BLESSED ARE THE POOR IN SPIRIT

Here’s how this week’s arts and culture column begins:

During COVID, I’ve been trying to spend more time in prayer. In particular, I’ve tried to devote fifteen minutes, each day for a week, to meditating on a particular Gospel passage.

The first week the Parable of the Rich Young Man [Matthew 19:16-22] bubbled up from my subconscious. The next week: “An evil and unfaithful generation seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it except the sign of Jonah” [Matthew 16:4]. The third week, unmistakably, the verse that rose to mind was “Blessed are the poor in spirit” from the Sermon on the Mount.

You can’t be a by-the-book, neither right nor left, practicing Catholic without running up against some form of exile, in or out of the Church. Secular friends I sense are baffled by my failure to canvass door-to-door trying to drum up Democratic votes. I’ve been accused by the “woke” of being responsible for hundreds of deaths for my failure to accuse myself of white privilege. Catholic Workers feel anyone worth his or her salt should have done prison time. Right-leaning Catholics are baffled by my failure, in spite of my fidelity to the teachings of the Church on marriage and the family, to take up the “pro-life” banner.

READ THE WHOLE PIECE HERE.

14 Replies to “BLESSED ARE THE POOR IN SPIRIT”

  1. Martha Lewis says: Reply

    I don’t think catholic workers are THAT judgmental. ❤️✌🏽

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Ha ha, Martha, that may have been a SLIGHT overgeneralization…present company excluded of course. Eternal thanks for welcoming me to Brittania St way back when!

  2. Patrick Dooling says: Reply

    One of your best, Heather. Ever since I discovered Story of a Soul in grammar school, she’s been a steadfast friend. Will forward this to my friends, the Carmelites of Carmel and Seattle. Love and gratitude.

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Hello dear Father Pat! So glad you esp liked this one! I was able to quote you today during the course of my Writing Workshop: “If it’s too good to be true–that’s how you know it’s God!” Perhaps that should be your epitaph. I gave full attribution of course. On we muddle–Blessed All Saints and All Souls–gateway to Advent and winter…I think we are ready. Love and peace to you and the Carmelites of Carmel–I am reading Ruth Burrows at the moment…

  3. This piece meant the world to me. I don’t know my place within the Catholic church at this moment. I struggle. But I think my struggle is making me a better person because, while I am stuck in the miry clay (Psalm 40), I am sensitive to other’s struggles. My empathy has grown as I deal with my demons and with my confusion. I want to just comfort everyone, singing Mavis Staples’ song “You Are Not Alone” to everyone… I think your delivery of the flower and homemade card to the childhood home of Eddie Van Halen was a comforting thing to do for your friend. That’s the kind of action that “sets our foot upon a rock.” (again, Psalm 40).

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Ha, oh I know being stuck in the miry clay well, David! Fantastic phrase, thanks for calling out Ps 40. The Divine Office has been a huge help/faithful companion these past many years. I’m continually struck by how well they describe both my own psycho-spiritual state and the state of the world at any given time…I know, finding our place in the Church can seem daunting. I just stick close to Jesus and Mary…and they send along amazing people like Mavis Staples…Eddie van Halen if that’s your thing…Townes van Zandt…Beethoven…so glad the piece struck a chord. Thanks for letting me know.

  4. Ron Lewberg says: Reply

    Thanks Heather. I totally get where you’re coming from.

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Thank you, Ron! Seems many of us are rowing the “I can’t do great things, or even small things very well” boat! Good to have company…

  5. Ron Lewberg says: Reply

    Although you seem to do many things very well to the benefit of your readers. Thanks for your daily thoughts and inspirations.

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Thanks, Ron, my pleasure!

  6. Dear Heather,

    “I’m also an extreme introvert. Noise is a scourge. Too much talk drains me….
    “Neither am I an empire builder…
    “For decades I have wept, interceded, and prayed ceaselessly for my family. Not only have they not been converted, to many of them, I’m a poseur and a crank.”

    You just described me! The only reason the Lord would send me this message is so that I can say: “I know how you feel!” And I know that God wants me to pray for you regularly. And I promise to do so from now on!

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Barbara! Please do pray for me and I will hold you in my prayers as well. Prayer is so essential, so deep…accessible to all…something we can do for one another in and out of pandemic times…We non-empire building introverts, unnerved by noise and too much conversation, must stick together! I’m so glad you related…Thanks you.

  7. Dear Heather, I grew up under a political system which envisioned, engineered, and enacted social progress by mass movements. There was no place for the individual. Non-participation on the ground of personality or conscience was not tolerated. It was condemned at best as selfish, worst, as reactionary. Individuality was, is, a thorn to tribes, a pain to manipulation and control. Even silence is suspect. I was an outcast then, and I’m afraid I am again in this land of my adopted country. I’m an artist who is not woke, a Catholic who does not believe in “Catholic art.” But I’m not afraid because it’s in Christianity where my outcast heart found rest, where I’m one of the multitude, but also singular, not by my assertion, but by Christ‘a. If tension gives energy to life, I can’t imagine a better kind of tension to live with. Know that you are not alone Heather. Many treaded the same path and have become saints. I read your column in the Magnificat this morning, in which you introduced me to Julia Greeley who did not choose to be a warrior but to be small. She has given me much needed focus and strength.

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Thank you so much, Lin Chen. Yes, I ponder this paradox/tension–Whoever loses his life for my sake will find himself vs. our secular culture’s virulent hostility to the individual: we’re now called, by both the left and the right, to mouth the same cultic acronym and slogans–but not remotely actually to examine our souls, consciences, and hearts, nor to change OUR lives…to lay down our lives–only to spy upon, rat out, and accuse others. You, who have lived under mass movement idolatry, have experienced this first hand. We’ve mistaken equality for sameness so that, as you say, any kind of departure from the prescribed cultural totalitarian groupthink is viewed with suspicion, alarm, distrust, and finally, hatred. To follow Christ alone, without a tribe or movement or political/religious label of any kind, in fear and trembling, is not for the faint of heart! Of course we need massive guidance, spiritual friendship, conversation, connection, those who will help us discern, the Sacraments, and a life ordered to prayer…saints like Julia Greeley–who was a TOTAL one-of-a-kind individual–are like the widow who gave her last two mites…I, too, was deeply resistant to the “silence is violence” pronouncement. People who try to impose speech on others didn’t want anyone’s actual thoughts–they’re issuing a shrill demand to mouth the cultic slogans. The notion that you might be saying everything there is to be said with your life–and that you have been, for decades–is of course utterly foreign…

      The antidote, for me, is to leave all that aside as much as I can and simply to continue to read, walk, pray, ponder, talk with friends, write, travel a bit, make myself available to others as much as humanly possible (and insofar as I’m needed/wanted, which often isn’t much), given that I’m a major introvert. To avoid argument and direct my energy toward what is beautiful, good, true, paradoxical, mysterious, funny…

      Again, many thanks–may all outcast hearts find a welcome and a home in Christ…

I WELCOME YOUR COMMENTS!