Tuesday, August 31, 2010

My Top 5 (I mean, 6!) Guys.

I had so much fun contemplating my top 5 gals last week, that for the past few nights Ana and I have turned our thoughts to compiling another list: the top 5 men in my formation. This one was much harder, both because Ana decided to start sleeping for seven hours (less quiet time to contemplate) and because there are so many men around. It's raining men! I had to allow for one more, since... who can choose between priests and who can possibly not include the Pope? So, in no particular order, here's what I came up with:

The Top 6 Men in my Formation (minus Super-formators Jesus Christ the King of Glory, Todd, and my father)

1. Fr. Richard John Neuhaus. The late, great Neuhaus was probably the first Catholic intellectual I really got to know well. I started reading his Public Square early on in high school and devoured his books and longer articles in college. His political thought in particular (for example, see American Babylon) helped me to navigate the perils of formative years spent in Washington, DC. His meditations on death--told with reverence and wit--and the irreplaceability of each human life are challenging as well as supremely hopeful and comforting. And finally, the group of people he gathered around himself so as to make their thought available and present to the Church in America has in turn provided endless riches in all things Catholic (and simply Christian). A Chestertonian, into-the-breach-men, sort of love for God and the Church. At his death, I felt I had lost my grandfather.

2. Sheldon Vanauken. This is one odd duck, but A Severe Mercy, which I read at least twice yearly through high school and college, probably formed my understanding of human love and suffering more than any other book (aside from Jane Austen's novels). It is the story of his devotion to the beloved Davy and their conversion to Christianity; it ends with her early death from cancer and his grief. Although he himself was an unfinished work at the time he wrote, his language and poetry taught me what to look for in a man's love: it is only a gateway for divine love.

3. John Paul II. Well, duh. I can't even begin. So, I'll let this piece from the opening of Veritatis Splendor speak for him:

"Called to salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, "the true light that enlightens everyone" (Jn1:9), people become "light in the Lord" and "children of light" (Eph 5:8), and are made holy by "obedience to the truth" (1 Pet 1:22)."

He was (and is) what he preached, and we saw the Truth in him with our very own eyes. Joyful obedience. Fervent devotion. Total gift of self. These were all the phrases he embodied. He is now a dear friend, bringing many of my petitions before the Father for me.

4. C.S. Lewis. He's always been there. From the Narnia books in my childhood, through the Abolition of Man and Surprised By Joy, Until We Have Faces and The Space Trilogy--everything I read of his clarified and articulated the truths of orthodoxy for me. I would say his writings were my first foray into logic and philosophy in high school. He, along with Neuhaus and Chesterton, set the standard for clear thinking tethered happily to reality.

5. Fr. Robert Schlageter, OFM. For twelve years, he was the chaplain at the Catholic University of America and helped transform so many young lives. I listened to his preaching--always gentle--and received his admonishment in Confession for four years. He grew more bold in proclaiming Christ as time wore on--more bold and more loving--and he always encouraged me in pro-life work (even when it was hardly the glamorous or acceptable thing). Urban legend has it that he would find porno VHS's in boys dorm rooms and make the lads smash them up then and there.

6. Fr. Dennis Billy, CSsR. A dear friend of my father's from college, and now a dear friend of the family. We were blessed to have him at our wedding, as well as for a little private Pre-Cana at Mt. St. Alphonsus. He told us, "The world puts a lot of pressure on young married couples. Put your trust in Christ, and He will be your foundation." He was right. He gave me a blessing once right in the middle of a crowded restaurant. A priest for the Lord.

Honorable Mentions (oh, so many!)
~Evelyn Waugh
~GK Chesterton
~Blaise Pascal
~Fyodor Dostoyevsky
~St. Augustine


Melanie B said...

What a great and inspiring list. And hooray for Ana sleeping for seven hours! That's such a relief, I'm sure.

Lydia said...

Lydia from CUA here- I just stumbled across your blog, and really loved the mention of Fr. Bob! I heard the same thing about the porno tapes. Good memories :)