Celebrity news usually holds very little interest for me. I tend to tune out when my wife or daughter start waxing enthusiastically about friends, their loves, their taste in saints or pop idols. I want to hear about my wife’s and daughter’s feelings. Not their friends or fandoms. So when news broke last week that Anne Rice, vampire author, was bailing on Christianity (or was it just jettisoning Catholic hierarchical foofery?) I paid little attention. After all, when my brother tells me about being a “recovering Catholic,” I nod and commiserate. But I don’t make a point of pulling out my lasso. He’s perfectly capable of following his wife and kids to church whenever he gets the inspiration.
Brian McLaren has one of the more sensible takes on it. I’m not quite sure he’s thinking the same thing I am. But the question for me is rather akin to Linus Van Pelt’s, “I love mankind. It’s the people I can’t stand.” Can I channel with with Ms. Rice? I love God and religion. It’s the hierarchy that tests and tries my faith.
My own roadblock on the story was St Blog’s coverage of the event. Here and here and here. If only Ms. Rice read the right pastoral letter, studied the right papal document, talked to the right priest. Or blogger. It’s all an intellectual exercise for too many Catholics. Read the right stuff, think the right thoughts, hang with the right people–and it will all be obviously easy. Is it like the Fulton Sheen route to celebrity Catholicism: talk to the right high profile Catholic and you’re in for life. (Like the mafia?) And we Catholics would have our token liberal “convert.” Somebody to throw up there with Newt and some of the TOB guys.
My own conversion experience wasn’t very intellectual, even for the young intellectual I was at age ten. I was inspired by music. I noted saints in windows. A good friend took me under his shoulder. The doorway to the faith for me was art and friendship. Or even … community.
When I married my wife, I wasn’t analyzing the liturgy of the Marriage Rite. I didn’t consider her financial worth, her genetic makeup, or analyze the decision from a rational point of view. Two people fell in love. They agreed to marry. They were vaguely aware that good times as well as troubles were ahead. But it was as sacramental an experience as a rational Catholic, freshly confessed, going to Communion.
So yes, certainly, some Catholics are inspired by the intellect. They analyze the pains of hell and judge that a safe course might be to navigate close to, if not on, the Barque of Peter. Or they find a wonderful confirmation in their head space. Seems to be it’s at least as valid a route as the heart or the gut. Problem is, that a catholic church has to appeal across the board on all these levels. If we were solely a Church of intellectuals, where would be good ol’ go-with-the-gut Peter? Or the foolishness of Francis way back at Assisi?
I don’t know Ms Rice, nor did I catch much of her NPM interview tonight. I suspect that she, like some Catholics, finds the intellectual side of Catholicism lacking in some way compared to other aspects. I have to confess I sure do.