Thursday, October 25, 2007

Letters

I'm having a long-running e-mail conversation with one of the Inquirers. He has an exacting mind, having been in military intelligence, and now is a trial lawyer. Whenever I receive a question from him, there's always a sense of exhilaration and trepidation at the same time. One of the things that I'm learning to exercise is the "listening" part to the questions. There's listening...hearing or reading the sequence of words and finding a corresponding answer from the knowledge base...and then there's perceiving what the real question is. This is where relying on and listening to the Holy Spirit comes in. Invariably, I'll ask him a question to make him clarify what he's asking. Which leads to more questions and eventually, we'll arrive at the heart of his question. I think he enjoys that I always answer him with a question and not a direct answer. I don't think he's trying to bait me because he's too intent on learning the Catholic faith.

For example, the "Why-does-God-allow-evil-to-exist" question which I thought he threw out in a casual manner and which I challenged him on, two exchanges later ended at "What's the real meaning of my life? Where am I going?" I answered him with the theology of the Mass. It was an unexpected answer for him, but one he cogitated over.

During class times, he'll surprise me when, in the usual round-table discussions, he'll answer a classmate's question with something that we had discussed in the e-mail letters, all the while looking me straight in the eyes with that trial-lawyer intensity making sure that what he was saying was on the right path. I'll answer him with a slight smile, then he'll lean back into his chair, put his steepled forefingers to his lips, and continue to stare at me. It's as though he's trying to will all that I know out of me. Most disconcerting at the beginning, but now it just amuses me.

Whenever he misses class, he'll make arrangements to make up that session, not wanting to miss anything, not even one crumb of class material. I'm humbled by his focus. His wife is a skeptic and so our conversations have changed to how to live the Catholic life with a spouse who doesn't believe. It's a subtle change, but a revolutionary one, from the casual inquirer to his Yes. On the other hand, there's nothing casual about him. The nonchalance is an opening gambit, putting out the feelers, so to speak.

Now, he has questions about St. Thomas More, discerning whether to ask him to be his patron saint. And he also wants to put his children in CCD. Last year, I may have greeted that with hesitation, but our new CCD director has changed focus with a return to the Baltimore Catechism.

I'm glad I said Yes to this job.

3 comments:

frival said...

Wow Argent, that's a powerful story. I confess in a way I'd like to be confronted with someone so involved in his conversion - so very often we find people who seem very detached from the real depth of the meaning of what they are doing. I'd love to see that kind of intensity. Then again, the staring thing might knock me off kilter too. :)

Argent said...

He sat across from me yesterday with that same characteristic stare. I try hard not to let it rattle me because that's probably what he looks like in court.

frival said...

The public speaking class suggestion to picture the person in various types of dress probably wouldn't fly here either - I don't think suddenly bursting out in laughter is a standard pedagogical technique. You have yourself one very good case here - he sounds like someone who could come to do great things for the Church. He makes me think of Cardinal Newman in some ways. I still say, though, give me intensity over lackluster attention any day!