Monday, October 24, 2011

Gathering Up the Day

I slept in this morning. That meant getting up at 5:40, brewing coffee, and reading the first few pages of The Axe by Sigrid Undset before heading off to Mass. Wowed two years ago by Undset’s trilogy Kristin Lavransdatter, I have put off her tetralogy The Master of Hestviken for far too long. Fifty pages in, with 960 pages to go, I’m already hooked. I don’t know why I love long books

The church bells were ringing as I crossed the street to Mass. I knew I would hear it from Father Chateau after I entered and found him already intoning the Kyrie. Later in the morning, I did hear. He e-mailed to say that he thought he might have to buy me a watch. Father Chateau is the man.

I don’t want a watch, though. The older I get, the more I want to live without schedules, without minutes and seconds. It is a happy day indeed when I look at my calendar and see 3:30 ADORATION and nothing else on the docket. Selling my publishing company a year ago and returning to my roots as a contract writer was the third best thing I’ve ever done, after marrying and becoming Catholic.

So this morning I wrote for four hours, doing my best to remember St. Joseph. As a writer, my temptation is grandiosity—to write a great novel, to achieve fame on the best-seller lists, to become a famous Catholic blogger or write a Catholic book that will convert thousands, millions, The World. And every day for the past 23 years, in the little one-man company I started in 1988, I have been blessed to find work in front of me, work that pays well, like a block of wood that I have only to carve to earn my daily bread.

Three days before I was received into the Catholic Church, I switched my confirmation name from Thomas (More) to Joseph. I have never regretted the inspiration. More is a grandiose role model. He did so much: home-schooling father, scholar, author, statesman, martyr. Joseph did nothing but the work in front of him, and he did everything. He kept Jesus always in his gaze. I love the statue of St. Joseph in our church, pictured above. He seems to hold Jesus in his heart, and his staff blooms as a byproduct.

Home for lunch, I scarfed down the lunch Katie had left me, then headed out for a five-mile walk. I try to do five miles every day. Though it seems a long distance, it is in fact another way of fighting grandiosity, avoiding the treadmill madness of health clubs and the joint-crushing inhumanity of running. Fifteen years ago, I gave up running for walking because I wanted my own knees and hips when I turned sixty. I have now successfully embarked on my sixty-first year without a single transplant or replacement.

Back from my walk, I dipped into The Axe again. Undset takes me inside male and female characters in love the way only Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina has done. In the opening of The Axe, Olav and Ingunn, betrothed since infancy, row a boat on Lake Mjosa to the city of Hamar, and feel the first stirrings of adolescent passion. The passion is beautifully rendered but, if Kristin is any guide, it’s likely to lead in unexpected directions and not necessarily good ones.

I did have 3:30 ADORATION on my calendar today, and I took along not only the copy of The Imitation of Christ I have been reading but also my chotki, newly arrived by post. That’s a chotki at left. I have Michael O’Brien to thank for this new addition to my liturgical jewelry collection, along with a few rosaries and a medallion of St. Joe.  

I read two pages of the Imitation, began reciting the Jesus Prayer, and promptly fell asleep. This is the only negative to that 3:30 ADORATION appointment on my daily calendar: It falls at what seems always to be the very bottom of my energy cycle. Jesus has watched me sleep in front of him more times than I would like to admit.

I went to a meeting at 5pm, the less said about which the better, and was home for dinner with my honey at 6:45. We thrashed through a family matter that needed thrashing and then I sat down to write this post before retiring with The Axe on my chest.

I know you didn’t ask about any of these things, but I thought I would write about them anyway. A carpenter carves, and a writer writes.

Sweet dreams.


  1. Always enjoy reading what you have to write Webster but I particularly enjoyed today's post. Thanks for sharing your journey, your humanity and your faith with us.

    I have wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember. My career in the Navy does not afford me the time for that however. Maybe in another 12 years or so when I retire I will finally have the time.

    Thanks again and keep sharing.

  2. Hey Matthew,
    To be a writer, all you have to do is write, a few minutes every day. That's what I was doing last night, expecting nothing. I had not posted anything for 24 hours and I thought, a carpenter carves, a writer writes. Think of it as whittling. Grab a stick and a knife and start in. Doesn't take a genius, just a stubborn cuss!


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