Tag Archives: Catholics

The Late Pat Conroy on God & the Inklings

Margaret Evans, writer and editorial assistant to the late novelist Pat Conroy, within her column “That’s So Conroy:”

Did you know Pat had lately become enamored of fantasy fiction? He was fanatical about George R.R. Martin’s “Song of Ice and Fire” series, and compared Martin to Shakespeare. He had also discovered C.S. Lewis late in life, and was so enthusiastic about him – and his friendship with J.R.R. Tolkien – that he ran the idea by me, about a year ago, of getting a group together to travel to an Inklings weekend in Black Mountain, NC. (How I wish we’d done it.)

You might not know that Pat was very interested in God. Though he didn’t go to church much, he still considered himself Catholic, and he wrestled mightily. During our chats about the Inklings, he once told me he wished he had a writers’ group like that of his own. “Wouldn’t it be great?” he said. “For those guys, the question of God was always on the table. Maybe you struggled with the idea of God. Maybe you rejected it altogether. But the question was always on the table. It mattered, and it mattered a lot. So many writers I know today don’t even address the question. They’re not even God-curious. I still think that’s the difference between a great writer and a merely good writer. Great writers – whether they’re believers or not – are God-haunted.”

Pat Conroy was God-haunted. Maybe you didn’t know….

While out walking in the Cypress Wetlands last week – thinking about Pat, and how he adored this season – a cardinal zoomed across my path at warp speed, eye level, so close to my face I felt the wind on my cheek and heard its whoosh. His feathers may even have brushed my sunglasses; I’m still not sure. It was all so swift and sudden, so frightening and wondrous, I was left shaking as I watched the red bird disappear into the rookery.

They say a cardinal encounter is a visitation from a loved one who has passed….


Southern Christendom, as it was in the 1980s, is now, and evermore might be

Walker Percy knew how to capture the South, as well as American culture, within his characters and stories. In this passage near the end of his 1987 novel The Thanatos Syndrome, Percy’s narrator observes Southern-fried American Christianity through his wife and his region. I dare say his observations seem fresh today:

Later Ellen experienced a religious conversion. She became disaffected when the Southern and Northern Presbyterians, estranged since the Civil War, reunited after over a hundred years. It was not the reunion she objected to but the liberal theology of the Northern Presbyterians, who, according to her, were more interested in African revolutionaries than the divinity of Christ. She and others pulled out and formed the Independent Northlake Presbyterian Church.

Then she became Episcopalian.

Then suddenly she joined a Pentecostal sect. She tells me straight out that she has had a personal encounter with Jesus Christ, that where once she was lost and confused, seduced by Satan and the false pleasures of this world, she has now found true happiness with her Lord and Saviour. She has also been baptized in the Holy Spirit. She speaks in tongues.

I do not know what to make of this. I do not know that she has not found Jesus Christ and been born again. Therefore I accept that she believes she has and may in fact have been. I settle for being back with us and apparently happy and otherwise her old tart, lusty self. She is as lusty a Pentecostal as she was a Southern Presbyterian. She likes as much as ever cooking a hearty breakfast, packing the kids off to school, and making morning love on our Sears Best bed, as we used to.

She loves the Holy Spirit, says little about Jesus.

She is herself a little holy spirit hooked up to a lusty body. In her case spirit has nothing to do with body. Each goes its own way. Even when she was a Presbyterian and I was a Catholic, I remember that she was horrified by the Eucharist: Eating the body of Christ. That’s pagan and barbaric, she said. What she meant and what horrified her was the mixing up of body and spirit, Catholic trafficking in bread, wine, oil, salt, water, body, blood, spit — things. What does the Holy Spirit need with things? Body does body things. Spirit does spirit things.

She’s happy, so I’ll settle for it. But a few things bother me. She attributes her conversion to a TV evangelist to whom she contributed most of her fortune plus a hundred dollar a week to this guy, which we cannot afford, or rather to his Gospel Outreach program for the poor of Latin America. I listened to this reverend once. He’d rather convert a Catholic Hispanic than a Bantu any day in the week.

She has also enrolled Tommy and Margaret in the Feliciana Christian Academy, which teaches that the world is six thousand years old and won’t have Huckleberry Finn or The Catcher in the Rye in the library.

At least it’s better than Belle Ame, and the kids seem happy and healthy.

But I worry about them growing up as Louisiana dumbbells.

