Some months back, at the height of Presidential election season, I wrote a post castigating Mark Shea for sneering and caricaturing his opponents in debate. I find his habitual tone so off-putting that I practically never read his articles, even though they're often linked by mutual friends at facebook. I read a few lines of his critique of Lila Rose and then clicked away in annoyance. Impossible to engage someone simultaneously that obtuse and that self-satisfied.
Today, I have a very different impression of the man—one that endears him to me and makes me grateful that such as he lives and breaths in the Catholic blogosphere.
He has penned a penitent post of rare and precious humility. I don't believe I've ever seen its like. Let it serve as a witness: The man is a true Christian. He means it. He means to walk the walk, not just preach it to others. Let it serve as an example, too, of a fundamental truth in interpersonal relations: Acknowledging our faults and repenting them sincerely opens the door to love and communion. It is the very opposite of the self-assurance that repels.
Here's another thing about persons and wrongdoing: if we want to undo the damage we've caused by our bad actions and inactions—we have to take on pain. There's no way out but through. When I read Mark's post, that's among the things I'm thinking. He saw the pain wave coming, and rather than throwing up the defenses articulate minds are so good at devising for themselves, he breasted it, letting it wash over him and toss him around, trusting himself to God's infinite mercy. Which isn't easy.
As someone who's more than once had to undergo bitter humiliations and disillusionments myself, I am sympathizing profoundly with the pain and confusion he must be in today, while at the same time, I'm cheering him on: "Hoorah! Good for you! You'll get through it! And you'll be much nicer afterwards!" And then I'm thinking with a light and happy heart: "Another victory for the Lamb." These are little foretastes of heaven.
I often think of Eustace and the Lion at the pool in the Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Eustace deperately and hopelessly trying to scratch off his dragon skin, until the Lion said, "Shall I do it?" and held out a terrible claw.
Real mercies hurt.