My name is Marie. You can call me Eloise, if you like. I’ll take Avers, and I’ll forgive Maria. However, if you call me Mary, you’ll promptly find yourself in a shallow grave missing your toenails.
Now that that’s out of the way:
Welcome to the world beyond the pale.
It is a place both wondrous and strange.
What on earth is she raving about now, you may ask. Let me explain. In Seamus Heaney’s gorgeous translation of the Old English epic Beowulf, there is a line that reads, “the other, warped in the shape of a man, moved beyond the pale.” I’m a literary nerd, and words cause euphoria within me—words like “beyond the pale.” Which, I realize, is a pointless tangent unless I explain the phrase. Here goes.
So, if you google it, Google defines “beyond the pale” as “outside the bounds of acceptable behavior,” but gives no hint of the origin (and, being lit nerds, the origin is what we want). So I found a British website that explained the etymology of the it. (Bear with me. It gets better. Promise.)
Basically, the “pale” is the name of the old sheep walls or fences you’d find in the Old English countryside, and wandering “beyond the pale” means venturing outside the space one typically considers “home.”
Wait, so all this to basically say “outside the box” with weird, old-timey words? Well . . . kinda.
Look, “beyond the pale” means to go out into the wilderness beyond the enclosure of what is safe. What is acceptable. What is known and trusted and understood. And according to the British website I’d found, “Such recklessness rarely meets with a good end” because there are wolves, bandits, fairies and goblins in the unknown forests and moors. So, as our British guide, Mr. Gary Martin, explains, “if there is a pale, decent people stay inside it.”
What the hell does any of this have to do with a Catholic Patheos blog?
First off, I’m not often described as one of the “decent people.” So, let me welcome you once more to the world Beyond the Pale; it’s been waiting for you. This blog will be our space to explore what it means to be a millenial and a Catholic, carving out a space for ourselves in the tradition and beauty of this ancient Church. It is a space far beyond typical “decent” Catholicism, and strange to usual secularism.
I’ve found that Christ, the Trinity, our God, exist beyond the pale of this incredible, and incredibly limited, created universe. Our Church seems to often have forgotten that fact, in its two-millenia history. But we millennials are known for breaking through those walls and finding the strange, dangerous truths that exist beyond their limits. And that’s the space we here at The Shoeless Banshee will be wandering.
How to be—unconventionally, virtuously, subversively, passionately, genuinely—a follower of Christ?
It’s not through some mere acceptance of the “Catholic party” rules, in the sense of a political party. Nor is it abandoning this magnificent, deeply flawed, Catholic Church (as I have so often desired to do). No, it is being, believing, and behaving “beyond the pale,” as did St. Francis, who was likely a bit insane, and Paul, a previous Pharisee (Paul and I are feuding currently—more on that later), and Joan of Arc, and Edith Stein, and all the saints who’ll never be canonized because they didn’t care to be “decent” (like Dorothy Day, who was a curmudgeon and an anarchist, and my personal best friend in the mystical body of Christ, Flannery O’Connor)—all following the example of Christ himself, who simply wasn’t a properly decent fellow.
Christ loved. I’m here for him: his Eucharist, his Blood and his Body. And his love for the poor, the sick, the woman abused, the man forgotten. I’ll be exploring, with the help of many friends and their frequent guest contributions, how to love in this way—never content nor complacent, and frequently completely irreverent.
So, join me as we meander beyond the pale. We’ll be subversive and unconventional and reckless. Don’t expect the words or conclusions of “decent,” proper Catholics here.
It is a place most wondrous and strange.