Southern writers have often been insecure with their history which has been balled into one word: racism. And many have overcompensated and run away from their heritage. But you can’t run away from history, or the evil in it, anymore than you can run away from your sins.

A few decades ago, when a native southerner looked at the whole of America, it was often from a fixed point of distance, as an outsider. Because Southerners are the only part of the nation who ever knew defeat. Even though today’s south is more like the rest of the country, native southerners are still oriented toward their history; a history that encompasses their family lines, losses, and loves.

As a writer of southern fiction and a Catholic with deep roots in the Bible Belt South, I come from a line of courageous women who passed down their faith–women who married Protestant husbands they loved. In fact, these three generations of women literally loved their men into the Catholic Church.

Like the Catholic Church, a southern writer recognizes evil. And we may experience a sense of hypocrisy in other regions of our nation who point fingers. We may feel that some from those other regions are so concerned with the morals of southerners that they ignore the evil occurring where they live. Other countries have oppressed a people, and even now, are oppressing entire populations. Oppression is a human problem–on a large basis and on a small basis, one individual to another. And you will find it everywhere, especially in the stories of southern authors.

Some say southern writers have lost their identity, that they are no different from other writers. But we are different. Today, we don’t have to defend ourselves, we only have to forgive ourselves. And because we can forgive ourselves, southern writers and southern people have a distinctiveness, perhaps enough distinctiveness to enlighten and even humanize today’s American culture. A huge plus in that humanization might be that southerners are talkers, and listeners, which is always better than political polarization or hiding from the problem.

So what happens when a southern writer is also a Catholic writer? Great things, according to a great southern Catholic writer and subjective thinker, Walker Percy who said, “Science cannot make a single statement about the individual man, but a novel can. What it is to be a man struggling in a particular time, with a particular problem, in a particular place.”

The subjective thinker is not a scientist-scholar; he is an artist. To exist is an art. The subjective thinker is esthetic enough for his life to have esthetic content, ethical enough to regulate it, dialectical enough in thinking to master it. The subjective thinker’s task is to understand himself in existence.– Soren Kierkegaard, Concluding Unscientific Postscript

A subjective thinker understands that we exist only because God exists.

Catholic fiction shines out the existence of God when our human deficiency keeps us from recognizing it. A Catholic writer seeks a truth that is higher than anything material. And he must have passion enough to do it because everything worldly will speak against him. So he goes about trying to understand himself as a person. He/she must think and write subjectively as a human being related to God. He must see himself as a child with a Father who loves him. A child who is often disobedient, and yet, at times completely in line. And he must see that his Father’s love does not disappear in either situation. When a Catholic writer sees himself as both ugly and beautiful, but nevertheless loved, he or she will write about that. But the subjective thinking comes first.

And this takes me back to the subjective Southern writer in general, mastering his past in the section of the country that shouldered the evil of slavery like the Jews shouldered the Crucifixion of Jesus. Forced to stand on a scaffold with a scarlet letter, exposed to public humiliation like Hester Prynne. The historical Southerner was a wayward child, like the prodigal son–except that the Southern child was not forgiven as was the Prodigal Son in the Bible. He was punished—and became defensive. A guilty child standing in the middle of his condemning brothers and sisters with stones in their hands.

The South is used to vindictiveness and human violence. The South is used to crucifixions, but at the same time we’re used to familiarity with others, and a set of manners that we still hold to, based in the Christian faith about the way things ought to be. On the worst of days, we become defensive if attacked. But on the best of days, we accept our history, and we accept our people—all of them.

And then, we do what we do best–we talk and we listen. We talk about the lives of people in our towns from generations back. We know what happened to them and why it happened. We listen to the ways good and evil singularly affected them, and to how it affects us today. Native southerners think as subjectively as Catholics do.

Some stories may be embellished—southerners are great at that. Some stories may be so entirely malevolent, or heartbreaking, that they’re hard to hear, but like the Catholic Church, a writer of southern fiction expects her characters to sin. And also like the Church, the writer creates an open door to forgiveness and offers a welcoming home.

The writer, like any artist, is called to bring people closer to God through beauty expressed, truth told, and virtue taught. Simple as that. — Father George Rutler

On a Faith Journey???

Posted: January 17, 2018 in World On The Edge
morguefile.com

morguefile.com

In the interviews I’ve been privileged to have, I’m often asked about my Faith Journey. Each of us has one. As we travel through life our faith either increases, or doesn’t increase. Or maybe it’s like a stone wall, just sitting there, never budging because we don’t think about it.

