July 22, 2007

"slapped him clean out of his seat..."

From The Church and the Culture War, by Joyce Little, 1995...

... I have said so much about what is not a Catholic sentence that I think it only fair, in conclusion, to give an example of a sentence that is truly Catholic. And I am going to turn to a real expert on the subject, Walker Percy. He was a Catholic who knew what the Catholic faith is. He was a novelist who knew what words are all about. He was a medical doctor by education and thus knew all about diseases and how to recognize them in their symptoms. And he was an astute physician of our age, having diagnosed the "modern sickness" as "the disease of abstraction".

Happily, he also contributed to the "Writing Catholic" article and has supplied us therein with not just one but two truly Catholic sentences. The major point of his contribution is that the Catholic faith better serves the novelist than does any other religion or philosophy, because of its recognition that man is a pilgrim journeying through a world that is both sacrament and mystery rather than an ego absorbed with itself in a world of abstractions and illusions. What, concretely, does this mean? Percy tells us what it means: ''Show me a lapsed Catholic who writes a good novel about being a young Communist at Columbia and I'll show you a novelist who owes more to Sister Gertrude at Sacred Heart in Brooklyn, who slapped him clean out of his seat for disrespect to the Eucharist, than he owes to all of Marxist dialect."

Now there is a Catholic sentence—direct, concrete, specific, vigorous, and colorful. And every one of us, even those of us who have never been to Brooklyn or indeed have never been in Catholic schools, know all about Sacred Heart and Sister Gertrude and just what she is capable of meting out when her high standards of respect for the Eucharist are violated. And we all know just as well how deeply indebted we are to her today for whatever reverence we have been able to retain for the Eucharist through the many intervening and difficult years in which we have had to endure that abstractive process known as "liturgical renewal".

As for the second sentence. Walker Percy tells us: "In the end, 10 boring Hail Marys are worth more to the novelist than 10 hours of Joseph Campbell on TV." For those of you who know anything about the phenomenon of Joseph Campbell, you will recognize that to be truly a Catholic sentence....

"Random Thoughts Sundays"250

Posted by John Weidner at July 22, 2007 7:50 AM
Weblog by John Weidner