One Must Go As One


One Must Go As One is Led

Yesterday Dylan blogged quoting this site's motto.

A beautiful three-step program that I should initiate :

-- Ignoring the imperfections of others
-- Preserving (or at least increasing) silence
-- Preserving continual communion with God.

There may be a cutback in my blogging soon, a diminution of the number of per diem posts. And the posting may continue to be per diem, and the reading of the other excellent blogs may continue to be per diem, but I can't elude the suspicion that I might be the better for a week-long retreat from the blogosphere in the not-too-distant future. I've done my share of generating heat, despite error503's stated aim of lowering the blood-pressure, and sticking to what's best in "Catholicism, poetry and culture."

It is an excellent, meritorious thought, and driven all by the right concerns. However, I hesitate, because silence, the glorious silence in which we meet with, engage with, sometimes wrestle with, more often commune with God, is not merely a matter of closing human lips. Silence, as with speech, is not simply cutting off communication, but saying what needs to be said and not saying what does not need to be said. We will be called to account for every idle word. Such words are not the words of splendid poets and great divines, they are not the words of saints, nor are they the words that in reflection we share with the world what we have experienced of God. They are not even the words of what we enjoy--baseball, football, movies, books, tennis, fine wine, you name it. These words build community, understanding, human solidarity. They help us to more readily "love our neighbor" because many of us labor to love an abstract, but someone with real concerns, hopes, joys, wishes, thoughts, desires, pains, this person we can approach more readily. The great Saints were able to discern all of these things without much conversation, but we are (most of us) not yet great Saints. We are saints in training. And some saints were particularly voluble and sociable, still preserving and virtuous silence--St. Alphonsus di Liguori springs to mind as one who has written more than I, in my lifetime, seem likely to be able to read, so too St. Francis de Sales. I also think of St. Philip Neri, the laughing Saint.

Thus, while I commend the motive and the thought, I bemoan the possibility. More, I wonder if such a silence, imposed from within, as it were, is effective in the way we wish it to be. It seems to me that points one and three of Dylan's plan lead very naturally to point two, without the imposition of a silence that might be frustrating, aggravating, or bothersome. Now, of course, that is from the outside. I am not Dylan, nor may I speak for him, and we must allow our consciences to form the ground of our being. If God so leads him, then I must not interfere. But I do speak to clarify. Our first duty is to ignore the rampant goings-on and detractions that can take place in a world where there is much communication, but very little identity. It is very easy to criticize, fault, and abjure, when one knows nothing of the individuals involved save a few random communications. Here we know only as much as people wish us to know through their postings. (Dare I say it, "We see as through some glass, darkly). Unless we are friends on the other side of the glass screen, we know nothing of the people posting. How much better for us then, if we refrain from any comments on the activities of others we cannot know. All we may legitimately comment upon are their words and their ideas. Mistaken notions must always, for the sake of the person holding them, be corrected--it is, in fact a Christian duty. But a person must never be diminished in the glory of personhood. Each person has a unique identity in Christ and an insult to the person is spit in the face, a crown of thorns, and a nail. Jesus told us that when we call our brother "Thou fool" we commit murder in our hearts. What a terrible thing! So, we must correct mistaken notions, all the while preserving the integrity and dignity of the person holding them. No person is discountable, no person is not worthy of our notice, no person is disposable. Every person bears within them the fractured image of Christ, and we should be assisting them in perfecting that image. So better to ignore goings on, to wander in the gardens of blogdom and pick such flowers as we may find in bloom.

So, the long and the short of this. We do well to ignore the goings-on that tend to distract us from the beauty of God that flows through each person. We also must preserve, to the extent possible, continual communion with God. This can be extraordinarily difficult to cultivate, and comes as a part of grace. But God is gracious, and He does help us when our intentions are directed toward Him. This communion comes in short glances among the pots and pans in the kitchen, while sewing, or indeed while blogging and thinking not only of God, but of the love He would have us share. This is a vehicle to spread that love far and wide.

Sometimes we must retreat into complete silence, I suppose, to more clearly focus and hear God. But more often, it is in talking and sharing our ideas that our communion with God is supported. We are not monastics, we are not cloistered from the world. Few of us have the ability to withstand the forces of secularity on our own. In this enclave, we build up a conversation and a communion that continually allows us to turn our minds toward God. That is why I don't visit some places in blogdom with great frequency. While they contribute a tremendous amount to the community, I often cannot bear what they are telling me. I often find myself succumbing to my very worst impulses, and so I retreat to this shell, the small part of blogdom I visit, that more often than not allows me to stand exposed to God rather than retreating into a shell, separating myself at once from the world and from God. Blogs like those I have listed, support me in my prayer life. They help me on the way to preserving that continuous communion with God. Good things and good words are posted that allow me to fly to God rather than away from Him. Blogdom has served to help me hone my prayer life because I have been able to talk to others and thus, more than anything, teach and convince myself. God convicts me of His love as I tell others about it.

Thus I encourage Master Dylan to follow the course of his conscience, but to bear in mind that his words, thoughts, passions, interests, and ideas serve a great many people each day, help to feed them news of God rather than news of the world. In many ways, those who serve in these far-flung outposts of blogdom, those that get a mere trickle of readers, the "tidepools" on the great ocean, perform an enormous service to all of us who seek a solidarity that can be hard to find moment to moment in the world at large. Any shrinking of that pool makes conditions a little less salutary for all. So while I speak to Dylan, I also speak to everyone out there who happens by--share the good that God has done for you because you will raise up the spirits of someone who reads in the course of a day. You are all valuable, unique, wonderful, supportive, loving, helpful, Spirit-filled people who have much to give to the world, both within and outside of blogdom, and I am exceedingly blessed at having found such a haven.

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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on September 30, 2002 8:30 AM.

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