We ought to think about it though. At one time or another, our closets need straightening, lists of “things-to-do” need to be made, and certain people in our lives need specific attention. We sometimes forget that we need attention, too.

After we’ve gone on vacation, we usually assess the trip that we took. Assessing our Faith Journey is similar. We need to look back to see where we’ve been. We need to look at ourselves—really look—to see where we are, and then forward to see where we’re going.

My faith journey began in my family, in Dothan, Alabama where I was born, and where there were few Catholics, so we stood out. Specifically, it began with my mother and grandmother. They were the Catholics in my family to start with. My father and grandfather were Protestants who later converted to Catholicism. In fact, I was confirmed the same time as my grandfather. He was 62 and I was 9.

For the first five years of my life, we lived with my grandparents. My mother was just out of her teens when I was born, and my father had returned from WWII, so my grandmother was definitely in charge, and she was a woman of great faith. She was from Macon, Georgia and in her family were many vocations. Her sister was a Mercy nun and five of her nieces and nephews were priests and nuns — three Jesuit priests, two Sisters of Mercy and two Dominican sisters. One of those Jesuits, Fr. Anthony Benedetto, taught me at Spring Hill when I was there. In fact, he literally wrote the book for one of my required Theology courses—“Fundamentals in the Philosophy of God.”

But in Dothan, Catholics were often thought of as strange, even non-Christian. So we had to stand up for our faith, which meant we had to know it. So my faith journey began there, in having to defend my faith. When you have to defend something, you grow to love it even more.

When I entered Spring Hill College at 17, I was really amazed that everyone around me was Catholic. It was such a welcomed change. So my faith journey continued at Spring Hill, inspired by the many Jesuits I encountered and by some faith-filled students. I also met my husband there. We’ve been married for 52 years, have five children and will soon have twelve grandchildren. And that itself is a journey of faith!

The struggles I went through in my particular life were/are part of the journey. I learned from them. I understood that God was with me throughout them. He didn’t take my struggles away, still He was/is there.

God sends particular people to us on our Faith Journey. Oddly enough, years ago, I learned how to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ through a Protestant, a beautiful girl who happened to be Jackson County Alabama’s Maid of Cotton. I was in charge of religion classes for the teens at St. Jude in Scottsboro, and often brought in speakers from other faiths. She came when I asked. Of course, the boys were impressed with her looks, but inside she was just as lovely. She talked about her own relationship with Jesus as if he was her best friend.

So I would say, look for the landmarks in your own faith journey and strengthen them. No matter how trivial they may at first seem, those milestones are there; and God-sent just for you.

He is your God.

He is my God.

And He loves us enough to have sacrificed His son for each of us.

 

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Wind that Shakes the Corn by Kaye Park Hinckley

The Wind that Shakes the Corn

by Kaye Park Hinckley

Giveaway ends January 31, 2018.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

hands and anchor

A new year is here. We do not know what it will bring for us. All we know is that on January 1, 2018, another new dawn happened.

Some of us feel uneasy about our life, and even afraid. We may feel that life is an unending storm for us, and that we have no control over where the water and wind will take us.

Uncertainty is downright scary when we do not notice the anchors in our life. Of course, anchors in the form of other people are available. If we haven’t made use of them, why not?

Maybe self-pride has taken us over, and we consider only “our way,” until “our way” doesn’t work.

Maybe we have alienated family or friends through petty disagreements neither will forgive.

Maybe there are habits we have that we know are wrong, but we keep them up anyway, feeling guilty.

All these situations cause uncertainty, and are common to everyone at one time or another. But without an anchor, they can become unbearable, until we feel the words, Happy New Year, do not apply to us.

But hear this:

When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
–Isaiah 43:2

These words are about the life-saving anchor we can all have in life–if we choose to grab onto it. The words do not mean that we will have no storms in our life, but that when we do, God’s anchor is available–many times through other human beings, especially those we are close to.

The anchor, because of the great importance in navigation, was regarded in ancient times as a symbol of safety. The Christians, therefore, in adopting the anchor as a symbol of hope in future existence, gave a new and higher signification to a familiar emblem. Just as an anchor secures a boat in rough waters, so does faith in Christ secure us, and indeed, becomes our safety net.

This is no more apparent than in marriage. But to achieve faith in God, and in another person, requires a certain amount of surrender:

Forgiving when we don’t want to forgive.
Realizing that we don’t know all the right answers.
Looking at our real self and what we are doing without making excuses for our wrong actions.

