Faith at the Edge: A New Generation of Catholic Writers Reflects on Life, Love, Sex, and Other Mysteries
Edited by Angelo Matera
Ave Maria Press, 2008
196 pages, $15.95
“You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you odd.” So said Flannery O’Connor towards the middle of the twentieth century. Judging by the contents of Faith at the Edge, a new book of mostly short but striking personal essays, it appears a new generation of Catholic writers agrees. In their various essays—which touch on “Life, Love, Sex, and Other Mysteries,” as the book’s subtitle declares—these authors do not shy away from presenting the oddity of their Christian lives: the sign of contradiction they embody as followers of an ancient faith in a postmodern world.
The unifying quality of these essays is their thoroughgoing honesty. Even as these authors share their stories of how the beauty of the faith has been revealed to them through their struggles, they also do not mince words about those struggles. The book includes essays like “The Harsh and Dreadful Love of the Poor,” which does away with comforting notions of what it means to serve the weak and forgotten. Then there are two poignant essays by Catholic converts struggling with homosexual desires who nevertheless came to accept the Church’s teaching on love and sexuality. One of these authors is Eve Tushnet, whose stories and poems have appeared in Dappled Things. The other is David Morrison, whose essay, “Gay and Catholic,” includes this excellent bit:
[P]eople forget one part of the Church’s teaching on chastity, which comes in the last paragraph on the topic in the catechism. There she says basically that, with the help of the sacraments and sacramental grace, and the help of friendship, men and women living with same-sex attraction can and should attain Christian perfection. The Catholic Church looks at me as an adult and says, “You might live with same-sex attraction, you might even define yourself as a homosexual, but we think that you can and will be a saint.” And that, I believe, is head and shoulders above what anyone else says on the topic.
In other equally moving and at times humorous essays—such as “Confession of an Undercover Virgin” by Anna Broadway—other young writers share their struggle to live chastely within both the single and married life. But sex and charitable work are by no means the only topics treated in the book. Various authors choose instead to reflect upon subjects like eternal life and the imminence of mortality, to confront the challenges of parenthood, or to face the darker truths of our world in a spirit of hope and holy laughter.
While at times the pieces seem too short to fully address the topic at hand, as a whole these authors succeed in communicating part of the struggle and the beauty that is the Christian life. It should not go unnoticed that, besides Eve Tushnet, Faith at the Edge also features Matthew Lickona, another writer whose work has appeared in the pages of Dappled Things. Read these authors’ stories for glimpses of the truth at work in the concrete challenges of daily life—but if you begin to turn a little odd, don’t say I didn’t warn you!
Miguel Jiménez lives by the sea and longs to sail across an ocean with a good book and a good friend.