What the Word of God Does – and What Catholic Writers Do

What does it mean that Christ is the Word of God?

All good gifts come from above.  Words are my gift from above, originating in their form with the Word Himself and employed by this imperfect creature.

Words bubble up and pour forth like gas from champagne. When generous with myself, I call it verbosity.  Otherwise, I call it rambling.  (After I’ve been rambling, unchecked, I always feel as though I had drunk too much champagne – a bit woozy and a bit embarrassed.)

The words want to run wild without direction, but I must build my strength, strap thick ruddy leather to the bits at their frothing mouths, and drive those words toward the completion of a finished product.

To what end?  Purity.  “Redemption comes to us above all through the blood of his cross, but this mystery is at work through Christ’s entire life:

– already in his Incarnation through which by becoming poor he enriches us with his poverty;

— in his hidden life which by his submission atones for our disobedience;

– in his word which purifies its hearers;

— in his healings and exorcisms by which ‘he took our infirmities and bore our diseases';

— and in his Resurrection by which he justifies us. (CCC 517)

When we are given the gift of words – and most of us have this gift in some form – we are participating in Christ’s redemptive work.  His words purified his hearers.  My words must come into conformity with this purpose. We write to purify ourselves and others.

This isn’t to say that I must never depict what is not-pure, that is, evil. That would be ludicrous.  No, instead I must be ready to depict evil as truthfully as I can, in all its horror, in all its might, and with all its consequences.  Only then will I have art, and only then will art reveal evil so as to purify us from it.

And this isn’t to say that my work cannot have nuance – another ludicrous position.  Some, in advocating for clearer lines of good and evil for the sake of cultivating the Christian imagination, have indeed sacrificed nuance.  No.  Instead, I must be ready to depict human nature as truthfully as I can, and in all its messiness.  Only then will I have art, and only then will art serve the purpose of showing us to ourselves, and of showing God’s grace as the redemption is really is – infinitely higher and more powerful than our bumbling attempts at self-justification.

Also, this isn’t to say that we cannot take humor in man’s foibles and fallacies.  Again, ludicrous.  The joy and mirth that bubbles forth from the depths of God’s delight must find its place in art.  Where is the humor in contemporary Catholic literature?  Are we so deadly serious about our commitment to the revitalization of Catholic culture that we have forgotten to smile?  When will I open Dappled Things and find a raucous, rollicking piece that splits my sides?  Have we forgotten that laughter opens our hearts to truth?

Whatever our words, they are words for the sake of purification. In a sense they become His redeeming words.  Or, perhaps, they were His words all along.

My words, wild and untamed and unlearned as they are, must come closer and closer to their source in the Word.  The waters overflow, and I must form the banks of the river and direct them toward pools of purity, where a writer meets her readers, to giggle and splash in ice-cold refreshment.

Image Credit: WikiCommons


  1. says

    I just know Jesus had a good sense of humor.

    What’s the line between humor using a writer’s humor to illustrate the beauty of the Catholic faith and/or humor to navel-gaze?

    It’s a thin line, methinks…and one that must first be prayed on…

    • Rhonda Ortiz says

      Bernardo, I appreciate the reply. Thank you for providing the link to these pieces. That helps me a lot! I love Dappled Things and appreciate the work that it’s doing, and I’m happy to know that I’m incorrect about the lack of humor.

  2. says

    No, I think you’re right to point this out. Those pieces are in the distinct minority. If you are looking for hilarious and at the same time very poignant contemporary Catholic literature, you should really check out “Waiting for Snow in Havana” by Carlos Eire. I did and interview with him in DT about the book, which you can find here: http://archive.dappledthings.org/sp09/interview01.php

    It’s really a wonderful book.

  3. says

    P.S.: You should really also check out the Korrektiv blog. You’ll need to hang out a week or two before all the inside jokes begin to make sense, but they are very interesting, fun loving Catholics. One of the writers, Matthew Lickona, just released an e-book called “Surfing With Mel” that is by parts hilarious, horrifying, and heartbreaking.