Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Is This the Feast of St. Blog?

The daily homilies of our new assistant pastor, Father Chateau, continue to set records for brevity. This morning’s homily came in at an amazing 21 words. It was a perfect one-line commentary on a reading and Gospel that seem custom-made for bloggers. Catholic pontificaters, in particular, would do well to pay attention.

In 2nd Corinthians (9:6–11) St. Paul urges us to sow bountifully, and what blogger doesn’t do that? The seed may not always be Burpee quality, and it may be more bountiful than most gardens need. (When I was on a two-post-a-day pace, one of my Facebook friends cried for mercy.) Yet those, like me, who feel called to write (blog, book, whatever) come to realize that bounty is best. If God gave me a talent, I’d best use it often, and hope to use it well.

Near the end of the reading, there was a reminder that I am not the one who makes the seed: “The one who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed and increase the harvest of your righteousness.” To blog in a Catholic space as if this—any of it—were my creation is to miss the point entirely. A corollary being that the best posts are almost always “given” to me: The inspiration, the kernel of thought, “arrives” and the rest is only a matter of working it out on the keyboard.

If St. Paul offers a reminder, St. Matthew gives a cautionary shout. The messages of Matthew 6 are among those I remember most vividly from childhood Sunday school, although then I listened to the Revised Standard Version in a Congregational church. It figures that these messages would stick with me, like burrs beneath the saddle of my conscience; I was an actor before I was a writer and am no stranger to show:

“Be careful not to parade your good deeds before men to attract their notice. . . . This is what the hypocrites do in the synagogues. . . . Your left hand must not know what your right hand is doing. . . . When you pray, go to your private room. . . . When you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that no one will know you are fasting except your Father who sees all that is done in secret; and your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you.”

Of course, a Catholic blogger usually forgets all of the above. We are in danger of falling prey to hypocrisy every time we hit the “Post” command. I can’t tell you how many times I have felt like a phony writing this blog or the one that preceded it, “Why I Am Catholic.” And yet I write. Why? To witness, of course, as the title says.

Father Luigi Giussani sheds some light on this delicate matter in his lovely little book on The Psalms. In a reflection on Psalm 44:9–16 (“All day long my disgrace is before me”) he offers counsel to anyone who tries to witness to their faith, knowing that they may fall into presumption, hypocrisy, and error, thereby turning off more people than they persuade.

Again, the key lies not in ourselves but in the sower, God, Jesus. Giussani writes:

“The fall we had yesterday, which falls back on us today, will make it easy to slip into dissonance and disgrace if something does not intervene. And against it is God, Jesus, who must intervene. Do intervene, Lord, so that this disgrace and this shame not become the incentive for scorn on the part of the world, which, instead of finding in us a witness, an inducement to believe, finds a reason for not believing.”

I do not mean to diminish Father Chateau’s homiletic skills by saying that he is brief. In fact, his homilies are models of thoughtfulness and dignity. Furthermore, they are respectful of those in the congregation who have jobs to do, commutes to make, kids to drive to school. After reading the Gospel, Father Chateau gathers himself and visibly reflects. Then he delivers his punchy message, punctuating the final sentence with a respectful nod. Today, there was only one sentence:

“The Good News of the Gospel is this: it matters less to God what we do than why we do it.”

To which the conscientious blogger should say (quietly to himself, of course, and not in public, like the hypocrites), “Amen.”

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