To Make Catholic Writers, Make Catholic Readers

To Make Catholic Writers, Make Catholic Readers October 10, 2019

Two very small thoughts from the Catholic Imagination Conference.

The first one is that today is a holiday. It is a holiday I just invented, viz. Weird Catholic Book Day. You celebrate this holiday by purchasing a weird Catholic book for your parish library (if you have one) or local school (if they take donations from randos), or by requesting that a weird Catholic book be added to your local public library system. Lots of library systems let you suggest a book online. To suggest a book for the DC system, for example, start here. In smaller systems I’d bet you can just go up to a librarian and ask what the procedure is.

Why a weird book? Man, because remember how it felt when you learned that there was this great book out there, which spoke to so much of your faith and experience, from a perspective you’d never seen before? Remember when you were in a book forum discussion on historical fiction, and the participants–who specifically loved women’s perspectives in fiction–had never even heard of Kristin Lavransdatter, and you were like, “I BRING TIDINGS OF GREAT JOY”? We have these networks of readers who will tell you about the diaries of Liane de Pougy, the courtesan and authoress of Idylle sapphique who became a Dominican tertiary, or my man Dunstan Thompson, a selection of whose poetry has just been reissued. I generally hear about the queer ones but who are the ones I don’t hear about? How will I find them if I’m not already half in the know? This is where you come in!

What’s one book you’re always finding that people love, but had never heard of before you told them about it? What is your Frost in May or Declare? What’s the book you wish you’d had when you were a weird Catholic kid, or a weird heathen adolescent, or whatever the heck you were? Find a way to get that book into a library–today.

So–to celebrate this day, do one thing today to get a weird Catholic book into a new reader’s hands. Weird Catholics everywhere will thank you!

The second thing is basically, “To make Catholic writers, make Catholics.” There is a time-honored method for this (as a friend of mine once said, “Catholics don’t have to proselytize. We just knock boots”) but if you would like something with less grunting, you can try education, also known as formation or discipline. It’s easy for a conference about “the Catholic imagination” to get seduced by all our exciting personal imaginations, or to find *~*subversion*~* more interesting than obedience. There’s beauty in being shaped by the Church. (And if you want resistance I can guarantee obedience to Her will offer you plenty of opportunities, and in fact a duty, to resist the powers of this world–including where they manifest in Church leadership.)

This is part of why I loved the hymns chosen for the conference’s closing Mass. “Be Thou my vision” is the purpose of the Catholic artist, yes? We were reminded to center our lives not on our own imaginations, nor on “being Catholic,” but on Christ, our Light.

I’m guessing most people walked away from this conference with books to read, ideas to share, things to ponder and seek out. That’s all, or anyway often, good. And then at Mass we are reminded that we are loved and sheltered even if our busy artmaking and reading and seeking and dreaming comes to nothing.
Take my heart, O Lord, take my hopes and dreams,
Take my mind with all its plans and schemes,
Give me nothing more than your love and grace.
These alone, O God, are enough for me.

AND this prayer from St Ignatius of Loyola (appropriate to the setting), put to music by David Hogan–I can’t find this arrangement online, sadly:
I love you, O my God most high,
For first your love has captur’d me;
I seek no other liberty:
Bound by your love, I shall be free. …
To love you, Christ, eternally,
You give me all in giving this.

Ah, as with all discussion of “Catholic art” I can feel that I’m narrowing the meaning and power of these hymns! My discussion of them will never be as lovely as your experience of them. So I will leave you with our recessional, “All Creatures of Our God and King“–let us rejoice in being creatures even more than we rejoice in being creators.

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