I met my wife three years ago in northern Quebec, and at the time she could barely speak English and I could barely speak French. Now that we are both proficient in each other’s language, one of the great joys of our married life has been to introduce each other to the literature of our respective languages. I will never forget the day she finished “To Kill a Mockingbird.” She fell in love that day with the English language and has explored dozens of authors since, from C.S. Lewis to J.D. Salinger to Margaret Atwood.
Now my wife is thinking of becoming Roman Catholic (she was one of the few Evangelical Baptists in Quebec when I met her). She has asked me for books to read that will give her sense of what the RC religion is all about. This has got me asking myself: what is the “To Kill a Mockingbird” of modern Catholic literature–by which I mean the most gripping, readable book that should be every newcomer’s first introduction to the RC faith? She is presently reading Ste-Therese of Lisieux’s “Story of a Soul,” which, though excellent, is not exactly Catholic 101. She is already a well-read Christian, and has basically exhausted C.S. Lewis.
If the world is one big high school dance, then Christians, and especially Catholics, tend to be the wallflowers, while the rest of the world dances away in the center of the gym, usually not respecting the two basketball distance which universally defines chastity.Okay, I exaggerate: there have been some Catholics who got their groove on while remaining good Catholics: St. Francis of Assisi comes to mind, and so does St. Philip Neri.(The latter was the guy who put the bucket of water over the slightly opened door so that it spilled on the principal when he made his appearance.It was all in good fun, though.)
The wallflowers sit out dance after dance with good reason, mind you.There is not much going on at half court which can be done in good conscience.The kids whispering by the foul line have mainly foul things to say.So I don’t blame the wallflowers, let’s be clear on that.
The problem is, the wallflowers have received a command from another man along the wall—the one whose crucified image in fact hangs on the wall of this gymnasium and who unfortunately has to watch the scene unfold too—a command ordering them to cut in and get people to dance to a different tune.But there is always the problem of what to say to the guy or gal whose dance you are interrupting…