the Iraq war requires.”

So why are we there? Sewing the children’s vestments is beautiful, if that’s what sets you on fire. What’s not beautiful is trying to make Catholicism a platform where we can find a foothold, or a club of which we can be a member in good standing, or a badge of good citizenship.

What’s really not beautiful is failing to notice that the entire system under which we live is very, very far away from Christ. There may be no answers but at the very least we are called to ask the questions. To fail to notice the satanic violence and the terrifying secrecy perpetrated by our government is not worthy of our intelligence as Catholics. Surely, for example, we can’t seriously expect a nation that spends more on the military than every other nation in the world combined to be terribly concerned with the unborn.

I don’t particularly want to stand on the fringe, but as a follower of Christ, I find myself standing on the fringe. What concerns me is that by voicing opinions like the above I stand to lose Catholic friends.

We’re leaching the fire and majesty and meat out of Catholic art, out of Christ, out of the Church. We can’t handle anything “dark” because we live in the dark: the stagnant, the predictable, the irrelevant, the boring. Increasingly, we can’t handle anything but a bland, happy ending.

Let’s never forget that the Resurrection is not a happy ending. The Resurrection is a surprise ending.



I'm finding that, just as there's a "magic hour" toward dusk, in LA at least, there's a magic hour in the morning. Should we coin the word "twidawn"?....

I became enchanted last week with the shadows cast around 7 a.m. by a camellia bush against the pale gray adjacent wall of our back yard cottage.

My pulsating joy at being home, being alive, being, continues...

5 comments:

  1. Just discovered your blog - am enjoying it!

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  2. You're obviously crepuscular, Heather. But not predatory!

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  3. Dear Heather,
    I printed your Aleteia article out and read it today while sat waiting for my turn at Confession. There's a lot in there and I need to read it again to really take it all in. I also just received your book "Stripped" in the mail yesterday and started it as soon as I got home last night. It was one of those 'just one more chapter...' nights and I read still further this morning. While I am not yet done I can offer you my highest compliment about any book: I am reading it with a pen. There is so much to underline! And I laughed out loud when you said "how sad is life?" after describing the table used for the indignant experience of a biopsy. Anyway, I should get back to my book. :) Thank you for pursuing your vocation as a writer. It is enriching all of us.
    Cheers,
    Dana Laviano

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  4. When I read politico-theological pieces, I must admit I am never able to say I agree 100%. I'm just too opinionated and angry when it comes to the US/Brit banking and political hegemony over this world. But you did it Heather, I have nothing to add and am thanking God you just wrote what you wrote and a bunch of Catholics will see it! You even took a swing at the military-industrial complex while encouraging us to grow spiritually! Yes, for so many "good" Christians, it is heresy to say anything other than that the US is the greatest country on this earth. Well, our founding fathers, in my opinion did some wonderful stuff, but that was a long time ago and their ideas and laws are no longer followed by the jackals who have hijacked our government.

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  5. Just reread your post because it is such a beautiful thing. And I'd like to add something for our Christian and Catholic friends who may not know what that one word "Blackwater" means.

    And i will neither go into why i know these things nor say anything more than a very tiny, tiny tip about this foul iceberg. I have never worked for them nor the military nor a contracting firm.

    Blackwater is a subcontracting company that hires ourt mercenaries to do jobs for sundry organizations such as large multinational corporations or, their biggest customer, the United States Government. Many of the guys who do Blackwater's work used to be in more advanced and specialized branches of the US military. Usually they began as kids out of high school who had no options better than a job in the military, so that's where they went. When one of these guys proved to have the prowess to be a really good soldier, he might be asked to train to be a seal. And there he could be given a puppy as a personal pet as a gift for his good service to the US military (but this is only one type of gift, there are as many gifts as there are different types of people and personalities). The gift in the case of a puppy promotes bonding. Maybe a year later or so, this kid with the puppy is commanded by his officer to strangle the little dog to death. Too bad if he doesn't want to do that, to break that bond. For soldier boy has the duty to obey his officer. And if he does this well, and doesn't show weakness that may lead to a nervous breakdown or something of the sort, he may just get promoted again! And that could lead all the way to Blackwater someday, where he can go on secret killing missions that the US Government doesn't need to report to us silly little citizens who may have sensitive consciences! For no government can run an Empire like that!!!

    And that former soldier, now a top dog in the killing world, best not get a conscience even if he sees an entire family, kids included, wiped out. No, he better not. that could lead to a demotion and crummy little tasks that won't make headlines -like taking out Osama bin Laden. And on one of those crummy little tasks something could go wrong, terribly wrong. And one of his buddies may just accidentally put a bullet through the back of his conscience awakening head.
    And there was a time in my not so distant past that I was silly enough to think that slavery in the US was a thing of the past!

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I WELCOME your comments!!!