Posted by Webster
I have a theory that can be stated simply: The Holy Spirit is on FaceBook. I don’t mean to promote a single form of the new electronic media by proposing this. I could as easily prove that the Holy Spirit uses Twitter. I mean, think about it. What sound does a dove make? Tweet, tweet.
I offer this for weekend discussion and propose one test case for consideration. Exhibit A: Frank Weathers.
Several weeks ago, as dedicated readers of this space know, I was struggling with the direction of YIM Catholic. Started as a sort of love letter to Katie and the girls—you are the most important people in the world to me, these are the most important ideas, let me share—YIM Catholic took on a life of its own, mysteriously attracting the attention of such as Fr. Jim Martin at America magazine and Elizabeth Scalia over at The Anchoress. Them and others, all in a few weeks.
It was at that point that the ego went rampant and your humble servant began blogging his fanny off, like Cedric the Entertainer working out to a Richard Simmons video. It didn't do much for my fanny, but it sure as heck annoyed my bride.
I began to despair, and with a twist thrown in from a personal matter that has since clarified itself, I thought, Junk it. You've lost the original purity of mission. You're making a fool of yourself. Switch off that darn video and have a pizza. Pepperoni, extra cheese.
It was about this time that Frank Weathers (remember Exhibit A?) started barraging me with e-mails. Something about a retired Marine from, where was it, Kentucky? Tennessee? Probably the hills, where he brewed moonshine, I thought. Since I don't give anyone the right to retire until they're older than me, I had “Frank W” pegged as a geezer with a few teeth left in his head after a life of bar fights, staggering around with a jug in his hand and Semper Fi on his chapped and dirty lips.
But his e-mails were too smart for that. He began providing me on-line resources for subjects on which I was writing or might write, stuff I never would have found myself, about Merton, Erasmus, Dickens’s Life of Our Lord. He almost seemed to anticipate my thoughts, moving stealthily like a Navy Seal in the darkness just ahead of YIM Catholic. It came to a place where I could not ignore the old geezer a minute longer. Then I found out he was no geezer: Twelve years younger than me, happily married, father of three handsome kids, active in a second career that allows him to research questions posed in this space, a persuasive and thoughtful writer, and—most important to the mission here—vitally, passionately, happily Catholic.
I made Frank a proposal. How about writing up your own conversion experiences in a short (500-to-750-word) essay? If it's any good, I'll put it up and let the dogs howl. An hour later, Frank's 900-word draft was in my in-box, and by the following morning, before I had a chance to react to this barrage, he had sent me "chapter 2." Whaaaat? I screamed to myself. Then I read what Frank had written and thought I heard a bird chirping. Could Frank be the answer to a prayer I hadn't even verbalized? An answer to the woes faced by every blogger, I'll bet: loneliness and fatigue. Loneliness, because every day you have to strap it on and write 1,000 words that no one might even read. Fatigue, because, do the math, that's 365,000 words a year.
Oh, yeah, and this: There's no money in it. (See annoyed bride)
I have an impulsive child in me, who makes snap decisions and then sometimes regrets them. But so far I have had no reason to doubt the decision that came next: By the time Frank had written and submitted chapter 3 (before chapter 1 was even on line), I realized that this stuff, good stuff too, was pouring out of him. I realized that, as a Catholic convert from the same RCIA graduation class of 2008, Frank seemed to have a lot in common with me. On the flip side, as a man raised in the South and a man with a distinguished military career under his belt (I have none), he might have significantly different points of view on non-essential points. (The maxim “In essentials, unity; in doubtful matters, liberty; in all things, charity” may not come from St. Augustine, as some say, but it works for me.)
So I said, “Permission to come aboard!” And here we are. Frank has made it clear that I am the front-seater, that he’s content to sit behind as RIO, covering my six. (I’m starting to get some of this military terminology.) I’ve made it clear that if I go down in the line of duty, or while working out to Richard Simmons, he has the conn. Last night, Frank talked me on-line through the set-up of a FaceBook fan page. He’s twelve years younger, remember, and he gets this stuff better; I’m convinced it’s generational, that he was born into a world of color television and never saw “Leave it to Beaver” in black-and-white.
The Holy Spirit on FaceBook? Yes, I’m sure of it. And everywhere else on line. Messages coming all day long, many of them not from the HS. Which is the problem, of course. But it’s all about keeping our own channels open, isn’t it? Like recognizing the sound of a bird chirping when you hear it, and opening the window so you can hear it sing.