This morning, I offer you something completely different – an essay by a still-new-Catholic writer who declares himself irredeemably self-involved and yet manages to write about others with both heart and humor and even to slop a dollop of humility upon himself in the most unusual and engaging way. Enjoy Max Lindenman trying desperately to avoid sharing a meal with people he has loved, known or admired, and the nuns who draw him out, in Houses and the Holy:
But last year I had to break tradition and walk among the living. One evening in November, just before Mass, Sister Lucia buttonholed me in the parish’s shrinking smoking section. “A bunch of the sisters are having dinner here at the Newman Center,” she said, with that peculiar intentness of hers. “We thought you might be interested in joining us.”
It sounded like a dreadful idea. I had met some of these sisters on retreat a couple of months earlier and had liked both them and their dinner conversation well enough. But parish social functions tend to attract people who have few friends and deserve even fewer. I was a 37-year-old bachelor who’d gone without carnal pleasure for longer than he cared to remember. The only thing separating me from these dead-eyed strays was my self-conceit. If I spent too much time with them, I might lose even that.
There was another reason. The retreat where I had met the sisters was a vocational discernment retreat. For about six mad months earlier that year, becoming a priest seemed like an antidote for all my professional and romantic frustrations. Sister had warmed to the idea quickly. Since then, I’d come to realize I had no more business in the priesthood than I had in the NFL. Not only did I reject Church teachings on—well, on pretty much all subjects apart from social justice and God’s triune nature—my big mouth had earned me write-ups from one end of corporate America to another. I dreaded having to explain my reasoning to Sister Lucia. Coming down in her estimation would bring me down even further in my own.
It was to my great horror, then, that I heard myself tell Sister Lucia that yes, I’d be happy to attend.
A little rougher than we’re all used to around here, no? Well, yes. But I count that as a good thing. We share our pews with all sorts of Catholics, including some who are earnestly trying to get comfy while squeezed up against dogma on one side and self-determination on the other. In fact, that may describe all of us, at one point or another. I like Lindenman’s honesty, and his self-deprecation.