Monday, August 09, 2010

Jealousy: or, Coming up for air as a busy spring and summer wind down


For a retired person, I work like a dog. This spring and summer -- busiest ever!

May through July, I worked with Pat Radell and Nancy Frick on the 40 Days for Life Fall campaign. I wrote business plans and budgets for Serendipity, our wished-for next-to-Planned Parenthood Art Center/Life Center/Book and Media Center/ Coffee Bar in Wilmington. I logged 4000+ miles over three months on various road trips with kids, grandkids and Bill. We welcomed granddaughter Rosalyn into the world in May, and 5 weeks later grandson Ish. I visited sister Sue, sister-in-law Gerry (and Chicago kinfolk), and was visited by daughter Gabe, grandkids Zeke and Amelia, and brother-in-law Wally. Lastly and just recently, I roomed with writer/photographer Marie Socorso and writer Kathy Barr while attending the Catholic Writers Guild conference in Valley Forge on site at at the Catholic Marketing Network trade show.

I have had so many irons in so many fires that I am knocking them over them & branding myself with them by accident. Ouch! My spiritual equilibrium has taken a searing hit. I have neglected my daily Pauline Hour of adoration, and can feel its loss keenly. (Not, however, keenly enough to break the inertia and take it up again, eh Rae??)

How luxurious is it for priests and nuns to live on grounds with the Blessed Sacrament?? I was in a book group awhile back that read Brideshead Revisited. There's a part in the book where the youngest Marchmain daughter, Cordelia, is explaining to (or maybe showing) Charles Ryder their own private chapel, with the Blessed Sacrament reserved. One of the women in the book group (an ex-Catholic, of course) was disgusted by Cordelia's delight at having an adoration chapel on the estate grounds. She cited this as an example of the snobbery and high-handed braggadocio of Catholicism in general and the Marchmain family in particular. I said I would be as overjoyed as Cordelia if I had a chapel in my own home. How much more faithful might I be if I didn't have to drive to a church whose open hours I knew whenever I wanted to make a Visit? (Yeah, yeah, yeah... would you REALLY, Rae? You've got plenty of opportunity now to eschew inertia and form the habit. Just do it!)

I am jealous. That's my theme for the summer. Jealousy and greed. I have a wonderful life, all the leisure I need, 7 down-below kids, 2 saints in heaven, 9 stellar grandkids, a husband to die for, and I want more... More what? At the Catholic Writers Guild conference, it all came tumbling back. What I want. What I don't want to want. Fame. Admiration. Riches. Worldly success. The diamond-back reptiles hissing seductively in the pits of the damned-- didn't I foreswear them years ago? I thought so, but meeting all the fresh, young writers at CWG and the steadily publishing big fry of the Catholic publishing world has got me all riled up with ambition. I want to be young again. I want to be just starting out, with Catholic enthusiasts, intellectuals, imagists and idealists bursting the seams of contemporary culture like I see all around me in the 21st century Church, instead of Catholics with their tails between their legs, ashamed of their intellectual heritage and confused into juvenility like when I was young. I want my imaginary apartment in NYC with my sister Marguerite and our white long-haired cat-- me a working writer, Marguerite in the world of fashion design.

These kids are reclaiming their heritage, and are unapologetically forging forward into an ever more complex understanding of Catholic life and culture. Twenty-somethings are talking Aquinas, Chesterton, Justin Martyr, Augustine, with no apologies and no shame. They are arguing over the Theology of the Body. They openly pray the rosary. The rosary! I remember the years that holding a rosary in one's hands in a Catholic church was to invite open scorn! Do these kids know how lucky they are, to have this vibrant, new millenial Church? They have a freedom and a camaraderie that my generation missed out on completely. Yes, yes, yes -- as Barbara Nicolosi Harrington so eloquently states, in "Turn, Turn, Turn" it was all our fault. Mea culpa, mea culpa -- we were all too busy being snotty and rejecting the prayers, liturgies, theology, art and literature of our Catholic heritage and embracing relevance (not to mention drugs and rock'n'roll-- fortunately my marriage, ridiculed by my freak friends in the Sixties, kept me from the "free sex" part of the triad) to hold on to what we had.

I guess I'm doing penance now for the theological and intellectual vacuity of my lazy, pleasure-seeking baby boomer generation. Yeah, I'm jealous of the youngsters. We are superfluous to them. We who came back to the Church in the last half of the 20th century are pokey and still half-ashamed of Christ and His Body. We still can't believe that Benediction is back in vogue. I cried the first time we said the Divine Praises in my parish in the late 80's -- I never thought I'd hear them again in my lifetime. Do these kids know how blessed they are? Do they know the bullet they dodged by dint of chronology?

