Why Catholic Fiction? by Shannon Claire Morelli
“Why are you here today?” asked my pastor, Father Damian. “What made you leave your comfortable home and come to church when you could have just not bothered?” Several reasons started swirling in my head that recent Sunday morning –including the soaring architecture, superb choir, magnificent organ – but then Father was already “taking a stab” at the answer: “To make others aware of God’s profound love for them.” Something inside me zinged. Direct hit, Father!
Why be among the minority of Catholic Americans who remain faithful? Why drag my kids along with me? As a writer, why choose to focus on Catholic fiction, a very marginalized field? Because, I “get it” and I want others to, as well.
The week rolls on and I see glimpses of heaven. Spreading mulch in my garden, I’m eye-level with infinitesimal buds and have songbirds for company. Browsing in the produce section of my grocery store, I’m staggered by shapes, colors, and varieties. Visiting the library, I wander as if dreaming and emerge with a ransom to pile on my nightstand. Listening to music, time is punctuated by Mozart, Brahms, and Chopin.
To be Catholic means to recognize God’s goodness all around us. I try to reflect His beauty and magnify His love in each encounter with fellow travelers; every time I smile, listen, comfort, calm, reach forward and hug, I’m inviting another person to encounter Christ. If God has planted the desire to write deep within us, why not let the outpouring of words be a way to point to The Way?
How can a make-believe story lead others to The Truth? Because I stand firm with the words of author Patrick Madrid: “I am a disciple of Jesus. I must go till He comes, give until I drop, speak out until all know, and work until He stops me.”
As always, my writing time this week is stolen in tiny segments, sandwiched in-between living moments. The story dips and swirls and stagnates. Fog-like mist shrouds my brain as the plot ferments unseen. Whole paragraphs and dialogue suddenly emerge and demand release. Can the effort eventually strengthen one despondent soul who feels there’s not much left to live for? It’s worth striving to communicate The Life.
I’ve been there, of course, walking the hospital corridor, witnessing the casket being lowered, crying into my pillow at night. We all have been there. Most would agree that this life flees quickly and that pain mixes with joy, but to be Catholic means knowing that – however leaden our hearts may feel –there are arms encircling us, the same holy arms that opened for us on the cross. Catholic fiction can reflect real situations and help spread hope.
The days have slid past, the week has cycled around again to Sunday. In the wooden pew, my kids press against me, swing their legs, look at familiar prayer books as we wait for Mass to begin. I crane my head to behold the majestic ceiling as the choir assembles, and the organ murmurs, caught in anticipation of the Eucharist.
I am in this church because of the generations of Catholics that came before me: Grandparents that modeled behavior and values; parents that took me to Mass Sunday after Sunday; workers who built the stone edifice. But the Church is also in me. Eventually, my children start to squirm, as I used to do, and whisper the inevitable question, “How much longer?” Hopefully, some day they’ll “get it” and keep the faith and pass it on. That legacy is greater than any earthly treasure I could leave them.
“We gather,” says Father Damian, “but we don’t stay here. We are the Church. We go out into the world to make others aware of God’s profound love for them.”
Sounds like a really great beginning for my next Catholic novel.
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