I might have held out for the parochial school, which was good, but it folded. The nuns vanished. The few priests are too overworked to bother. Catholics have become a remnant of a remnant. Louisiana, however, is more Christian than ever, not Catholic Christian, but Texas Christian. Even most Cajuns have been converted, first by Texas oil bucks, then by Texas evangelists. The shrimp fleet, mostly born again, that is, for the third time, is no longer blessed and sprinkled by a priest.

Why don’t I like these new Christians better? They’re sober, dependable, industrious, helpful. They praise God frequently, call you brother, and punctuate ordinary conversation with exclamations like Glory! Praise God! Hallelujah! I’ve got nothing against them, but they give me the creeps.

— Walker Percy, from his novel The Thanatos Syndrome (1987)

Mel Gibson’s dad hasn’t exactly helped

Not good for a movie star who took on the label misogynist shortly after putting on anti-Semite.

Apparently, Mel Gibson’s dad says the Pope is gay and the Vatican is full of homosexuals. Hutton Gibson, 91, also seems to believe that Freemasons and Jews were trying to use the Second Vatican Council (1962) to take over the Roman Catholic Church.

Well, maybe father and son just have a very close relationship.

Can we put Mel Gibson in context? Well, I can grudgingly go along with this assessment of racist, misogynistic artists throughout history.

And to think that Lethal Weapon 2 had an anti-racism theme on two levels: not just a black detective and a white detective working together; didn’t the movie had an anti-apartheid element, too?

BustedHalo.com interviews Anne Rice about her Catholic faith; video of interview with Anne Rice

Bill McGarvey of BustedHalo.com conducted this interview with Anne Rice.

See more clips from the interview here.

Episcopal Bishop to join the Roman Catholic Church?

In a commentary in yesterday’s Washington Post, Rachel Zoll wrote, “On Monday, conservative Bishop Jeffrey N. Steenson of the Diocese of the Rio Grande in Albuquerque, N.M., plans to announce that he’s resigning and joining the Catholic Church.”

My good friend, The Very Reverend Mark Goodman, recently became Dean of the Cathedral Church of Saint John in downtown Albuquerque. The cathedral is the bishop’s seat. I have not spoken with Mark about the news of the bishop’s decision, but after reading the Zoll commentary, my heart sank.

Assuming Zoll is correct, what will Bishop Steenson’s decision signal to his diocesan flock, the Episcopal Church U.S.A., and to the Anglican Communion? Nothing encouraging in these trying times, to be sure.

This will most likely be a difficult time for Mark and the people in the Diocese of the Rio Grande. Pray for them.

-Colin Burch

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Christian Humanism: A Helpful Explanation

In the current edition of Image, the impeccable quarterly of art, faith, and mystery, editor and publisher Gregory Wolfe suggests that Christians reconsider the value of the Renaissance. In the process, he makes a valuable explanation of central ideas within Christian Humanism. Here are excerpts from Wolfe’s essay:

[I]t has been shown that many of the greatest Renaissance thinkers and artists were already at work trying to find a new synthesis of self and cosmos and bring healing to modern consciousness. The conditions they faced were strikingly like our own.

The rediscovery of pagan culture involved the question of how to approach the dialogue between secular and sacred. As the Christian humanists argued for the importance of learning from pagan culture, they deepened the theology of the Incarnation, attacking the sort of dualism that compartmentalizes experience and denies the unity of truth. “For Erasmus wisdom does not consist in despoiling a humiliated paganism, but in collaborating pedagogically with its highest expression,” writes [Marjorie O’Rourke] Boyle.

The age of exploration began the process of globalization, and while the record of western engagement with other cultures has been checkered at best, the greatest religious order to emerge out of the Renaissance — the Jesuits — offered some of the most humane forms of intercultural exchange on record, including the mission to the Guarani’ in South America, recounted in the film The Mission. The Jesuit missionaries to China dressed as Mandarins and learned both the language and Confucianism before breathing a word about Jesus….

At the risk of some anachronism, I think it can be argued that the struggle between hell-for-leather Reformers and reactionary Catholics during this period can be seen in the light of what have recently been dubbed the “culture wars.” Eventually, these conflicts would erupt into shooting wars that would engulf Europe in an orgy of division and destruction for over a century. What gets lost in dwelling on this conflagration are the achievements of the humanists on both sides of theological divide: the emergence of biblical criticism and philology, the first stirrings of the discipline of history, pleas for tolerance and understanding of Jews, and programs for the education of women.

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