Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Gifts of Blogging

As I've mentioned here before, I first began this blog as an on-line diary when I was trying to work through my grief after repeated miscarriages, and to generally make sense of the enormous changes in my life that had come crowding in upon each other in a small space of time -- conversion, marriage, motherhood, move to the Bronx.  I invited four friends to read it and, before long, as these things do, its readership snowballed, and the number of readers with whom I had a personal relationship was dwarved by those I did not know.  Then I began getting the sort of reader whose presence is strongly felt on the Catholic interwebs -- the orthodoxy-policing, mote-in-your-eye sort of reader who believes he understands your motives and knows your soul.  At the same time, I acquired readers of great sensitivity, kindness, and thoughtfulness, some of whom, though I've never met them, have become true friends.

Around the time that we left New York, one real-life friend of mine, who I did not know was a reader here, misunderstood something I'd written, and sent me a personal email repudiating me and rejecting my friendship on the grounds that I was dangerous to his spiritual well-being.  He accused me of having no talent for music (though he'd attended some public performances of mine and had subsequently asked me to sing at his father's wake and funeral), marriage (though he'd previously asked me to marry him), or motherhood (I have no idea on what he based this opinion, though he seemed to glean from this blog that I blamed motherhood for the fact that I didn't have a high-powered opera career, something I can't imagine ever having written since it's not something I actually believe).  Moreover, he suggested that, although I seemed to see myself as a "magdalene," I was actually more like one of the Gadarene horde (I'm guessing that he thought I equated myself with the Magdalene because my doctoral dissertation was about the reappearance of Magdalenian imagery in the visual culture of mid-nineteenth-century Britain, in paintings that also used music symbolism, and because I used the email address newmagda1en - at -, a reference to an 1873 novel by Wilkie Collins, The New Magdalen, which was one of the sources for my dissertation research).  I believe that this same friend had some of his acquaintances leave remarks in the combox making similar arguments.  I cried over this for months, and went to confession about it seven or eight times.  My first confession after the fact was at a monastery near my new city, where the priest suggested that I stop writing my blog because it might be the fruit of vanity.  I thought about that, but decided that he was wrong.  For not only is this blog anonymous; since it became public, early on, I have only hoped and prayed that it would be a means of some solace or consolation to those who, like me, are penitents, and who, like me, mourn and struggle on our way to Christ, Whom we nevertheless love above all else.  Besides, this blog is about the mote -- or rather the beam -- in my own eye.

In the past day, I have seen a remarkable work come about through the agency of this blog that I can only attribute to the Holy Spirit.  One of the wonderful friends I've made here, whom I've never met in person, responded to my request for prayers for my friend N., the homeless, undocumented immigrant who lives in a shelter in Queens with her four-year-old, by sending me a sizable check to give to her.  This check is going to be converted to a money order for N. and sent to her immediately.  I am overwhelmed with gratitude, and so happy to note once again that God makes His will known using even the frailest of instruments -- us sinful men, and the etheric clouds through which we transmit our fleeting thoughts.


Seraphic Spouse said...

Followed a link from Berenike at "Laodicea"! Beautifully written, and I can attest to feeling that the Holy Spirit was using my blogs (and the blog of the man I eventually married) to bring about His will.

Blogging in itself, done in charity, is a great good and marvellous new gift of God.

Don't let the mote-in-your-eye, every-man-his-local-Inquisition readers get to you!

Emily J. said...

Glad you persisted. What a great story of generosity.

Pentimento said...

Thank you, Seraphic, and welcome here.

Actually, Emily, the benefactor is known to you through our other blog, but she might not want to be named.

BettyDuffy said...

It's refreshing to hear (both you and Seraphic) give such positive testimony about blogging. I don't know why it is that if I really enjoy something, my default position is that it must be bad for me. So I go back and forth between blaming it for all the ills in my life and trying to see the hand of God in it. But I think, like anything, man can use it for good or ill, and when he chooses good, God blesses it abundantly. Thanks for sharing this.

Pentimento said...

I agree, B, it's like anything else. It can be -- and certainly is being, all around us -- used for both good and bad ends. I'd like to say there was a magic formula; I don't know if I can say with sny certainty that everything we consecrate to God is going to bear such obvious fruit, and I'm inclined to say probably not, But I am sure that the activities we consecrate to God always do bear fruit in ways we will never see in this life.

Enbrethiliel said...


