A Book of Sparks
Freak for Christ: The Cost of Conversion
So for me the sorrow is knowing I'm on to the most inexhaustibly absorbing path imaginable and living a culture that is more or less dead. Low-grade hopelessness, ennui. What brings you alive is sacrifice and suffering. What brings you alive is falling in love with reality. What brings you alive is finding a way to make yourself feel like you belong while also being willing to not in any way be "relevant." The other night I took a walk in the dark and through the chain link fence of a rec park were poking these sort of straggly nasturtiums. I thought Oh nasturtiums! So I plucked a big bunch of them and brought them home and put them in my green glazed pottery bowl and that was the highlight of my day. I love stuff like that!
So you don't particularly want to stand on the edge, but you are going to stand on the edge. You have to develop a very keen imagination, a taste for the unlikely and weird. I just read an interview with Johnny Depp and he said: "I was always fascinated by people who are considered completely normal, because I find them the weirdest of all." And I thought, Oh really? Try hanging out at daily Mass. Nothing looks tamer from the outside and nothing is weirder, more violent, more glorious, mysterious and sublime, than Mass. Mass itself, and the broken, holy, anguished song-prayer-cry of all of us who participate in it.
Sewing the children's vestments is beautiful, if that's what sets you on fire. The problem is when we try to make Catholicism a platform where we can find a foothold, or a club of which we can be a member in good standing, or a variation on good citizenship. Our task instead is to constantly set ourselves on fire with Christ. We can't wait for someone else to do it for us. We have to do it ourselves, through prayer, through the sacraments, through insanely hard, incessant work of honing our craft, even if the work is often looking out the window and reflecting, or doing the dishes, or making the bed. Through abandoning ourselves; by being metaphorically scourged, crowned with thorns and nailed to a cross.
The thing is love. We've leached out all the fire and majesty and awesomeness and terribleness and meat out of Christ, out of Church, out of Catholic art. People can't handle anything "dark" because they live in the dark: the stagnant, the predictable, the boring. People can't handle anything but a bland, happy ending. The Resurrection is not a happy ending: the Resurrection is a surprise ending.
And we don't hear this nearly often enough either: we don't have eyes to see it until we've suffered to the point of "shedding blood."
Heather King is an ex-lawyer, ex-drunk Catholic convert with three memoirs: Parched (the dark years); Redeemed (crawling toward the light); and Shirt of Flame (forthcoming - her year of wandering around Koreatown, L.A. "with" St. Thérèse of Lisieux). You can find Heather on Facebook. She blogs at shirtofflame.blogspot.com.