Friday, February 5, 2010

For Minor Miracles (c)

Blogging can be a lonely business, especially when it gets personal. Anyone with wit and blind endurance can blog about marital relations in pre-Constantinian Rome or post funny cat pictures (h/t Joseph Bottum). But try posting every day and long into many nights not just about Catholicism but about why Catholicism makes sense for you, and you’re going to hit some squalls.

This post is the continuation of a series about how this blog began and developed. The series began here and continued here.

Chapter 4 — The Crisis of Faith
My YIMC partner, Frank, ran into some squalls this week, as friends of this space know. I privately said to myself, Let’s see how Frank weathers this one. Result? Never prouder to call him partner. Because I know what it feels like, and it’s hard. I ran into my first squalls in mid-October and early November, storm season here in New England.

Converting to Catholicism changes a man, and like Frank, I am a recent convert. It changes the way you look at every issue and everyone, even issues and ones close to you. But try blogging about ones close to you or about issues they have strong opinions about, and doing so from your new on-fire Catholic perspective. Try telling your newly discovered truth, even in veiled terms. Try it just once, and if it is not a whitewash job (I’ve written those), I promise you’ll live to regret it.

There is a third rail in blogging: writing about your loved ones in anything but Valentines. I touched that third rail several times during storm season, and I still feel the shock. Most of the “touches” were made with what I thought was care and subtlety. I still got electrocuted.

Like Frank, I may be crazy but I’m not stupid, and I’m not going to remind anyone of the details of my own personal storm season. If you want to dedicate a couple of hours to delving in YIMC archives, you will find some pretty good indications of what I’m talking about; however, you won’t find the posts I pulled.

I call this chapter “The Crisis of Faith” because, as I imagine Frank found this week, it’s surprising to be electrocuted. You thought you were doing right, you thought you were speaking the truth, you thought the words you wrote could do some good for someone somewhere and—CRACK!—the next moment you’re lying flat on your back, looking up at the tines of a pitchfork aimed straight at your face. You ask yourself, How could I be such a faithful Catholic, in word if not in deed, and be looking up at my own destruction?!

Sometimes “I’m sorry” is not a good enough answer.

Storms came and went in my blogging life through mid-November, when I went on retreat at a Trappist monastery. I wrote that the monks made me think of soldiers. I wrote that one of the monks gave me advice that helped the squalls subside. What I haven’t written yet is how a soldier—sorry, a Marine—came along shortly afterward and completely transformed this blog and my experience of it. Until now, I haven’t written—

Chapter 5 — The Crazy Marine from the Old South Who May Be An Angel or Something

I promise to do so soon.

For now, I’ll close with a short poem, which a certain former Marine shared with me recently:

God and the Soldier, all men adore,
In time of danger and not before.
When the danger is passed and all things righted,
God is forgotten, and the Soldier slighted.

Frank calls me Maverick sometimes, a reference to Tom Cruise’s character, a pilot or “front-seater” in “Top Gun.” Which, by the way, is way more honor than a former peacenik like me deserves. When I don’t refer to him as Sir Frank, I call him Merlin, the nickname of Maverick’s back-seater in the closing scenes of the movie.

Therefore, in closing, let me say: Well, done, Merlin! Fire at will!