Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Page 94

There's your problem

I recently finished reading Forming Intentional Disciples by Sherry Weddell. It's a how-to book on Newly Evangelizing yourself; then your parish; and then the world. I mark up books like this and later go back to re-read the marked-up bits.

I was Confirmed in 1968 or so. I was also Baltimore Catechized, and understood that Bishop Unterkoefler was going to lay hands on me and I would receive Gifts of the Holy Spirit, such as...well, I forget. I was 11. Anyway, when you're Confirmed, you get 'em: charisms. So I got Confirmed but never did feel any different, like I had gotten some ka-riz-um. (Chaucer! Rabelais! Balzac!)

Living in South Carolina can be bracing for Catholics. Partly because one might not have at any given instant the best answer to a polemical question; but also because dialogue seems to give way so quickly to argument and uncharity. Is uncharity a word? It is.

One afternoon in 1998 I was at home around lunchtime to let the bug-killer spray the house. Nice young man, mid 20s or so, comes in with his gear, starts spraying. Notices the Jesus 'n' Mary statues; the Crucifix; the palms. He says, I see you have statues of Jesus and Mary...are y'all Catholic? "Yes, we are," and I'm gettin' stressed for the usual grind. Well, can I ask you some questions about that? "Sure, go ahead." And it's mostly the regular questions- but some were deeper, more informed, more inquiring, more than just boilerplate. I was really having to think and respond to particulars, and consequently feeling more tense than usual.

Then all of a sudden I was perfectly calm and relaxed. I seemed to have no involvement with the engaging responses that came out of my mouth. I was in an evangelical flow state, being lifted up and out, thinking and conversing in this weird, effortless, liberating, charitable, open way. And I thought, "Wow...could this be a Confirmation Gift of the Holy Spirit? A charism? Who'd'a thunk it after all these years?" I continued to accompany the bugman as he walked around the inside and outside of the house for the next 30-odd minutes, answering questions, asking a few, having a pointed yet pleasant conversation. Then we sat down while he wrote up his bill, which took the rest of the hour, as we were still talking. Only once did things get a bit tense, I think it was over good works in this bit by St. Paul:  "For he will render to every man according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life...glory and honor and peace for every one who worketh good." But neither of us felt compelled to beat the other up over it, to win. Before he left, I learned that Mr. Bug Killer was only part-time, and was studying at Bob Jones for his divinity degree. He said he enjoyed our Christian dialogue; and while I hadn't persuaded him of anything it was interesting nonetheless. I agreed, and he left, both of us grinning like Cheshire Cats.

Page 94 of Sherry's book is in a section titled "Discerning Charisms." Like me, everyone has them, but we don't all get identical doses. And also like me, people often don't know what their charisms are. Sherry writes:

"...charisms almost always manifest after the point in our life when our faith becomes personal..."

Which was true in my case. But more specifically, she adds:

"They may also manifest for the first time when we meet a person or situation for which that particular gift is needed."

Which perfectly describes my'd she know that?

I marked up the rest of page 94 with additional underlining, brackets, and comments such as: Yes; Yes; Absolutely. A whole page of remarkable observations about my own experience of charisms. I could say more, but it's better if you read page 94 (and the rest of the book) yourself.

Order direct here.


Athanasius Contra Mundum said...

That reminds me of a conversation I had with my battalion commander one day. Somehow it came up that I am Catholic. The next sentence out of his mouth was, "I used to believe Catholics are going to Hell." I was ready to be grilled over the usual objections, but we had a pleasant conversation and a good deal of back and forth.

Anonymous said...

Chris -

"How did she know?" After a couple thousand interviews . . . I couldn't help but laugh.

Sherry Weddell

Athanasius Contra Mundum said...

I don't get it.

kkollwitz said...

The Music Man?

kkollwitz said...

Sherry means she's interviewed thousands of Catholics and also trained them to recognize their gifts, so it's not all that amazing to her.

Kathleen Basi said...

That's a really interesting story. I don't do well with those kinds of situations. I'm so thankful I don't live in the Bible Belt!

kkollwitz said...

It's made me a better Catholic.

Barb Schoeneberger said...

Saw the Music Man words and laughed.

I don't like polemical arguments. When someone is sincerely thinking and asks questions, somehow God always gives me the answer and I am acutely aware of my obligation to present Christ to the person in how I respond. This has been especially true in my work in the restoration of the Extraordinary Form.

kkollwitz said...

Probably 3/4 of the questions I get about Catholicism are boilerplate "questions" with no real interest behind them. I still answer them, but ask my own questions as well.

Anonymous said...

Please pray for me that the next time I field some questions as to why I've left the Reformed congregation I was part of to become a Catholic, I do a bit better than I did last week with the builders working at our place. There was so much to say that I ended up tongue-tied, and just said, "It's Jesus in the Eucharist."

kkollwitz said...

Hey Anon, if your converting out of the Reformed tradition, this site may suit you:

kkollwitz said...'re...

Anonymous said...

Thanks, kkollwitz. The clarity of the arguments at CtC made it imperative for me to convert in 2011. Even I can see when something is well-proved.

Also, I've been lurking at SM for several years now, and your posts on the Mass as explained to children made me long to be Catholic.

kkollwitz said...

My goodness you've made my week!

Anonymous said...

If you look at your stats you'll find I rummaged through your posts on the Mass more than once. It's true that I read lots of Catholic sites, including Fr Longenecker, Shameless Popery, CtC after an odd sequence of events led me to it, and finally a post by that brash child Marc Barnes pushed me to RCIA when I was hesitating, but your posts did as much as anyone's and more than some.

I started reading regularly in order to flick your posts on to someone else I thought might benefit from them, with no thought of taking them on board for myself, so there's a laugh.

Then I started reading a lot of Catholic fiction, and passed through a couple of stressful life events.

So, thank God for blogrolls and Catholic interconnectivity. If you find one good site, you'll find them all, because Catholic sites link to each other in a way that Protestant sites just don't, since they approach other Protestant sites with caution, if not downright suspicion. Typically they'll link to one or two close friends and to their pastor, so they largely prove to be dead-ends. Or so I found.

With very best wishes,

Jocelyn Jaqu!ery

Anonymous God-blogger said...

What a wonderful encounter!

kkollwitz said...

Thanks to both Anons for the gracious comments.