When we give up control of our life in favor of God’s plan–done His way, not ours–then we enter onto the road called: Trust. And what does Trust in God prove? It proves His faithfulness. I can certainly say that I’ve seen His faithfulness in my own life. And if you look upon your circumstances, whatever they are, with spiritual eyes, I’m sure you will see it, too, and know that you are not alone.

light-1670175_1280

If we are in dark room for a length of time, our human eyes eventually adjust to the darkness, so that any tiny light venturing into the room becomes enough for us to grasp the location of walls, furniture, and door. A tiny light—only a tiny light—can change our perception and take us from obscurity to clarity in the darkest of rooms.

When the light we see by is small, we use other faculties instead of perfect eyesight to make our way around the blackness of a room. We use our memory of what should be there, our sense of touch, or even smell. These other senses may not come into play in a brightly lit space–we wouldn’t need them. But in a very dark place, the tiny light is crucial.

Each of us has a tiny light within us, and it is a precious light unlike any other, made just for the darkest of rooms. When sadness, disappointment, or tragedy darken our life, we make use of that tiny light.

In a story or novel, there is usually an epiphany–a change–in the main character, or at least his or her choice to change or not. It is the same in our lives when we make choices.

Vision from such a light may come about slowly, but if we remain calm and concentrate on its glow, we can find safety, security, and even courage.

And where does that light come from?

It comes from the kinship we have with the God who created us. The God who created each of us as His child, and then sent His son to earth as a tiny baby. The true light of the world.

Saturday, January 6, is the Feast of the Epiphany. Your light is here.

How will you receive it?

sport-2264825_640

We all want to see approval in the eyes of those we love or admire, and when we don’t see that approval, it hurts. It makes us feel small and we don’t like that. So, we may constantly strive for attention anywhere we can get it to prove that we are strong, that we matter. We may become angry and vindictive, or we may even set out to harm anyone who pushes us aside. We become fighters for our self image, our own personality, without even realizing that’s what we are doing.

But our biggest battles are those inside us, the stand-off between who we want to be and how we are actually mirrored by our actions.

What do these battles–those internal swinging doors between who we are and who we want to be–hinge upon?

The human personality is beautifully complicated. There are three factors which mold it. Two of those factors, nature and nurture (heredity and environment) are those things we receive at birth and what education and social influences do to us.

But the third factor may be even more important–the way a person uses his inborn capabilities and adapts himself to his environment. This adaptation depends upon his/her own free volition. A person has the ability to inhibit certain drives, to hold in check his emotion, or at least the expression of them. He may even act upon his physique, for example by exercise or dieting. And he is capable of influencing his environment by changing it, or moving out of it.

Our ability to freely choose an action is, hands down, our greatest human gift. When we let the source of that gift–God–lead us in our battle choices, we will be so much stronger than we think we are.

If we stand back from our gift-buying busyness, if we look to the manger, we will see the core message of Christmas which we are to follow: Be humble.

The son of God came to earth as a newborn baby. Why did he come as a helpless baby from a poor family?

Simple humility. The first lesson taught us by Jesus Christ that leads us toward human goodness.

Humility is the tool of human goodness. The opposite of humility is pride. Pride is the tool of evil, causing haughtiness, jealousy, or anger over slights or insults.

Pride is when we worry constantly about what others think of us. When we must be the center of attention, and feel frustrated if we are not. When it is all about us, and not about God and our neighbor, this is pride.

So, how do we grow in humility, and not pride?

This prayer for the virtue of humility has been around a long time, and it is certainly one that I need to pray! It asks for our Lord’s assistance in humbly following in His footsteps and casting aside, or at least offering up to Him, all those nagging doubts and fears that come with our self-centeredness.

Deliver me, Jesus:
From the desire of being loved,
From the desire of being extolled,
From the desire of being honored,
From the desire of being praised,
From the desire of being preferred to others,
From the desire of being consulted,
From the desire of being approved,
From the fear of being humiliated,
From the fear of being despised,
From the fear of suffering rebukes,
From the fear of being calumniated,
From the fear of being forgotten,
From the fear of being ridiculed,
From the fear of being wronged,
From the fear of being suspected,
From the fear that others may be loved more than I.

Grant me the grace to desire:
That others may be esteemed more than I,
That in the opinion of the world,others may increase and I may decrease,
That others may be chosen and I set aside,
That others may be praised and I unnoticed,
That others may be preferred to me in everything,
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should.

HUMILTY IS SUCH A GIFT. LET’S LIVE IT, AND SHARE IT!!