Sunday, April 7, 2013


Over a year ago, I posted a piece called “Avoiding Both the Catholic Left and the Catholic Right.”  I quoted a Victorian named Coventry Patmore on sainthood. The quote starts: "The saint has no “fads” and you may live in the same house with him and never find out that he is not a sinner like yourself, unless you rely on negative proofs, or obtrude lax ideas upon him and so provoke him to silence”...

Some of the people I featured in the post were Dietrich Bonhoeffer; Edith SteinFranz Jägerstätteran Austria peasant who refused conscription as a Nazi soldier and was executed; and Irena Sendler, a Polish Catholic who hid thousands of Jewish children and refused to divulge their names under torture which included the breaking of both of her legs. 

Christ himself said, "Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s" and then he proceeded to say all kinds of things about God and absolutely nothing about Caesar Yet still some believe that the failure to label one's Catholicism as either right or left is wishy-washy, cowardly, tantamount to failure to take a stand. “That sounds good on paper, but this is the real world," people say. "We need to speak out,” they say. “We need to get the right people elected.”    

We’re called to make our faith public, not partisan.

A friend recently posed the question: “If you were accused of being a Christian – say Catholic, if you wish – would there be enough evidence to convict you?”

Nobody’s going to persecute us for being a Democrat or a Republican. Those things are toothless (in addition, at this point, to being virtually identical). They require no real risk.

No doubt we’re called to “speak out”: what we keep under wraps is our self-denial, our loneliness, our poverty of spirit. What we keep quiet about are our halting acts of humility, of patience, of forgiveness, of suffering, of self-doubt, of love. 

You can be sure Bonhoeffer, Stein and Jägerstätter weren't blowing their own "I'm taking a stand!" horns.  You can be sure St. Maximilian Kolbe and Irena Sendlar weren't nosing around like Gladys Kravitz peering into everyone else's business, carping at the Pope for actually serving "the least of these," and promoting cheap grace.

They wouldn't have been interested. 

They wouldn't have had time. 

They were too busy sacrificing their lives. 


  1. Heather keep writing and never stop.

    Being a Catholic who is in love with the Church is serious business. It is getting more serious by the day. Fighting back with love is counter intuitive with our culture, loving our enemies seems like a childish and weak notion. It is however exactly what we are called to do.

    If we hate the enemies of the Church we are not with Jesus. If we do not stand with the Church we are not with Jesus. If this seems impossible then we do not know Jesus!

    Like I said before Heather, please, keep writing!

  2. Ben, thank you and yes! "Fighting back with love is counter intuitive with our culture"--to say the LEAST--and "loving our enemies seems like a childish and weak notion." Christianity is a whole way of thinking, seeing, acting, being in the world. "Before Abraham was, I AM"...It's existential truth: Christ demonstrating that the only way we are ever going to find happiness, fulfillment, joy, and the peace that passes all understanding in this vale of tears is in one way or another laying down our lives out of love. That's why all efforts to reduce Christ to a mere political agitator, or a mere pacifist, or a mere pro-life figure, or whatever our thing is, do him, and us, a disservice.

    Our politics is love. And love takes root in the heart which we actually do have some hope for and control over changing...

  3. Dear Heather,

    On this theme, a video that I think is related is this The Making of The Labyrinth: The Testimony of Marian Kolodziej produced (as it happens) by a Jesuit.

    My one thought beyond that affirmation is that when I have written publicly about those things you mention "we keep secret", those posts, are usually the ones that garner to most attention - not that they are intended as attention seeking only that it's that kind of sharing that seems to resonate for folks, at least those who follow my broken offerings. Even when the comments are few on the blog they show up in the inbox or on FB or G+. Your thoughts on that? I'm interested and I may have misunderstood you there. Not sure :)

    M-m-m, I should add those posts and those showing my own art.

    P.S. I can hear in these words "We’re called to make our faith public, not partisan" could have been a line from the Sermon on the Mount (don't get a big head, just saying).

  4. Thanks again for reminding us all that we stand with Christ and his Church. I do not consider myself left, center or right but I do consider myself Catholic seeking to grow in my faith and in love with Jesus and His Church. I want to be known as a faithful daughter of the Church, that is my hope.
    I cannot stomach anymore nit-picking of either Papa Francis or Papa Benedict. I love them both and thank God for both as together, they are a great blessing to the Church and to all of us. Everytime I see Papa Francis and the love the people have for him, I smile in thanksgiving as he goes about his daily duty loving everyone up. I then think of Papa Benedict hidden from us now, in prayer and I remember his sweetness, his gentleness is genius.
    I will always remain grateful to our Lord Jesus Christ for allowing this great time of grace in our Church's history and in our lives...a wonderful blessing too awesome to begin to even truly understand.
    Thanks again for your fine post! God bless you forever!

  5. I long ago abandoned worshiping at the altars of politics, since the idols there were only variations of Moloch, bloodthirsty idols.

    "Our politics is love" -- exactly. I wish I had learned that earlier, rather than practicing idolatry, but the Lord is merciful and patient (thankfully!) in leading us to better ways.

  6. "they wouldn't have had time . . . "
    Love it!

  7. And yet there are times that demand we veer into the partisan/political. Consider that Bonhoeffer, noted for his pacifism, was executed because of his part in a plot to kill Hitler.

    So many of us who are Christian, especially the Catholics among us, feel besieged today because the secular-dominated culture is becoming more and more hostile toward our faith. I'm not saying we should turn to violence, but what to do?

    Would we not be justified in seeking out and supporting the partisan group that most closely adhered to our beliefs?

