A while ago the excellent Katie G sent me a book called The 4 Signs Of A Dynamic Catholic and would you believe I actually read it (okay, most of it) and ooooh, I thought it was pretty good. It was not a book I would have ever picked up, but this Extremely Average Catholic thought it was challenging and thought provoking and interesting and definitely inspired me to become a DYNAMIC Catholic. Or, at least, a thinking-about-possibly-being-dynamic Catholic.
I should tell you that the 4 signs are (ahem) PRAYER, STUDY, GENEROSITY, and EVANGELIZATION. Catholics who pursue those 4 things in their daily life are the Dynamic ones, and we should all aim to be so awesome. Etc.
This is where I tell you I didn't read the WHOLE book. I got about halfway through the Generosity section, which, good thing, because Evangelization was coming next and NOOOOOO THANK YOU. (I will never be TRULY dynamic, apparently. Ah well.)
SO ANYWAY. The PRAYER and STUDY sections were challenging. I thought I had it made on the PRAYER section, seeing as how that's like the one part of being Churchy that I particularly dig, but dudes. Dynamic Catholic prayer is for real. It's finding a time every day to be quiet with God, to read the Bible, to ponder, to say the Rosary, and however Dynamic Catholics are praying, they tend to pray the same way, every time. Like a HABIT. So here I am thinking I got this one covered, except oops, no, ranting at God in your car or sobbing to him in the shower or muttering to him while you fold laundry isn't quite the type of prayer noted in this book, and might not exactly count, even if I do it every single day (which I do, especially the one in the car.) Fine. I'll consider this Daily Habit Of Same-ish Prayer At The Same-ish Time. Moving on.
To STUDY! Oh, I had no assumptions about this one. I may have forty-three WWII nonfiction books on my nightstand, but I'm not much of a Bible reader and my foray into Brilliant Catholic Thinkers or even Notable Catholic Blogs has been, well, rather shallow. I TRIED to read Augustine? How many times have I used the phrase "poorly catechized" on this website? I "came of age" in my faith whilst earlobe deep in Non-Denominational Protestant Culture, for pete's sake. But as I read this chapter I began to realize that the Awesome Catholics I know (all Dynamic, obvs) WERE the people who KNEW stuff. They were especially the people who KNEW stuff without showing off that they knew it, if that makes sense. The wisdom they share is informed, thick, serious, weighted. They've thought a lot, they've read a lot, they've STUDIED. If they didn't know the answer to something, they looked it up. If there was something in church teaching with which they were struggling, they read about it. I do like to read and think, heh, so I think there's hope for me here, but it was unhappily clear that I have very far to go.
GENEROSITY: Phillip and I do our part, right? We can always give more. We would LIKE to give more! We would be REALLY EXCELLENT RICH PEOPLE, do you hear that God?!
Okay, all of that was Background Info before I tell you about where I went last night, which was a lecture at the University of Washington, hosted by the Polish Studies Committee. (HEE. I mean, five seconds in the room we (I dragged Katie with me, poor Katie) and I was terribly happy with my complete uninvolvement with academia. That is a tweedy inside jokey crowd right there.) There'd been a notice in my church bulletin that a longtime parishioner and longtime professor of history at UW (THE SAME PERSON!) was giving a lecture on JPII's first visit to Poland and what the Communists thought about it. Totally up my alley. Katie was a history major and this professor was, coincidentally, one of her favorites, and she came with.
I am not sure I could tell you exactly what I learned in this lecture, though I'm sure I learned something. JPII was wily and clever, the Communists were blockheads, everyone thought things were mostly okay, some of the Communist papers were unintentionally hilarious. You know. Nothing surprising. What was surprising to me is how much I don't remember, because I ordinarily really LOVE listening to smart people talk about stuff and I honestly can't think of one thing I'm dying to talk to my dad about (my usual reaction!) after hearing that lecture.
THAT SAID. The man who gave it was... well, sometimes, do you meet someone or experience something or have a conversation where you're like, "Oh. That was God showing/giving/teaching me something" ? During the lecture I was wildly more interested in the professor than his subject. He was just so... DYNAMIC. He was clearly and utterly in love with his field of study. (He's writing a book on JPII's visits to Poland.) He was clearly and utterly thrilled to be telling us all about it. He EXUDED JOY in a way you don't typically see or feel. He was naturally nerdily exuberant, yes (he smacked his microphone with his hands several times because of all the gesticulating), but there was something else. At the end I felt that I would say all that joy came from getting to know this pope in such a detailed, intimate, studious manner. I know! STUDY! I haven't thought of the 4 Signs book in forever, but it came railing into my mind last night as we left the lecture hall. That professor HAD IT. I felt certain that he was a generous man, I had no doubt he had a prayer life. And OH clearly he STUDIED. As for evangelization, how could you not want to know more about the sort of man who exuded this kind of joy? Not be curious about where it came from?
Last night I was reminded that Catholics are thinkers. Catholics learn. Catholics have a rich history and tradition of serious thought. Catholic writers have a depth. It was a gift to me last night, to also see, in that depth, the joy of the Lord practically busting out of a suit jacket and stuffy tie, a bright face, a voice that spoke with nerdy, delighted awe of one of the great men of the Church.