I launched this blog last September with only the vaguest notion of what its contents would likely consist of. Yet, in the course of looking back on what I have written here over the past 10 months, I have made a rather horrifying discovery.
Thulcandra is, to a painfully obvious degree, the blog of a Catholic convert.
Frankly, I shouldn’t be surprised by this. Faith, for better or worse, is a topic for study as well as a way of life; and I have an unfortunate tendency to focus on the former at the expense of the latter. This is partly the result of fear and human weakness—it’s much easier for me to think about religion as a concept than to actually approach the Divine face-to-face—but I can also lay part of the blame on how my mind works (and has worked for as long as I can remember): thoughts tend to bounce around in there and drive me crazy until I make them concrete, either in a spoken conversation or on paper. Having been conceived a mere five months after I entered the Church, I would be slightly skeptical about the authenticity of Thulcandra‘s authorship if it hadn’t become a sand trap for my ongoing musings about Christianity.
Following the example of my favorite writers in the field, I have tried to make my observations personal rather than abstract, propositional rather than polemical. Still, without a doubt, this site fits the mold of a convert blog almost perfectly. Focusing intently on theology and praxis and aesthetics of a specifically Catholic nature, I’ve tended to neglect anything even remotely outside the immediate sphere of religion.
From a certain point of view, there’s nothing wrong with this. There are many Catholic blogs out there, quite of few of them worth more than a passing glance. A web journal is something of a work in progress and usually works best when its author stays on topic; there’s a reason why books on the Napoleonic wars don’t have chapters devoted to horticultural practices in 13th-century Japan.
At the same time, if one is truly a Christian, then nothing that one writes can be totally secular or divorced from faith. If there is anything I have learned from my struggles with Christianity over the majority of my life (a story which, to the joy of some of my readers and the consternation of others, I will perhaps one day recount), it’s that religion cannot be compartmentalized and remain meaningful. There can be no division of worlds within ourselves: the Christian and secular selves, with the former attending Mass and praying the rosary before bed and the latter acting independently, in our careers or political leanings or wherever. Either we are Christian or we are not; either we live as Christians or we don’t. There can be no middle ground, for to be on the middle ground is to be lukewarm and thus to be rejected—figuratively speaking, to be spit out—by God at the Judgment.
That’s the first thing I’ve learned about faith in the relatively short time I’ve been alive. The second thing I’ve learned is quite different and balances out the first: although one’s religious inclinations must permeate every aspect of his life and being, one doesn’t necessarily need to spend every moment concentrating on the content of his faith in a conscious way.
Belief is indeed central to being a Christian; if we act outside of faith in Christ, we act in vain. Yet believing is not simply an act of intellectual assent. Faith is as much a matter of rosary beads clicking between our fingers and our knees aching during the consecration as it is about doing intellectual backflips—much more so, if we’re lucky.
Moreover, it’s something that moves beyond our life in the local parish into the day-to-day. Wherever we go, whatever we do, our faith must be apparent. This transcends the actions that cultural anthropologists have come to define as religious; indeed, any competent cultural anthropologist would recognize that, in the majority of cultures that have existed throughout our history, the line between the sacred and the secular has been so blurred as to become meaningless. (Certainly, this doesn’t entail a leveling out of sacred and profane: there have always been holy places where heaven and earth were thought to touch. But when every part of one’s life is simultaneously caught up in the here and now and in the reenacting of one’s tribal mythology, it’s hard to define the two categories as separate after the manner of us moderns.)
This is a long way of saying that I’m changing Thulcandra‘s focus, or at least making a conscious effort at greater thematic diversity here. I will still write about theology and Church matters from time to time, but I intend to devote a significant percentage of my upcoming entries to recounting my adventures in Spain.
Oh, right. In case you weren’t aware, I’m currently living abroad. I’ve been here almost a month as of this writing, studying Spanish at the Catholic University of Saint Anthony in Murcia, the capital city of an eponymous region in the southeast. I don’t know how long I will be here, though I hope to stay for awhile yet. I don’t plan on making Thulcandra into a travel blog, and I will keep its religious iconography and overall theme intact. Yet the content will be more focused on my day-to-day life than has been the case thus far, with stories and pictures forming the bulk of what I write.
There is much to do here outside of posting updates, but I will definitely write my first entry about the trip sometime in the near future. Stay tuned.