I am attending and participating in the Canadian Chapter of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars' annual conference at OLSWA this weekend. It began last night on a fantastic and unorthodox note with a story, yes, a fictional story, presented by a Madonna House priest, Fr. Robert Pelton. The story was called the Sieve and the Staff, I believe. It was told in the style of the Desert Father literature, of which I am quite familiar, and so it immediately had a great appeal for me. I could see how deeply inspired he was by that tradition. I just want to say a few things.
First, about the story. It may be coming out in a future issue of the Fellowship's journal - so pick up a copy to read it. The part that affected me most was its teaching about the - perhaps necessary - role that desolation, hitting spiritual rock bottom, has not only in the spiritual life, but I would add, in evangelization too. I think Fr. Pelton wanted to say this too, a point I hope the audience won't miss: you cannot evangelize, that is to say, actually do God's work otherwise. I think this is what the Holy Father would have us know. Evangelization is too often construed as an idea-war. Really, it is a war played out in the heart, between God (love) and the devil (pride). Fr. Pelton gets the Desert Fathers. For instance, those who would dismiss Evagrius Ponticus because of his Origenism, miss the point that he is a great spiritual guide who has so much to teach us about living the love of God. Fr. Pelton's story proves how much he gets the reality of the interior life.
Have you hit rock bottom? I think I have, perhaps, perhaps once, perhaps twice. I'm not sure. I will have to pray some more about this. The thing is, it can either save you or damn you, but - as in the story - it is God's gift, but you might not know it.
Secondly, and lastly, about Catholic Culture. It was amazing to see Catholic Culture come alive in the middle of the woods (i.e. Barry's Bay) in this manner. The Desert Fathers, for as much as they rejected culture, instantiate it, and it was re-presented here last night. What is Catholic Culture? Read Fr. Pelton's story and you will see it.