Sunday, October 18, 2009

For This Gift

Men's group was unusual yesterday morning. There were only eight of us present, but after the closing prayer no one moved. Usually we are closer to fifteen, and when Frank has finished leading a prayer to Michael the Archangel, most everyone stands. What explained the small turnout and people remaining in their seats? Maybe the weather. Maybe the subject of the meeting: this blog.

Our Christian life is contradictory: very private, yet on display for the world to see. Of course, a blog is like that, or at least this one is. I draw the line at very private matters, and I keep some names confidential. But I can't escape the obvious: this blog is a form of personal witness, whether I originally thought of it that way or not, and every day, in your comments and e-mails, as well as yesterday morning, at men's group, I experience the repercussions.

I talked at the meeting yesterday about how this blog began: as a sort of love letter to my wife and daughters, as well as a few friends. Who, after all, would find YIMCatholic in the haystack of the blogosphere? I recounted how, to my sincere amazement, I heard "out of the blue," within ten days, from Fr. James Martin, author of the book featured in my first post; and within another week from, arguably, the most influential writer in Catholic blogging, The Anchoress. (I got into a friendly tussle with her about my "mildlylefty" political leaning, but all in good fun.) Kevin Knight at New Advent started picking up my posts, and pretty soon I was in touch with Catholics around the world—still not in huge numbers but enough to know that my words were having an impact.

At the meeting, I talked in general terms of two e-mails received recently: one from a seminarian undergoing a vocational crisis in another country, one from a self-described politically conservative Catholic in turmoil because she finds herself in a parish she called "Democratic before Catholic." I told my men friends that each of these, and others, had written that my blog had "helped" them. This frankly astonishes me still. One member of the group, a former seminarian himself, explained that he understood "perfectly" how my words could have helped the seminarian. Later yesterday, this friend sent me a long e-mail in which the meeting was still echoing loudly.

Sooner or later, and I think the moment arrived yesterday, I have to come to terms with this thing that, as I confessed to my dear wife, "has taken over my life." This blog is now something I have to do. It is a gift, not necessarily a great one, but mine. And if I don't exercise it I will be failing to do what Eric Liddell insisted on doing in the film Chariots of Fire, about which I expect to be writing sooner rather than later.

His sister Jennie told Eric he was wasting his life training to be a runner. She wanted him to commit his life to a foreign mission, posthaste, just as their father had done. Eric protested (and I'm paraphrasing): "I believe God made me for a purpose. But Jennie, he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure."

I feel a special sort of pleasure writing this blog, and it may even be His, though that's a presumption I won't make. I saw that pleasure reflected in the faces of my men friends yesterday morning, and I read its echoes in each comment (well, most comments!) and in each e-mail you so kindly send.

If nothing else, this blog has made me not just feel but know that I am a member of the Holy Catholic Church, that remarkable society of friends established on earth by Our Savior two thousand years ago, and that is one gift I cannot take lightly. If I am true to it, things will turn out fine, I'm sure.

Things turned out fine for Eric Liddell in Chariots of Fire. Insisting that he could not run in an Olympic heat on the Lord's Day, he was moved to another event, in which he won a gold medal in the Paris Olympics of 1924. He then served as a missionary for the rest of his life.