Holiness: Like the Work of an Artist Print
Written by Sherry   
Friday, 12 October 2007 16:25
Dreadnaught (John Heard of Australia) responds to comments from ID reader SWP on his original essay "More Ways of Being Catholic Than Have Been Imagined".

SWP responded to the original post:

I take it to mean that there are many paths to sanctity. If there were a prescription for how to live a holy life, we could simply plug in and hold on for the ride. But we are called to carve out that path in the material of our own daily striving. It we are truly listening to the Holy Spirit in consultation with what we know to be true doctrinally, we can't be led astray-- yet the path may lead us unexpectedly-- God may meet us somewhere we didn't think it possible for Him to be. Such surprises are nothing new to the Saints, but they were new to them at some point in their lives. John Heard articulates very well how this seeming paradox occurs. Note the accent on living authentically. Secular postmodernism offers falsehood and the absence of reality. Christ offers something dynamic and life transforming, even if only by steady degrees. We are called to unlimit what God can accomplish in our lives, to see heroic virtue as something possible in our ordinary day. And recall that poster you liked so much, "Ordinary Time: there's nothing ordinary about it."

We know what the prohibitions are; John is asking us to think more expansively about what might be possible, the manifold ways we might pursue Christ, each one of us in our uniquely flawed and infinitely redeemable raw material. When we remove the limits of where God can be and how me might follow, we open wide the doors to Christ- we fear not, we Dread Nought. I admire greatly John's courage and candor.

What a marvelous exercise: to ask ourselves, "Where am I meeting Christ today?"

Dreadnaught responds:

In other places I talk of 'living authentically' in line with the deposit of faith.

What I mean by this is simply that there is always more to living Catholic, more to our faith and our options for service, than a slavish adherence to what has already happened, or what has been previously modelled by other humans.

As long as our model is Christ, as long as were are tied on to orthodoxy, we can adapt to daily or cultural contingencies in ways that might otherwise be surprising, especially if we've had a merely legalistic view of the possibilities.

I guess this is what the saints do, they map out more ways of being Catholic, and they prove the quality of their vision by the virtue they accrue and the souls they win over.*

Thus, today we might blog our faith, we can carry Christ into the 'gay' bar, we can endeavour to write for the secular press and declare our faith - without compromise - in the most hostile regions.

We can be certain that while our particular context might change, the space occupied by the Church is always the same: namely, where Christ has gone before us.

:: The Upshot ::

As long as we hurry after Him, the 'ways of being' open to us are as limitless as His reign.^

* (It is, of course, trivial to speak of 'new' ways of being a Christian. There is, in an important sense, only this way to be a Christian - one must follow Jesus Christ. There is nothing novel then in what a saint either does or is, rather - and I am sure this is why Taylor avoided using 'new' - it might be better to say the saint finds yet another way to do/be part of something 'as old as time and (yet) fresh each morning', namely the Church. This points up the nature of Taylor's 'more'. The 'way of being' is novel only insofar as it is simply phenomenally/experientially unprecedented - but heroic virtue goes further, into 'more' - when it assimilates any such novelty into the wider constancy, what might be called the eschatological irresistibility, of Christ's reign).

Sherry's comment:

I think that Dreadnaught is wrestling with a question that is central to the secular office of the laity which are called to bring Christ to the world outside the parish. If we are the apostles to the unbelieving and unbaptized men, women, cultures, and structures of the world, we have to learn to walk - in obedience and virtue - in unaccustomed places where our allegiance to Christ is not understood or regarded with hostility. Some of us have special calls to follow Christ in especially delicate, difficult, and abandoned places. By the very nature of our call, lay apostles must often think outside the box in applying the faith to the infinitely complex situations into which we are plunged.

Is such a call potentially dangerous to our own faith and walk with Christ? I think the honest answer is that danger attends all vocations - within and without the Church (try talking to people who have lost their faith working within the Church). In some situations the danger is clearer and more immediate than others, but we can all lose our way - and yet, if we don't walk the path through which that Christ has ordained that we should reach heaven - we can lose much more. And those to whom Christ is sending us lose as well.

Which is exactly why is it so critical that we have access to genuine Christian community that is gathered around discipleship, around the teaching of the Church, around the sacraments and prayer - where people who love us and love Christ can say to us "How is it going?" A Christian community that can provide us roots, balance, discernment, and the encouragement necessary to take Christ to our world.

This whole wonderful discussion reminds me of Dorothy Sayer's repeating an observation by A. D. Lindsay in her The Whimsical Christian:

"The difference between ordinary people and saints is not that saints fulfill the plain duties that ordinary men neglect. The things saints do have not usually occurred to ordinary people at all . . .'Gracious" conduct is somehow like the work of an artist. It needs imagination and spontaneity. It is not a choice between presented alternatives but the creation of something new."