Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Blogging as a vocation?


The grandiosity of ordinary life.
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Vocation talk is big on the Internet - everyone seems to be discerning their true calling - their place in life, in the Church, etc..  But they don't want you to claim that the single life is a vocation - no, no, no.  The theologists don't buy that one.  Vocation is limited to priesthood, religious life, and married life.  I know - very narrow, huh?  I suppose every state in life needs some form of a canonical recognition and official consecration ritual to be absolutely official:  So after you're canonized, your name can be listed as, St. Morticia, religious; St. John of Wisconsin Dells, priest; St. Orthinologus, hermit (Can. 603);  St. Vaselena, virgin (Can. 604);  St. Lawrence of Motown, Husband, and so on and so forth.  I doubt St. Giustacrepe, blogger, would ever be a category.  
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All kidding aside, I don't see blogging as a vocation - perhaps an avocation, a past-time, a hobby, an extension of one's writing career, an opportunity to annoy people, or, if you are really fortunate - it can lead to a new career all together.  I just don't see it as a vocation in itself.  I don't see spending most of your day or evening online as a call from God.  As Catholics we are called to evangelize and this can take many forms - one means could be writing a blog - but that doesn't make it a vocation.  It is not wrong to try and justify one's use of the Internet - but I wouldn't get too exalted about it.
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Anyway, I came across a piece Mark Shea linked to at Unam Sanctam, on the 'vocation' of the Catholic blogger.  To be sure, the author Boniface, whom Shea links to has some very good reflections on the subject - I just don't like calling an exercise such as blogging a vocation.  Petty?  Perhaps - but other bloggers get real petty about calling the single life a vocation as well. 
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That said, I prefer Mark Shea's reflection on blogging:
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Boniface, who takes blogging a whole lot more seriously than I do, pens a sort of manifesto about what he takes to be the vocation of the blogger. More power to him. The world needs Catholics who think about such things and try to work out the theological implications. The Faith, after all, is Catholic--and therefore about everything, including blogging.

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That said, this is the sort of thing that would engender tremendous performance anxiety in me if I ascribed to it. I do blogging as a sort of lark. It's a chance to say whatever I feel like saying without too much solemnity surrounding it. I'm not writing for the Ages. I'm just dashing off ideas and shooting the breeze with readers. It's a great gift for somebody like me--an extrovert trapped in an introvert's job--to have a tool for writing interactively. Sometimes I will try out an idea here that becomes an article elsewhere. Sometime I just want to tell a joke. Now and then I will do something stupid as, for instance, when I stupidly published that account of the Sungenis conference that some reader sent me without bothering to check the accuracy (mea culpa). When I screw up, I try to make things right by deleting or editing offending posts, as I did with that one.
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I try to run a clean joint and keep things on the up and up as best I can, though I know there are still people who hate me. Oh well. But on the whole, I regard blogging as a chance to gab somewhat informally about whatever interests me at the moment, from a Catholic perspective. While a manifesto may be helpful for other folks (and God bless those who find it so), such an approach solemnizes these proceedings more than I prefer them to be solemnized. This is my living room, not Church--though it is, of course, a Catholic living room and I ask readers to observe ordinary living room rules of discourse.  - Mark Shea
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I couldn't agree more, Mr. Shea.
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Art:  Apotheosis of the French Hero

13 comments:

  1. I would not say blogging is itself a vocation, but it could be the method or means by which some could meet their vocation. I keep coming back to the revolution the printing press brought to the world. Many Catholics at the time thought it wasn't that important; this left a vacuum which let all kinds of errors be spread about without a proper response (or if a response was had, it was much too late to do good). Blogging, imo, has produced similar problems as the early printing press; a group of disenfranchised people, often with inadequate understanding of what they discuss, are spreading all kinds of errors through the net; those who would better be able to deal with it look to professional, academic journals and books and ignore what is being said. Thus, we find ourselves coming back to where we were at the Reformation. Legitimate concerns are used to spread misinformation and error, with little proper response from those who should be responding. For those whose vocation involves apologetics, theology, and the like, blogging should be used as a means for that vocation. However, here there should be caution: it should be a legitimate vocation which can be ascertained beyond the fact of "I am on the net and people read me."

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  2. michael r.2:12 PM

    Lots of pearls here, though I'll defer to "the determination of the Church" to decide whether it is or is not a vocation.

    And I love those saints(would love to see the whole list!), particularly St. Orthinologus. I suspect you might mean "just a tuppence a bag" St. Ornithologus...who I believe was patron saint of beggars for our feathered friends.

    "It's a great gift for somebody like me--an extrovert trapped in an introvert's job--to have a tool for writing interactively." -- This is very funny to me. I could swear it is almost always an introvert given an extrovert's job!