Pentimento, your prayers have not been said in vain. I know that reading your 'blog has been very helpful to me!

Writers get misunderstood all the time, though not always as unfairly and thoroughly as you seem to have been misunderstood by your friend. I know my own reaction to being taken the wrong way is to make myself even more obscure (and possibly deliberately offensive)--but I don't think you've ever played a game like that with your readers.

The main reason I'm closing Sancta Sanctis down is that I no longer feel about 'blogging the way you do. That is, I've stopped hoping that people who read what I write will grow closer to God (or even worrying that they will drift away from God). I've fallen squarely on the "blogging as entertainment" side of the axis, though I have yet to determine which quadrant I'm actually in. I don't think I can, in good conscience, continue to be a Catholic 'blogger.

Which is to say that I think that, between the two of us, you are clearly trying to build up the Church by your 'blogging.

Pentimento said...

Enbrethliel, I fear you give me too much credit and yourself too little. My only reason for blogging is the hope that someone might receive a hint of God's mercy, or be reminded of the beauty of the created world (as a dim reflection of His beauty) from something I've written, and might therefore take heart. If there's anything I truly lack the talent for, it's to "build up the Church," as it were.

But if any of us hopes to be a vessel of God's grace for others, we have to know we're going to receive that grace, too, which is an added motivation for sharing our thoughts in this way.

Sancta Sanctis is beautifully written, full of deep insight, erudite, and also very funny. I will miss it. You remember Betty's recent post on blogging as apostolate, and I know we've all discussed these things before. You have a great deal to offer as a writer and a thinker, E, and I will miss finding it on the S.S. platform, but hope to encounter it elsewhere.

Kyle R. Cupp said...

I'm glad you're in the 'sphere, Pentimento.

Pentimento said...

Thank you, Kyle - I feel the same way about you.

Enbrethiliel said...


Thanks for your kind words about my 'blogging, Pentimento. There are times when I wonder whether my main reason for 'blogging is that I enjoy the sound of my own voice so much.

On the other hand, I do think that anything good Sancta Sanctis has managed to do is grace--because that unselfish ideal of "doing good" is so far from either my intentions when I begin a post or my ability to control who reads my output and understands what I'm trying to say (or even both!).

At the same time, since I can't really see the effect my 'blogging has on my readers, I tend to think that Sancta Sanctis is primarily for my own sanctification. Not that 'blogging is a sure path to holiness, but in my case (and I'm sure, in yours as well), it's such an extension of my religious beliefs that writing my posts can be a strict spiritual exercise. That hasn't been the case for a while, though, and I wonder whether I should go back to writing in a private journal, at least when it comes to religious matters.

Pentimento said...

I wonder the same thing - if I should just do a pen-and-paper journal instead of this. But I do have a nagging wish to tell other people about the things that matter the most to me, chiefly mercy, beauty, music, and memory . . .

Also, E, you have the added burden of not *really* having an anonymous blog.

Enbrethiliel said...


Oh, I know all about those nagging wishes! It's part and parcel of being a writer, I think, and since I'm not going offline completely, my own wishes are clearly as strong as they ever were.

There is much about Shredded Cheddar that is just "clanging cymbals" at the moment, but I've been giving much thought, over the past few weeks, to what I want to do with it--and inevitably enough, the answer came during the Gospel reading at one Mass. It was the story of the multiplication of the loaves, which concludes with the image of twelve baskets full of leftovers. Then I realised that that is what Shredded Cheddar should be: a basket of what is left over from everything I have ever received from God.

Obviously, one nagging wish I had hoped to suppress by leaving the Catholic 'blogosphere refuses to be denied. I don't know how I feel about that. =S

Amy said...

Hello! I am one of your lurkers. I love this blog. The blogosphere can facilitate some amazing things - I've seen it and been lucky to be part of it a time or two.

You should be blogging. I took a class at Franciscan University taught by a priest who was also a lawyer. Some of the students were saying they would never go to law school because lawyers, the system, etc. is all corrupt and awful and they couldn't be a part of it. Father said - that's exactly why you should go. Go! We need lawyers like you!

I think that about blogging. I've only recently discovered Catholic bloggers that I connected with and who have been able to help me better understand my own journey.

We need these voices out here. And the Pope just said go forth and blog, right? (hee hee)

Pentimento said...

I'm so glad you're here, Amy! Thank you for your kind words.