Friday, November 11, 2011
Since 1988, I have been earning much of my daily bread by writing professionally under the rubric of Memoirs Unlimited. Here I ghostwrite personal memoirs for private publication and write the occasional long institutional history, including most recently the 200-year chronicle of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. That the Memoirs Unlimited blog is far less developed than this “Witness” only shows that I would far rather write for God. But I’ve discovered that God alone does not keep the lamps lit in my house. Isn’t that what the parable of the wise virgins says?
Ideally, I would like to combine my food and God writing lives. If, for example, I were ever asked to write the history of the Archdiocese of Boston, for pay, I’m sure I’d jump. I have schemed up a couple of “trade” books about the faith, including something on the vocation boom in the Dominican order, but I can’t afford to write on spec right now. It’s all about keeping those lamps lit.
So I blog in my free time, and sometimes in my un-free time too, when I should be writing for food.
My blogging life has had three phases so far.
1. “Why I Am Catholic,” with its tell-all title, was my inspiration. I began this blog while on vacation in August 2009 to explain to my friends and loved ones, perhaps to myself, why I had converted to the Catholic Church 18 months before. Within ten days, something both good and bad happened. Fr. Jim Martin, author of the book that tipped my balance toward the Catholic Church, applauded my blog on his. Suddenly I had readers, suddenly too I thought I understood how the game is played. You link to other blogs, you (for lack of a better term) suck up to people who can direct traffic your way. Before long I was what I thought I had stopped being when I left the theater as an occupation: an exhibitionist. I confess that often I am still an exhibitionist.
1b. For a dozen reasons, I invited two other bloggers to join me within six months. Then, for different reasons, I left “Why I Am Catholic,” reason #1 being that I had to spend more time writing for food. Frank has since taken “Why I Am Catholic” global, most recently at Patheos. Allison has her own blog too, with the engaging name “Rambling Follower.”
2. After feeling like a childless mother for six months or so, I started “Witness” in January 2011. Why childless? I had discovered for the first time at “Why I Am Catholic” not so much why I was Catholic (you run out of reasons after a while) but why I write. Simply, writing helps and encourages me to make sense of my life, what CL calls “to judge” my life—although the depths of this CL concept judgment are still somewhat murky to me. What’s more, this writing for God that others call blogging, I found, gave me more creative satisfaction than anything else I did.
The problem with “Witness,” phase 1, was that I imagined it could be a “CL blog.” But I began to discover that there’s probably no such thing. There are many writings by followers of Communion and Liberation, and the best of these are gathered at Il Sussidiario, which has an English-language version here. But the longer I follow CL, the more I realize that it is a thousand paths leading in a single direction: toward Christ in the sacraments of the Catholic Church. There is, ironically, a language called CL-speak that you will hear early and often if you attend meetings known as Schools of Community or Assemblies, complete with multisyllabic words like correspondence. And there is, admittedly, a temptation for anyone setting out to create a “CL blog” to use this language. All of which led me to the conclusion that the idea of making “Witness” a vehicle for the Word According to Communion and Liberation was not only presumptuous but also delusional.
3. Which brought me to phase #3, where I find myself today. Here’s why I write “Witness” today, and why I wrote this post today. Someday, five or ten years from now, I may (a) still be alive and (b) have enough Ben Franklins laid by to do some spec writing. When/if that time comes, I want to write about my own experience, that is, life as viewed through the eyes of a happy Catholic convert, hopefully still of sound mind when/if that day comes. When/if that day comes, I know that I will have to have my chops, as the horn-players say. I will have had to practice. If I haven’t made daily for-God writing a habit by that time, I won’t do it then. I may put my lips on the mouthpiece, but only blats will come out.
So I write, daily, here, about whatever occurs to me, even if it’s only to write about why I write. And if God desires it of me, someday He will give me the time, liberty, residual brains, and Ben Franklins to write a few longer pieces exclusively for Him.
Posted by Webster Bull at 6:12 AM