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  3. Fr. Benedict Groeschel - Vocation to The Single Life:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZT19nQaLxQc

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  4. I am with you on this picadillo. Great stuff from Mark. I have to remember to stop by his place more often. Its kinda like people visiting a local saloon to talk about faith based stuff and suddenly, we have a new vocation among the Sacraments of holy orders and marriage or vestil virgins and celibate men offering their lives in reparation for the sins of the world.

    I don't really think a living room is a good description either. There are people whose identity we don't know who sometimes show up to confuse or torment our guests or mislead them. I don't know...not a place that is anything like I host in my living room. May be in my teenageers rooms! Just kidding. ;)

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  5. "Vocation talk is big on the Internet...But they don't want you to claim that the single life is a vocation..."
    Yeah, I have trouble with that idea, too. And I'm not even single. I don't know where they got the idea that a vocation had to be defined in canon law. According to some, if you're single, and stay that way, your're just a loser and a misfit who missed out on being married or in a religious vocation. Which is kind of insulting to the multitude of single people who are doing just fine, thank you; not to mention God, who calls people to His own purposes. Without necessarily consulting the experts in canon law.
    I like what Mark Shea said about blogging "...as a sort of lark...I'm just dashing off ideas and shooting the breeze with readers". If you aren't having a little fun with it, it doesn't make sense to do it.

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  6. Melody

    I know full well the difficulty of the single life in the Church, and what you said is correct. We are treated as if something is wrong with us. "You are not married? What, you are not willing to have a commitment?" Many people are single because of their moral values, and their unwillingness to play the immoral dating game we see in the world today. There is nothing I would like more than to be married, but I feel, it is not too likely. The older I get, the more this seems to be the case. Yet, what hurts the most is that the Church has yet to come to grips with singles, who are not priests, monks, or nuns. We don't have families to offer. We might not be young (which "singles" groups tend to engage), but we are faithful and need pastoral help as well. I feel left entirely on my own. For me, my faith and beliefs give me something to hold to - but one would hope the Church would embrace us better. We have to constantly hear about families in our homilies, we have to hear about things which are taken for granted which we don't have in our lives; we don't get a special celebration for us (like mothers and fathers do). We just have to embrace the sorrow and neglect in the way Christ did, but it would help if the Church recognized our existence.

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  7. Nahh, blogging will never be a vocation. ALL CATHOLICS have the DUTY to evangelize. "How" we do it doesn't make it a vocation, for sheesh sake.

    BTW, I think the single state could be a vocation if you were to consecrate your bachelorhood/maidenhood. Then it means it is a state you are committed to in your walk with God/journey towards heaven. It's when it's only being tolerated as a necessary transitional state while waiting for a spouse that it's not a vocation. How can something ones sees as only transitional and non-commited be a vocation?

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  8. Georgette

    We need to consider those who want to be married, but end up all their life, single. What was their vocation? Sometimes, vocation is, as with many things, understood only at the end of one's life when the whole of one's life is revealed. Often one is surprised at what their life and what it is meant to be.

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  9. "Sometimes, vocation is, as with many things, understood only at the end of one's life when the whole of one's life is revealed."
    I think that is true, Henry.

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  10. 4mercy7:49 AM

    Mother Angelica has said repeatedly that she considers being single a vocation. Also, St. Catherine of Siena was a third order Dominican - so, her vocation was to be a single woman living in the world.

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  11. Mark Shea, at least in part, wrote what he did because he wants to set the terms by which he is taken seriously. If he engages in petty demagoguery, he can disparage people for taking him seriously. If people don't take his arguments seriously, he can disparage them as dissidents. Then there is the whole matter of taking money for blogging. I'll leave it to him to determine whether it is just a job or a vocation, but I think he wants his cake and wants to eat it too.

    As for blogging as vocation, the problem is one of social power. You can't influence society without social power. Blogging, for the most part, is just a reinforcing echo chamber. As much as we're speaking of blogging as social commentary, we are pretty much trying to discern whether self-love is really love.

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  12. +JMJ+

    Wow. Mark Shea got it absolutely right here.

    But I still personally prefer Betty Duffy's idea of blogging as entertainment--no more, no less.

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  13. Hello. I wrote the post in question, and I think that, while I respect all of your opinions, you are taking the phrase "vocation of the Catholic blogger" way too seriously. I never meant it in the sense of a calling from God in the manner of the priesthood. I simply meant it in the general sense of the "role" of the blogger, or the "place" they play the in the scheme of things. I think the word vocation is used too broadly, and perhaps I have contributed to it, but I don't think blogging is a "vocation" in the theological sense - my piece was about the contributions of bloggers to the life of the Church; but apparently everybody has only read and commented upon Shea's piece about my piece without actually reading the original. Anyhow, it should not be forgotten that Shea, in his post, actually agreed with most of what I was saying, though he did not prefer to use the word vocation.

    pax,
    Boniface

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