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  9. I am captivated by the video shared by Owen, "The Making of The Labyrinth: The Testimony of Marian Kolodziej. As a private, secret-keeper I am often encouraged to find safe spaces to share my hidden experiences and secrets in. I am told what we suppress/bury finds it's way to the surface, in one way or another. I don't know what it will take for me to open up, but for Marian's secrets to be uncovered (through his artwork) he had first to have a stroke after fifty yeas of not speaking of his traumatizing experiences about "the horror of the Holocaust". I am reminded however, that, as Owen touched on, much of what we keep hidden is what others identify most with, whether that be isolation, loneliness, shame, self-hatred, doubt, or recollection of times we've been hurt. That which holds the potential of uniting humanity, our secrets, we insist of hiding from others. I am among the guilty.

  10. I think we need to participate in the political process if only to keep the parties questioning and reforming themselves. And they are always in constant need of reform (like everything else in life!). So if you are a Catholic Democrat, be the gadfly that makes the Democratic party question its own views on things like abortion. If you are a Catholic Republican, be the gadfly that makes the Republicans think twice about wars or torture. Be the refining fire of your party! It takes a lot of guts and a lot of strength! I think you can only do this if you are grounded in who you truly are; who any of us truly are: children of God. That is our true identity, not whether we are Democrat or Republican. Some people (like me!) are weak and disengage from politics because it feels too disgusting to us. I don't like it. It gets me down. I admire wholeheartedly people who try to both live out their faith and work to reform their own party. They dare to speak truth to power even if it means they get ostracized or demonized. That's one reason I give money to Democrats for Life (also because I am a wimp and I'd rather just give money than get actually involved myself).

  11. Hi people, have been out of town and away from my always, thanks for weighing in...Faith, I love your idea of being the gadfly, either Democrat or Republican, that invites us all to question our views. In fact, that's exactly what I try to do here!

    Making my views on faith public, through by blog, books and speaking, is my form of speaking truth to power and for me requires wading into waters I would way rather not go; opening myself to criticism, scorn, ridicule; and making myself vulnerable in a way that "stating" my views privately in the voting booth, or say, campaigning for a political candidate, never would.

    To have a blog, or the kind of blog I have, is to hang yourself out to the wind, where you sway, in my case, alone, unsupported by any order, foundation, archdiocese, organization, lay movement or even partner. It is to devote many unpaid hours a week to a "cause" from which I stand to gain, in a worldly sense, nothing: not "my" candidate in office, never a "victory" party, not a sense of "Ah ha! I defeated my opponent," not the conversion of my friends, most of whom couldn't care less about Catholicism, not the support of many of my fellow Catholics who I sometimes get the impression would regard Christ, bleeding and lacerated on the Cross, and jeer, "That's all very well, but WOULD YOU VOTE FOR OBAMA??"

    It is to post a piece like this one, and to open the ensuing comments, heart in mouth, braced for misunderstanding, misinterpretation that often seems willful, vitriol, and hatred. I don't find that disgusting, but I do find it deeply anxiety- and fear-producing. My work requires a constant process of discernment, a constant exercise of restraint of tongue and pen, a constant weighing of what to say, what is better left unsaid, what needs to be said, and how to say it in a way that is of the most integrity, the most truth, the most love, and is the least polarizing. I take a risk, my identity and history known to the world, upon which my deep desire/need to be loved, not to mention my livelihood, depend...I also often fail, often stumble, am often a terrible Pharisee and a terrible coward...and that, too, is visible and available to the whole world.

    So the fact that Stein, Jagerstatter et al found themselves in arenas other than partisan politics to most fully live out, and die for, their beliefs, didn't make them wimps: on the contrary, it made them supreme exemplars of Christ.

    To be a follower of Christ automatically makes you the best "citizen" you can be. You will joyfully follow all the laws that go toward the common good, and your will have the Christ-formed conscience to discern the laws that are not for the common good. But your point is well-taken, Lydia; if participating in partisan politics helps you deepen and live out your faith, by all means, go for it! To avoid identifying my faith as either right or left doesn't mean I don't participate in partisan politics. One reason, however, that partisan politics is not my main arena is that politics IS culture, which is to say, based on power, control, speed, and choice--phenomena that are by their very nature the antithesis of the teachings of Christ. I cannot IMAGINE, for example, looking to any Presidential candidate of, for starters, the most militarized nation on earth for moral or spiritual leadership. I cannot imagine looking to politics as a place to find a response to my faith.

  12. Continued...

    There are many rooms in my Father's mansion and we can't all make the focus of our faith all of them. So I think, too, it's a matter of sizing up our gift, temperament and hearts and devoting our time and efforts toward where we sense, through prayer, we can bear the most fruit and most fully live out our faith--whether or not the rest of the world agrees with us or supports our efforts. If partisan politics is your way to live out your life in Christ, beautiful. I wouldn't dream of going to your (I'm using the editorial your, not you personally) blog and calling you a coward for not instead devoting your heart and soul to a life of speaking and writing and bearing witness to Christ through personal story and reflections on the Gospels, which happens to be my way. First of all, because I rejoice at the Christ-centered heart, wherever it may be. And second, because, I WOULDN'T HAVE THE TIME.

    Christ died on the cross as a representative of all mankind. That's the Master whose hand my eyes are trained upon...

  13. Owen, look forward to The Labyrinth when I return home...

  14. On second thought, I posted on The Labyrinth awhile back:
    Haunting story and film.

  15. Looks like we both forgot :) and yes, a haunting story :(

  16. Dear Heather:

    Your work is crucial -- of the cross... Thank you for your courage.



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