For This Gift

Men’s group was unusual yesterday morning. There were only eight of us present, but after the closing prayer no one moved. Usually we are closer to fifteen, and when Frank has finished leading a prayer to Michael the Archangel, most everyone stands. What explained the small turnout and people remaining in their seats? Maybe the weather. Maybe the subject of the meeting: this blog.

Our Christian life is contradictory: very private, yet on display for the world to see. Of course, a blog is like that, or at least this one is. I draw the line at very private matters, and I keep some names confidential. But I can’t escape the obvious: this blog is a form of personal witness, whether I originally thought of it that way or not, and every day, in your comments and e-mails, as well as yesterday morning, at men’s group, I experience the repercussions.

I talked at the meeting yesterday about how this blog began: as a sort of love letter to my wife and daughters, as well as a few friends. Who, after all, would find YIMCatholic in the haystack of the blogosphere? I recounted how, to my sincere amazement, I heard “out of the blue,” within ten days, from Fr. James Martin, author of the book featured in my first post; and within another week from, arguably, the most influential writer in Catholic blogging, The Anchoress. (I got into a friendly tussle with her about my “mildlylefty” political leaning, but all in good fun.) Kevin Knight at New Advent started picking up my posts, and pretty soon I was in touch with Catholics around the world—still not in huge numbers but enough to know that my words were having an impact.

At the meeting, I talked in general terms of two e-mails received recently: one from a seminarian undergoing a vocational crisis in another country, one from a self-described politically conservative Catholic in turmoil because she finds herself in a parish she called “Democratic before Catholic.” I told my men friends that each of these, and others, had written that my blog had “helped” them. This frankly astonishes me still. One member of the group, a former seminarian himself, explained that he understood “perfectly” how my words could have helped the seminarian. Later yesterday, this friend sent me a long e-mail in which the meeting was still echoing loudly.

Sooner or later, and I think the moment arrived yesterday, I have to come to terms with this thing that, as I confessed to my dear wife, “has taken over my life.” This blog is now something I have to do. It is a gift, not necessarily a great one, but mine. And if I don’t exercise it I will be failing to do what Eric Liddell insisted on doing in the film Chariots of Fire, about which I expect to be writing sooner rather than later.

His sister Jennie told Eric he was wasting his life training to be a runner. She wanted him to commit his life to a foreign mission, posthaste, just as their father had done. Eric protested (and I’m paraphrasing): “I believe God made me for a purpose. But Jennie, he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure.”

I feel a special sort of pleasure writing this blog, and it may even be His, though that’s a presumption I won’t make. I saw that pleasure reflected in the faces of my men friends yesterday morning, and I read its echoes in each comment (well, most comments!) and in each e-mail you so kindly send.

If nothing else, this blog has made me not just feel but know that I am a member of the Holy Catholic Church, that remarkable society of friends established on earth by Our Savior two thousand years ago, and that is one gift I cannot take lightly. If I am true to it, things will turn out fine, I’m sure.

Things turned out fine for Eric Liddell in Chariots of Fire. Insisting that he could not run in an Olympic heat on the Lord’s Day, he was moved to another event, in which he won a gold medal in the Paris Olympics of 1924. He then served as a missionary for the rest of his life.

"Vaya con Dios, Leonard; Rest in Peace."

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  • Anonymous

    I look forward to a new post from you every day. Your happiness and enthusiasm for the Catholic faith is contagious! From this cradle Catholic to you – I'm so glad you're here. You're an inspiration to me.

  • Kaylan

    What does mildylefty mean? I'm just curious, as I am a convert myself (since 1987) and find that intense division in the Church between those who follow Rome and those who don't (cafeteria Catholics, if you will) is a continuing issue. I have been friends with those who love the Church but pick and choose what parts of the faith they want to follow and it can be a rather sticky situation. You want to help them, to point out the errors in their thinking but often times they are blind to what is going on with themselves. I think that description above by the woman who said "Democratic before Catholic" is a good example. I would love to vote Democrat, for instance, in political matters but morally the Democrat party is messed up. They fail on the issues of life and sexuality.

  • goodalice19

    Reading your first paragraph I began to get a feeling of disappointment, or dismay; thinking that in the next paragraphs you would explain that the blog would now cease, and then you would recommend other Catholic blogs that might replace yours, or somehow make up for its loss.I was so happy to read, instead, that you are going to continue this excellent blog that I read daily with much pleasure. I want to thank you for all the work and thought you put into the posts. I am also amazed that you do not, ever, ask for donations, or have spinning or dazzling ads in your margins. This fact alone, puts you in a different league from the rest of your peers. You have many 'Joans' out here that will gladly ride (or drive) to your defense, colors flying, if ever need be.

  • Turgonian

    I always like reading your blog. Glad to hear you intend to carry on.

  • Webster Bull

    Goodalice19 and Turgonian–I guess I can say with Mark Twain that "the rumor of my death is an exaggeration." I have only just begun to blog.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks be to God!

  • Anonymous

    i'm mildly right by the way-and i like what you write. kaylan, thanks for saying it! go pro-life!-especially this month:)

  • EPG

    Webster, you wrote: "I feel a special sort of pleasure writing this blog, and it may even be His, though that's a presumption I won't make." I find great pleasure in reading your blog, especially as one who looking at the Catholic Church from the outside, as you did not so long ago, and thinking, maybe, just maybe, this is what I've been longing for (without even knowing it).

  • Webster Bull

    Dear EPG, Thank you for your comment. At some time in the past it would have been hard for me to imagine myself a Catholic. Now it is not possible to imagine my life without this new life.