Sunday, May 27, 2018

Mistakes in Good Faith, or Writing for Life

Every week as Saturday rolls around I wonder if I will write. I may have a particular topic in mind, or not. More often than not, of late, I  choose not to write regardless of what's on my mind.

Why don't I write? There are a few reasons, any one of which will suffice. I have lost interest in my opinions as opinions in themselves and for how they define me. I am quite sure our actions define us rather than our opinions. I do not feel as strong an urge to write in order to be who I am, but am content to be who I am whether or not I write, at least for the most part.

I have no particular desire to leave any more evidence of myself than what's already scattered around the Internet, the house, and I hope in the hearts and minds of friends and family. I am writing at this moment, this is true, but more as a means of catching up on things, and perhaps to find out if I can write in a way that makes sense to me now. I guess I'm wary of my writing, or my tendencies in writing. I do not want to create work for the sake of display, and I do not want to err where silence would save me from error. So, while I think about things I could or even should write about, rather than rushing to the computer to throw my hat in the ring I have adopted the habit of waiting. You might even call this new-found habit a kind of patience, but I don't want to get ahead of myself and claim a virtue that has always been in short supply in my personal, spiritual larder.

But to turn to possible topics for discussion, let's dive right in and address the issue of life - I mean, the Catholic Church's pro-life position versus the pro-choice position. I understand both sides of this argument having been raised in a liberal household and being now Catholic. It occurred to me recently the thought that life is more important to the Catholic Church than people realize, and that the implications of the Catholic Church's understanding of life underwrite the pro-life stance and also go far beyond it.

The Catholic Church does not read the politics of the day and decide its position accordingly. All its positions in a very tangible or historic sense precede any contemporary politics. The Catholic Church is pro-life, of course. It always has been, it is, and it always will be pro-life. It cannot countenance unnatural death in any circumstance. To be Catholic, to be Christian, is to esteem life for all that it is: our mortal life as a gift from God and eternal life as a promise from God, as shown us in the reincarnation of the risen Christ.

One might say at this point, yes, but choice also is a gift from God. And this is true. I certainly don't mean to argue that choice is not a critical component of human nature. Our right to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" is an inalienable right, as the Declaration of Independence puts it. And I know from personal experience that the exercise of one's right to choose is in invaluable means of obtaining the aforementioned happiness, or, by making errors, in coming to an understanding of what does not contribute to happiness.

My life experience though, however instructive it might be, does not rise to the level of a catechism. God, I believe, is interested first and foremost in the eternal welfare of each and every individual human being as an individual person. The history of myriad saints and martyrs who, as sinners, caused pain in varying degrees in the lives of others but who eventually led lives of sanctifying grace tells us as much. So, we can and will do harm, and we can be saved if we ask to be forgiven. Simple.

And...I will stick with that last word: simple. I will not add that "it's really more complicated than that..." because it really is not more complicated than that as far as I can write about the subject with anything approaching honest reflection. My thoughts of late take me only so far before they cease being thoughts and threaten to become inference and evasion, a hodge-podge of collected notions, snippets of received knowledge, some of it valid, no doubt, but not mine, not such as I could properly represent.

So, what am I saying now? A moment ago I was sailing along laying out the pro-life position of the Catholic Church and the nature of choice appearing as if I knew what I was talking about, but then it all came to a grinding halt. Exactly. I did know what I was talking about and I stopped at exactly the point where I could go no further and know what I was talking about.

God does not ask for guess-work from me and neither does the Catholic Church. And so I accept those things that require my understanding for the purpose of my salvation. I am not called to guess-work or generalizations. I am not required to form broad opinions about groups of people along political, cultural, or religious grounds and belittle them accordingly. Quite the opposite, I am tasked with seeing Jesus Christ in every person I meet. That includes every person on either or both sides or outside the pro-life, pro-choice debate, including the unborn.

So, my job as a Christian is simple, It keeps me busy, engaged, and happy - but it is simple. I try to keep it simple but it's not easy, especially when my brain gets involved, or when I write and before I know it I'm making generalizations or saying things that don't really say anything. I understand the desire to make broad, overwhelming statements, but I try not to do this. It is better that I say less than more than is required. It is better that I live well than to speak or write unabashedly, without proper concern for the harm words can do to others by distraction or error. I am very sure I have a better understanding now of silence as a practice or a penitential act than I ever did before. I will write, and I should safe-guard the practice of writing, knowing I must err, but can do so...wittingly.

I can make mistakes in good faith. Funny, but that seems to me a fine, even noble definition for almost any form of writing of which I personally am capable.