The picture above shows a t-shirt from the Catholic to the Max line of apparel that is popular with the teenagers and twenty-somethings. I almost bought one, but decided if I started buying t-shirts I might not be able to stop... The front says "Get Holy or Die Tryin'", and the back lists a bunch of martyrs. Gotta love the catalog description:
Get holy or die tryin' Holiness is not a spectator sport! This shirt is meant to encourage us to holiness and honor those that have died living the Gospel. The list on the back gives us a look at men and women who have died “giving it all”.

Get holy. Sigh. From your t-shirt to the ear of the Triune God Whom I love beyond reason! But not beyond laziness. 'Twas ever thus.

Oh - and I saw David Tennant's Hamlet last night. With Patrick Stewart as Claudius. First time I ever "got" Hamlet's lonely lunacy. Like the Fool in King Lear, but torn apart by the exigencies of the Fourth Commandment.

4 comments:

Karina Fabian said...

I'm so glad you were able to attend the CWG, and I'm glad you came away inspired by the Catholic "young guns" there. I'm sorry, however, you came away feeling envious and inadequate.

I look at your first paragraph and all the things you're doing for our faith--writing a business plan to start a quiet but determined Catholic presence right next to Planned Parenthood? So many children and grandchildren who love your presence? Having such an appreciation for what we've rediscovered in our faith. You have faith in ACTION as well as in the heart.

The CWC/CMN attendees are a lovely microcosm of Catholics today. These are the people who do get it and really appreciate what they have. Rae, you are part of that group. You are one of us!

If you're feeling bad about not having gotten to adoration, you know that answer to that. If you need to take baby steps to get into the habit again, then take them and allow yourself to feel good about each step. (I bought The Rosary Workout at the conference and am starting it today or tomorrow. One thing Peggy says in the book is if you have a relapse into lax habits, then start again, work up and pray for help.)

I need to find this version of Hamlet. We love David Tennant and Patrick Stewart!

Lisa Mladinich said...

Hi Rae,
I am fifty years old and will have another b-day in November, and I have just published my first booklet! It is never, ever too late. I think we have to acknowledge that discouraged thinking is the enemy's main form of attack. Since Our Lord exists outside of time, we needn't fear it. You walk with Him here and now. You contribute greatly in so many ways. The ordinary desire for success is just that -- ordinary and very human. If it begins to distract you, offer it up as a mortification and trust that He is leading you on the path that will take you to heaven, and others with you. If we pray for a spirit of service, rather than one of selfish ambition, He will be able to use all that we do in His name. God bless you in all that you do for Him! You are a shining example. I am proud to count you as a new friend in the Lord. Lisa

Rae said...

Karina, thanks for the lovely words. If I were the protagonist of a novel, I would say that I went through a kind of story trope at the CWG/CMN conference -- call it "dystopian journey ends in hero’s finding thriving community of hope". Like when Montag meets the community of book memorizers at the end of Fahrenheit 451, and the woman saved by Neville finds the zombie-free society at the end of the Will Smith version of I Am Legend. Not that I think I stumbled into Utopia -- the nomadic Catholicity that was pitched and struck in three days’ time on the floor of the Valley Forge convention center was the usual mash-up of saints and sinners.

But there was something -- a definite feeling of a thriving Catholic metropolis where I thought only patches of civilization existed. Very cool.

And Lisa, I felt your warmth immediately when I met you, and am very pleased to count you too as a new friend. Good advice too about discouragement. I always forget St. Ignatius’ teaching that discouragement is not a sign of the Holy Spirit.

I appreciate the words, from both of you. As always, words have power to heal. Thank you … and you… and You…

Oh, and I hope you do get your hands on this BBC Hamlet, Karina. Especially if you are a Dr. Who fan who has been underwhelmed by the current season. When you see David Tennant as Hamlet you will understand why Matt Smith, although just fine as The Doctor, is only "just fine", not splendiferous. David Tennant is a magnificent actor with a range that can do full justice to one of Shakespeare's creations. Watching him play Hamlet makes me want to go back and watch his Dr. Who episodes again.

Easter A. said...

Vibrant and filled with the passion of St. Paul!

I'm 50...in 2 years! I do love that many of our youth are getting it.

Love to you, Rae!