One of my favorite people on the planet is Brandon Vogt, a young man of considerable energy and imagination, but also great faith and astounding generosity. No one could have faulted him, had he sought to profit from his first book, The Church and New Media, but Brandon donated 100% of the book’s proceeds to establish school computer labs throughout the Archdiocese of Mombasa, Kenya.
Kathy Schiffer has mentioned meeting Brandon in Rome in 2011, for the beatification of Pope John Paul II and the big “Vatican/Blogger Meet-Up” the following day: There he was, all of his book profits going to Africa, and his own shoe being held together with a rubber band, as he sought a cobbler he could afford. Take a lesson. God is never outdone in generosity, and you can count on that. Brandon will soon be beginning his new “dream job”, working with our freinds at Word on Fire Ministries, and never did a hand better fit a glove!
So, yes, I clearly admire the fellow — and when he asked me to chat with him about Strange Gods, (which he said was “troubling because it convicts you page after page”) I was flattered. Again, that generous nature. The interview is up now at his site, and I confess, he drew me out:
BRANDON: In the book, you admit, “I am a great idolater and have been all of my life.” If you don’t mind, which idols have plagued you the most?
ELIZABETH SCALIA: I had a fairly good Catholic “cultural” upbringing but even so have been points in my life where ideas dragged me apart from God; there was a point where I explored New Age ideas, which are just idol-loaded because they’re founded on self and self-ness and self-actualization and oh, boy, they can quickly lead you into dark places because they play on our free will, which both allows and inclines us to serve ourselves and then make excuses or rationalize away, or blame someone else…all of which has been our pattern since Eden, hasn’t it? So, there was a period there, where I was really lost, because the more I bought into this, the further I got from God, and even from love of my family, because my idea of love was changed.
I am forever grateful to the church bells that one afternoon called out as I drove by a local parish. On a whim, because I liked the bells, I thought I would stop in, and make an “old fashioned visitation”. It turns out I walked in on Adoration—something I had not seen in perhaps 20 years—and instantly hit the knees in awe. I stayed there in prayer for what I thought was five minutes, but in fact was an hour, and when I arose, everything was different. I feel like I got a “reset” a do-over. God is Good.
I still struggle with idols, and will everyday of my life, as do we all. Sometimes the idol of memory grabs me, and I find myself wallowing in self-pity over previous wounds (and yes, we can make an idol of our hurts; define ourselves by them, and never able move beyond them or forgive, which means we can’t get to God fully…) Or the idol of food, which is a hard one to admit it; I’ve self-medicated in that way all my life, and it’s very difficult. Like Saint Paul, who asked for deliverance from his “thorn in the flesh” I keep asking God to deliver me from that one, but then doing my own part becomes difficult and I can never tell if he’s saying “my grace is enough for you” or if I am just weak and disobedient. Possibly all of it. I’d probably be completely insufferable if I were thin!
It’s only five questions or so, but I do go on, so…you can read the whole thing here