For a few years I assumed an attitude of defense and persecution of the Church in an online debate forum. I was, I thought, doing my part for the Church Militant. The only thing I was doing was dogging for a fight. I thirsted for blood; for victory. To be triumphant. What a terrible way to convince people that my faith was working for me. Clearly it wasn't. I said I believed in God and I often prayed, but when it came right down to believing that God was acting in any sort of way in my life, I was an atheist.
"Peter made you feel a sense of his mission as soon as you met him. He did not begin by tearing down, or by painting so intense a picture of misery and injustice that you burned to change the world. Instead, he aroused in you a sense of your own capacities for work, for accomplishment. He made you feel that you and all men had great and generous hearts with which to love God." --Dorothy Day on Peter Maurin
Christmas and Easter. Awesomeness.
Debating the tenets of the Catholic faith is no longer the path for me. I leave that to people smarter or braver than I am. Heated discussion is not what leads me to Christ or to the Church. Time and again what has lead me to Christ has been the Other.
Makoto Fujimura once explained to me that for the Japanese to speak of God as love is to reduce Him to an emotion. But to speak of God as Beauty, well, that is the heart of the matter. Italian priest and founder of Communion and Liberation, Msgr. Luigi Giussani claimed that he was wounded by Beauty--that the gasp we do at a sunset is prompted by God seeking us and piercing our souls.
What attracts me to my faith is not just the beauty and simplicity of Christ. That's too easy--too convenient.That's like appreciating the beauty of art in a museum. It's expected. It's not enough and doesn't require much of me.
What attracts me to the faith is the beauty, simplicity, ugly and complexities of the struggle of human existence. In other words, art in the slums. It's like finding a gem in the unlikeliest of places. This is hard work because it requires a constant search and an open mind. It requires the ability to see truth wherever it appears. This struggle of daily life, not the culture war, is the Church Militant.
I can't do this alone. I don't think any of us can. Other human beings are a mirror for me--to see who I really am. But there are some special people who do more than that--who are attuned to their divine light (Dorothy Day, Flannery O'Connor, St. Francis of Assisi and some of my friends, for example) and challenge me, provoke me to be better.