— 1 —
Thought I’d begin by sharing a photo I took while standing on the third landing of the parking garage last night after work.
— 2 —
Last week I recommended you check out Heather King’s blog Shirt of Flame. Have you? Good.
She wrote something on Tuesday about a recent visit she paid to her church to make a confession in preparation for Advent; a few parts of which totally resonated with me:
Beforehand, I’d happened to run into a friend who had also come for Confession. That’s a rare occurrence—to run into a friend at church, period, never mind one who’s come for Confession—and to see him lifted my heart. We chatted for a bit before, wished each other well, exchanged Advent blessings. We didn’t tell each other what we had to confess. We didn’t do our penance, then meet up for coffee. We knelt before Father, one by one, and went our separate ways.
This is the kind of thing that if you’re looking for a Church that’s a social club, a fellowship, or an “experience” can seem very thin. But membership in the Mystical Body of Christ does not depend on our feelings; it depends on our orientation of heart; on where we bring and put our bodies. To be a Catholic is to enter into a relationship with Christ that is at once intimate beyond imagining and entirely anonymous, hidden, and private. Flannery O’Connor once observed: “I went to St. Mary’s as it was right around the corner and I could get there practically every morning. I went there three years and never knew a soul in that congregation or any of the priests, but it was not necessary. As soon as I went in the door I was at home.”
There’s a little more, and I left off the best part at the end. I love the way this woman writes.
— 3 —
I’ve been thinking about writing styles a lot this week. I find myself in awe and admiration of those who can consistently churn out pithy and interesting bits and pieces of themselves that their readers can identify with. Or share. Or comment on…whatever. I lack this talent and I’ve allowed it to start to frustrate me and nag at me this week. Try as I might to keep to 700-800 words max as most opinion columns do, I frequently wind up at the 2000+ word mark. And while I do not want to be like everyone else, I’d like to at least be, well…I don’t know exactly.
Vanitas vanitatum, et omnia vanitas. “Vanity of Vanities, and all is vanity.”
Maybe that’s all this really is, and this, too, shall pass.
— 4 —
While cleaning out my inbox files I came across this story from late September that I’d meant to share. It’s the story of Josh Horn, an ardent atheist and former president of the Secular Free Thought Society at Arizona State University where he was enrolled as a junior majoring in history. I say former president because Josh had a change of well…heart.
Imagine society’s collective shock if Hillary Clinton were to join the National Rifle Association, if members of the Westboro Baptist Church were discovered frolicking at a gay bar or if Quentin Tarantino were to announce plans to make a Justin Bieber documentary.
Josh Horn’s friends were hit with a shock wave of that magnitude when Horn, then an ardent atheist, announced his resignation as president of the Secular Free Thought Society, an ASU club known for its skepticism of religion. Horn had committed the ultimate taboo and sealed his self-imposed excommunication with one act: he decided to become a Catholic.
Horn had been raised in a strict Southern Baptist family became a deist and eventually an atheist after being exposed to the secular world in public school.
“I had a lot of anger and I sort of took on a victim mindset,” Horn says. “I was pretty antagonistic toward religions in general … I gave myself this personal mission to prove to everyone that every one (religion) was wrong.”
After starting college at ASU Horn advanced to the highest position in the Secular Free Thought Society, propelled by his “new passion for privileging truth and reason over religious dogma and manipulated spirituality.” A well-prepared and fiercely intelligent debater, he enjoyed scrapping with anyone who would do so. And then he came across one of my favorites: the Litany of the Sacred Heart.
Horn, usually so articulate, was at a loss for words to describe his experience.
“And yeah, that was weird, but it was more that this was a mystical thing that was weird, even than who I was perceiving,” Horn says. “It was a whole new way of experiencing reality, to which there is no analogy in anything else that I’ve experienced, and because of that it’s very difficult to explain.”
Contrary to most tales of divine encounters and mystical happenings, this one doesn’t have an ostentatiously emotional climax—no arms thrown in the air in jubilation, no praising the lord with gospel-choir lungs, no golden rays emanating from the clouds. Instead, the thoroughly rational Horn was irked.
“I was actually kind of annoyed that it happened, and scared – not comforted in the least,” Horn says. “I didn’t want it, I didn’t think it was possible. It just happens, and you come out of it realizing that this obliges you to change your life and the entire course you thought it was taking immediately.”
He resigned his position the next day and the reaction from the SFTS was predictable.
Read it all here.
Bishop Fulton Sheen famously said: “There are not one hundred people in the United States who hate The Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they wrongly perceive the Catholic Church to be.”
Heather King and Josh Horn are great examples of what the Catholic Church truly is.
— 5 —
Speaking of home, does yours have the Christmas tree up yet? We still don’t, though I suspect we’ll finally put it up this weekend. I’d prefer to wait at least one, maybe two more weeks, but the fact that I’ve been able to put it off this long and not have my kids revolt is pretty good. We have always put it up after Thanksgiving and kept it up until after New Year’s but in the past few years I’ve expressed my desire to not put it up until Gaudete Sunday (the 3rd Sunday in Advent, or December 16 this year) and leave it up until the Epiphany on January 6. Small steps I suppose, and I was able to hold them off for two weeks. Plus I put in my Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack CD this morning on the drive to work. I have to admit it’s hard to stem the tide after listening to that.
Here’s something The Piano Guys released this week. O Come, O Come Emmanuel is traditionally thought of as an Advent song, so I throught I’d leave you with it this week. Have a wonderful weekend.
(Hey! Only 1,184 words!)