Our own associate editor Kerry Weber is interviewed by Camille D'Arienzo, RSM, as part of her NCR column, conversations with Sister Camille. Inspiring stuff. Kerry's discussion of her image of God is particularly compelling.
What is your image of God?
When I was teaching in Arizona, one of the students in my class wasn't feeling well. She was nonverbal, so she couldn't really tell us how she was feeling and she got sick all over herself. I took her to help her get cleaned up, and I was feeling both a bit grossed out and a bit self-congratulatory for taking this on. She was quite small, so when I knelt down I was at about eye level with her. She put her hand on my shoulder to steady herself and just looked at me knowing that I would help her and with this look that sort of just said, OK, go ahead, and do what you're supposed to do. And I just knew right away that what I was doing did not make me special. It was just exactly the sort of attention and care for others that I needed to be showing, in some way, every day. I have never felt so clearly that I was looking into the face of Christ as when I saw her looking at me that day. That's how I picture God, someone who says, OK, let's go. Do what you've been called to do -- and that is to love and to serve.
What about your faith is most meaningful to you?
I love that my faith touches on every aspect of my life. I love that there is nothing that I can't apply it to. I love being part of this rich history and tradition of people who have done so much good and have served so well. Of course, the church has a number of problems, and they are major ones, and they're not to be overlooked. But I can't bear to throw away all the good the church offers because of them. I have to believe that the church, at its best, has something to offer everyone.
Do you bring your faith to the workplace?
My faith and my work are pretty closely intertwined, since I work for a Catholic publication, and being up-to-date on the issues facing the church is part of my job. I love working for America, because I'm surrounded by genuinely intelligent and interesting people who take their faith seriously, but who are always willing to laugh and to learn together.
How do you pray?
Well, I go to Mass each week. And I try every morning to start my day by repeating a saying by Dag Hammarskjöld, which goes, "For all that has been: Thanks. For all that will be: Yes." It's a good reminder to be grateful, and to me it sort of echoes the annunciation, that idea of saying yes to things that are scary and unknown, and trusting that everything will be OK eventually. At night, I try to pray with "Give us this Day," the daily missal, and I sometimes use the 3-minute retreat app from Loyola Press on my iPhone. Of course there are times when I just have a conversation with God, talk about my day, try to figure out what I could have done better, which is usually a lot.
What do you want from Catholicism?
I want a church that will challenge me and accept me. I want a church that is welcoming and open and forgiving. A church willing to admit its wrongs and make amends. I want a church that continues to grow, both in its ideas and in the number of people involved. I feel like the church has been or done all of these things in different ways and at different times in my life, but the key is to try to get the church to be all these things at once, for all people, today.
What in contemporary Catholicism encourages or distresses you?
I'm discouraged by the sense that the church sometimes feels irrevocably fractured, that Catholics feel like they have to pick "sides," between liberal and conservative. It saddens me that there are even "sides" to pick from. On the other hand, in a way, it's this very diversity and vastness of Catholicism that encourages me: that so many people from such diverse backgrounds and with a range of opinions can call themselves Catholic and can truly be Catholic, and that ultimately we're united by the incarnation and the resurrection. And if Christ can overcome death, surely our own sometimes petty divisions can't be insurmountable.
Is there anything you would change?
Of course. Some I have control over, right now, and some I don't. I try to focus on the things I have control over. I think of that old story about G.K. Chesterton being asked to write an essay answering the question, "What is wrong with the world?" He wrote: "I am." So I try to start there, with myself. To paraphrase Gandhi, I try to be the change I wish to see in the church.
What gives you hope?
I volunteer as a sponsor for RCIA, and talking with people who are choosing to join the church these days helps me to see it through their eyes, which is refreshing and challenging. Also: Cherry Garcia ice cream, riding the elevated subway at sunset and Bruce Springsteen.
James Martin, SJ