Betty Duffy

Thursday, October 27, 2011

My column at Patheos this week

Blue moods and apocalyptic might want a drink for this one.


Anne said...

Love your column, especially the part about the pressure to be happy all the time and not being free to authentically discuss your family squabbles, etc. That's certainly my experience.

Lizzie said...

Now I'm wondering whether I should comment here or at Patheos?!
The Holy Spirit sure always uses you to speak right to my heart. The gentle voice of God has become a sledgehammer over the last week. That quote from Matthew about taking up your cross has been given to me about 4 different times just this week.
I think God is trying to tell me something. I know what it is but I still don't really want to hear it as it hurts...!
Thank you for the encouragement - yes, we don't have to be happy but we can claim the joy and peace even when we don't 'feel' it.
I love that phrase about figuring out "how to get through a normal Wednesday afternoon." If you work it out, can you let me know?!

dmv said...

It's interesting to me that people feel this way, mainly because it's so contrary to my own experience. I mean, I've never felt any pressure to be happy. Is this pressure generated internally or externally? Is it (1) that people feel like they really Should be happy and joyful all the time, or is it (2) that people feel like they're expected to be that way?

I totally almost just utterly spammed your comments and caught myself babbling. Count yourselves lucky. Instead, I'll spam the comments in a different, probably infinitely more interesting way: five quotes which I think go, in different ways, to some of the issues you raised in your Patheos piece. All from Simone Weil's astonishingly beautiful Gravity and Grace (page numbers from the Routledge Classics edition, 2002, translated by Emma Crawford and Mario von der Ruhr). The first two are from the section entitled "Detachment," the remaining three from "Decreation."

To forgive debts. To accept the past without asking for future compensation. To stop time at the present instant. This is also the acceptance of death. ‘He emptied himself of his divinity.’ To empty ourselves of the world. To take the form of a slave. To reduce ourselves to the point we occupy in space and time—-that is to say, to nothing. To strip ourselves of the imaginary royalty of the world. Absolute solitude. Then we possess the truth of the world. (p. 12)

Each time that we say ‘Thy will be done’ we should have in mind all possible misfortunes added together. (p. 15)

Renunciation. Imitation of God’s renunciation in creation. In a sense God renounces being everything. We should renounce being something. That is our only good. (p. 33)

The extreme difficulty which I often experience in carrying out the slightest action is a favour granted to me. For thus, by ordinary actions and without attracting attention, I can cut some of the roots of the tree. However indifferent we may be to the opinion of others, extraordinary actions contain a stimulus which cannot be separated from them. This stimulus is quite absent from ordinary actions. To find extraordinary difficulty in doing an ordinary action is a favour which calls for gratitude. We must not ask for the removal of such a difficulty: we must beg for grace to make good use of it. In general we must not wish for the disappearance of any of our troubles, but grace to transform them. (p. 35)

God could create only by hiding himself. Otherwise there would be nothing but himself. Holiness should then be hidden too, even from consciousness in a certain measure. And it should be hidden in the world. (p. 38)

BettyDuffy said...

DMV, thanks for the quotes. Loved them.

Where does this idea that we should be happy come from? A few hypotheses:

1. So many pop Christian stories end happily on a note of conversion. Much like pop culture romances end happily ever after in love. We know the hard work comes later, but that doesn't make a good story, does it? Or at least it makes for more challenging reading.
2. Social media is weird. Anyone who blogs is writing their autobiography, piecemeal, a bit each day, and no one wants to implicate their children or family members or even themselves in public conflicts while they are all still very much alive. So they give the impression to their readers that the conflicts just don't exist.
3. We live in a world in which choices a Catholic would make (Primarily, having a large family) are considered very strange lifestyle choices, counter-cultural choices, and I think that in order to evangelize, we feel a need to put a pretty face on our big families, even when things aren't pretty at home. Not saying people should go around complaining about their problems all the time, but should a mother of a large family mention the difficulty of raising a large brood, she will probably receive a lecture on birth control.
4. Occasionally people, attempting to convert others, appeal to pride and vanity, etc. saying things like, "Imagine influential (happy, peaceful, fill in blank) so and so would be if they just accepted the Lord..." The prosperity gospel may occur more often in protestant circles, but I've heard it in Catholic ones too.

Just a few thoughts, but I could go on...

dmv said...

Apropos of your (4), I almost mentioned the "Gospel of Prosperity," but couldn't bring myself to do it because the concept makes me kind of sad. Sad concept is sad.

As for your (3), let's assume what you say is right. I'm still puzzled over why we would need to put a pretty face on the unique problems that our uniquely Catholic choices generate. You suggest that maybe people would feel that need if they're trying to be good witnesses or evangelists (broadly construed) for the Church. But to me, that sounds more like trying to sell our product than trying to deliver the good news (a.k.a. the Truth). Evangelization and witness can't be marketing. So while your answer sounds plausible, I'm still a little iffy on that one.

As for your (1), I have to put a plug in for my all-time-favorite novel: Gabriel Garcia Marquez's Love in the Time of Cholera, a book which has more wisdom about the manifold varieties of human (and therefore flawed) love than perhaps any other non-divinely-inspired book I've ever read.

BettyDuffy said...

I cannot argue with you, because I agree. I'm hypothesizing about the impulse to project a happy image, or to expect happiness even when the teachings of our faith are very straightforward that having fun is not a natural outcome of accepting Jesus. I agree that you cannot market Christianity without diluting it, and Catholicism is even more resistant to PR.

Here are a couple posts I wrote a while back that address these issues:

On publishing and protecting the privacy of family members:

On not tampering with the truth about our lives in order to portray a larger Truth in our writing:

notrelatedtoted said...

Right on, Mrs. Duffy.

JMB said...

The older I get, the more I realize that other people are complete mysteries to me. What people portray in public, especially in blogs about family life, can be quite different from the reality behind closed doors. I don't know why I still get surprised when I learn that one of my friends or relatives is getting divorced. "But they LOOKED so happy in their Christmas card! Everyone was wearing white polo shirts sitting on the beach!"

Life is hard and people suffer in so many little and big ways, and a lot of is hidden from the outside. My brother is a priest and he is rarely shocked by anything that people do or say.