Betty Duffy

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Story of My Life

For a couple of upcoming projects, I've had to write out my vita, or a few words about myself, my education and my qualifications for writing, to make myself appear worthy of my readers' esteem and time. I've got a handful of publication credits, for which I'm grateful. Otherwise, I've had to dig deep, back to college.

I've been tempted to fudge. Should I include the word "speaker" on my bio, when what I really mean is "Catechist?" "Speaker" implies that people pay you for the opportunity to enlighten them with your words and insights. To my credit, I have been begged to perform my speaking duties, by a desperate DRE.

Even the word, "speaker," implies that I'm some sort of mouthpiece, a wooden box, through which some other agent communicates, which seems the only likely explanation for why one or two people (my husband and children not among them) have actually even thanked me for speaking.

The reality is, I'm just some lady. And somehow, by some freak of nature, probably because no one else wants it, I am occasionally granted this teaching position.

I've been touched, encouraged even (beware), by reading Father Robert Barron's new book, "Catholicism," an intimate and approachable tour through the art, architecture, theology and philosophy of the Catholic Faith. In the opening pages, Barron describes the person of Jesus.

He writes:

"As far as we can determine, Jesus was not formally trained in a rabbinic school, nor was he educated to be a temple priest or a scribe, nor was he a devotee of the Pharisees, the Saducees, or the Essenes--all recognized religious parties with particular convictions, practices, and doctrinal proclivities. He was, if I can use a somewhat anachronistic term, a layman."

I'm not sure why this point has never occurred to me before--probably because Jesus's divinity is one of the first things a Sunday School pupil ever learns, and once you believe that Jesus is God, it's really difficult to grasp the concept that his peers had no such certainty. He didn't wear a "HELLO, My name is God" name tag. He didn't carry around his vita, enumerating the miracles he had performed or the talks he'd given. For people living in the time of Christ, it would have been more reasonable to believe that Christ was crazy.

Once Jesus affirms his divine credentials by dying and rising again, we see that everyone who played a part in the Gospel of Jesus was more or less a layman. They were just a humble group of people whose faith and receptivity to the Holy Spirit were conduits for the Incarnation: Mary's yes to God, each of the apostles answering the call. The Holy Spirit descends upon believers and the Church is born.

Barron's book brought to light that the Incarnation of our entire faith, it's churches, art and literature, is a Mass consent to allow the Spirit to speak and to act throughout the body of Christ. And the Spirit speaks beauty--the elevation of mind provided by sacred architecture and art, the Sacramentals that individuals use as they go about their days, making the ordinary extraordinary.

A few years ago, a friend gave me a Rosary made of semi-precious stone. I keep it in my pocket, and even when I'm not actively praying it, occasionally I reach into my pocket to feel the cold little beads. What other reason could I possibly have to carry around a pocket full of lapis lazuli than the Incarnation of my faith? God became man, and the gold-flecked stone reminds me of God's indwelling in his creations.

In a cultural moment when everyone is a celebrity, from the book-writing, talk-giving Catholic apologist, to the stay-at-home-mother/blogger, it can be hugely comforting to realize that I don't have to be anything, or anyone except for a lover of Christ, a layman, overcome with the beauty of the Incarnation, filled with the spirit.


Lizzie said...

Beautiful - so true. Through that acknowledgement that we are just ourselves - lay men and women - but alive to the Sprit and growing in our ability to say a whole hearted 'yes', we become something extraordinary and beautiful. I love that thought that Jesus was 'just' a layman for thought.
Thanks Betty.

Erin said...

This brings so many questions to mind and, yet, it feels very comforting... humbling.

'becca said...

happy birthday.

JMB said...

Bravo! I like this. Happy birthday too - we are almost birthday buddies. Mine was the 10th.

Nayhee said...

I like this book review/reflection on life and faith all-in-one. Well done!