I spend so much time alone, pondering and praying, that I sometimes forget much of the world holds very different views than I do.

The other day, for example, while talking to a secular friend, I (very unwisely) burst forth with an impassioned description of an essay I was working on. “It’s about womanhood, and how really the heart of what is best and most glorious about women is their ability to bring new life into the world! You don’t have to be an actual mother, obviously, but the heart of a mother! I can’t get behind this cold-blooded, aggressive fury that seems to be the overriding emotion of today’s ‘feminists’.”

Silence. Then—“I can’t say I agree with you. I think it’s fantastic that so many women have been elected to office recently.”

“Well, yes, or rather maybe. Because if they come at their jobs with the same adversarial, power-driven tactics they purport to despise in men, we’re just going to have the formerly oppressed as the new oppressors.”

It devolved from there. My friend thought everything was going to be solved by the new class of warrior women, and I could not be moved from my view of the culture as on every level virulently anti-life.

“Can you not see the absolute breakdown of the human family, and how it’s responsible for so much of the poverty and violence and suffering in our culture?” I pleaded.

“Not really. Can you give me some examples?”

“Both parents working 60-hour weeks, teenagers committing suicide, this insane mania for guns. We have all these “rights,” reproductive and otherwise, but everyone is so unhappy! They’re lonely, they’re depressed, they’re anxious, they’re angry.”

“Gay people at least aren’t having children, which is good because we need to keep the population down.”

“The population down! We’ve reached a negative birth rate. People are not only not having kids, they’re not even having sex!”

Again, silence.

“Okay, let’s just stop there,” I said, a touch desperately.

“Well, wait. Do you mean to say you feel the answer is for the whole country to become…’Christian’ again?” chuckled my friend (who, like everyone in my life, knows I’m Catholic). “Cause I don’t see that happening any time soon.”

“Not the country—the world,” I replied in a strangled voice. (Later I wished I’d had the presence of mind to add, “And not again, but for the first time,” a G.K. Chesterton-like witticism that of course evaded me in the moment).

Instead I continued, “Let’s just agree we’re very far apart…But…All I can say is that I live and breathe…Every heartbeat is grounded upon…God made man…the Gospels,” I trailed off.

It would be nice to have a neat, tidy 10-point bullet plan, an unassailable thesis, a an uplifting TED talk with a message able to be commodified, packaged, and marketed—but that’s not how Christianity works, because that’s not how life or reality work.

Plus I can hardly be surprised when others aren’t bowled over by my “faith,” especially as I stand before them with my terrible inconsistencies, faults, tepidity, and general incoherence.

Later, though, I thought about how Christ said in so many words: Don’t worry about what you’re going to say when they haul you before the courtroom. The Holy Spirit will intercede for you and give you the appropriate words [Luke 12:11-12].

The court of public opinion, backed by the threat of ridicule by our peers, is one the follower of Christ stands before, quaking, every day. But upon reflection, my words had been just right, or as right as they could be. I don’t have a put-people-in-their-place apologetics. I have my heart.

This month we celebrate the feast day of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton (1774-1821), the first native-born American to be canonized by the Catholic church. Then, as now, if for slightly different reasons, Catholics were viewed with suspicion and distaste.

“How safe we are,” she observed, “under the shadow of the cross.”


  1. Wasn't able to connect to the link.

  2. I can't connect either but the early thrust of what I've read so far, is well answered by Flannery O'Connor with this.

    The notion of the perfectibility of man came about at the time of the Enlightenment in the 18th century……… The Liberal approach is that man has never fallen, never incurred guilt, and is ultimately perfectible by his own unaided efforts. Therefore, evil in this light is a problem of better housing, sanitation, health, etc. and all mysteries will eventually be cleared up. Judgement is out of place because man is not responsible.

    From Letter to Cecil Dawkins. 8 November 1958.

  3. Here's the link Stephen Sparrow and Jeanne Pergande.

    What a beautiful piece Heather – thank you. It sounds similar to so many of my conversations with my secular friends. I offer many prayers and pray that something in my words plants seeds of life!

  4. Yes a cracker of a piece Heather

  5. Oh, "a cracker of a piece." I like that and agree. Also, the addition of the Flannery O'Connor explanation is, well, perfect. Thank you, Heather. Thank you, Stephen.

  6. Dear Heather,
    I read this last week and then re-read it several times and copied parts of it out in my journal. I think you spoke perfectly. You articulated exactly what I think and feel every day, especially as I work in a place where I am surrounded by strident feminists. So thank you.
    Also, I'm almost done Loaded and am thinking a great deal of the ways I self-debt. Very instructive so thank you again.

    1. Oh grand, Dana, thank you and I'm so glad LOADED is spurring some reflection!

  7. Thanks all and sorry about the faulty link–it's fixed now. Preach the Gospel: if necessary, use words. Whether or not St. Francis actually said that–pretty sound suggestion…And right–if I were capable of perfecting myself–or even of removing an atom of one of my myriad character defects–I would have done so a long time ago. Instead, I come on my knees, begging to be relieved of the bondage of self…


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