The hilarious thing is that when I had my marketing meeting with Loyola for Scapulars, someone asked if there was any way I could get tied in with the book and its Emergent Christian following. “No,” said my editor, “Matthew is most definitely Catholic.” And now we get a film that hinges on a confessional scene with an anti-Pope! Hilarious.
Matthew Lickona, Swimming with Scapulars:
‘I cannot bear to think of the vastness of space. If humanity is a singular creation, so beloved by God that He redeemed it by the death of His Son, what is all that vastness doing there? I am shaken by images from the Hubble telescope; there are times when simply gazing into the night sky frightens me.’ (‘The World, …’, p. 203)
‘I feared eternity, even in heaven. “I think there should be a time when my spirit dies out,” I once told my father as he tucked me into bed. “Mom says that when my spirit leaves my body, it will still feel like me, but I don’t think it will.”‘ (‘The Janitor Prophet’, p. 6)
Cf. Andre Jacquemetton & Maria Jacquemetton, Mad Men, Season 4, Episode 12 (‘Blowing Smoke’):
This [dream] felt like I was going to heaven. Except that I don’t believe in it.
You don’t? Then what happens when you die? Nothing?
It doesn’t really bother me except that it’s forever. When I think about forever, I get upset. Like the Land O’ Lakes butter has that Indian girl sitting, holding a box, and it has a picture of her on it holding a box, with a picture of her on it holding a box. Have you ever noticed that?
I wish you wouldn’t have said that.
To Kathleen Wilson, for the novena
The tepid sea detained our staggered fleet
As empty nets adorned the running gunwales
The way a village woman’s temple veils
Would dry on stone in summer’s wrinkling heat.
My brother’s bark felt hollow, incomplete,
Its luckless holds reduced to hungry holes;
So casting eyes ashore I watched the gulls
Harangue a man. Sharp-eyed as an egret
He saw me look. I knew him once, and yet –
As I bobbed like bait fish on gentle swells
And Galilee embraced our rotting hulls –
If asked, is it really something I’d admit?
He turned to catch me watching once before
And hooked me good: “What are you looking for?”
The reading of the little book continues over at Catholic Radio International. Now with biographical background on the man behind the microphone! The Powers That Be interviewed Friend-of-Godsbody JOB, and here’s what they found:
Tell us a little about yourself – where did you go to school and what are your degrees?
Hailing originally from New Jersey, I traveled cross country to attend Thomas Aquinas College in California: there I found truth, Christ, and the Truth of Christ. I finished up my schooling at the University of Dallas where I graduated with a BA and MA in English Literature.
Full disclosure is needed here – you have close ties both to CRI and to the book that you’re reading – can you tell us about those.
CRI’s founders, Tom and Jeff, were also my colleagues at the Diocese of La Crosse when all of us worked there. In fact, Tom was also my boss, my editor, and the guy who took a chance on this two-bit poet, the first to turn him into a half-respectable journalist (if such is not a contradiction in terms).
As for Swimming with Scapulars, my ties to the author Matthew Lickona go even deeper. Some time ago I wrote a book review for Swimming in which I think I put it best. What I said was:
“I count Matthew Lickona as one of my closest friends. I appear several times in the book – the friend ‘Joseph’ who introduces Matthew to both the scapular and Wild Turkey Bourbon (101 Proof), as a fellow Catholic storming heaven or as an accomplice storming hell in youthful folly.
…Despite my own investments in these pages, I offer this review if only to underscore the real importance of the book. Swimming shows the face of a vigorous Catholicism (like Christ, ever-ancient yet ever-new) from the first generation to mature in faith entirely in the shadow of the Second Vatican Council. It also shows the plausibility of maintaining the faith amid the murkiness of the modern world.
Indeed, Swimming should not only draw young Catholics to the pool’s edge, but it should entice them to jump head- and heart-first into the deep end.”
Besides the fact that you know and admire Matthew Lickona, how important, in your opinion, is his book Swimming With Scapulars?
Picking up the thread from what I said above, I think there are young Catholics out there (and honestly, I don’t think there are as many as there should be) who are scratching their heads and wondering if they’re like ham radio operators after a nuclear holocaust: am I the only one out here? I think a number of these young Catholics picked up Matthew’s book and, with an ability reminiscent of his (and my) literary hero Walker Percy, Matthew shows the young face of the faith to these people by pointing out those matters of the faith (and existence) which we all think about but few actually put into words. I can’t help but think a number of these young Catholics responded – and responded well to his fix on the faith.
You have what many would consider a unique living arrangement; you are one of three families that live on a farm in rural Wisconsin. Tell us about life on the farm.
I’d like to take more conscious credit of the situation I’m in right now: I live on a rural homestead (without garden or livestock of my own at the moment, so I can’t really say it’s a farm of any sort) in southwest Wisconsin. I had no Thoreau-ian or Chesterbellocian desire to “Flee to the Fields” and begin a life devoted to distributist principles. My wife and I were living in a bad section of Dallas and decided we wanted to have a lot of kids (we have seven and counting). My father-in-law’s parents had lived on a farmstead adjacent to his own but had recently moved back to the city. The house and property were deeded to my father-in-law, Barney, after their death and he in turn handed it over to my wife and I. We live on it now with our seven children, and in community with my father-in-law, my brother-in-law, and sister-in-law with her husband and four children.
It’s not peachy keen by any means, but it is a way to sidestep, for our children’s sake, much of the “yuck” of modern culture. We don’t live a bunker mentality as many of our friends are secular, some non-believing. We have regular jobs which force us to confront the “yuck” of the modern world, yet we have greater control of how much gets filtered to our children, who are by all means Homeschool Normal.
There are great advantages to living in community with like-minded Catholics, though. Dinner conversation varies from the fate of the Green Bay Packers to the implications of the latest papal encyclical. We’ve all been more or less classically, or at least liberally, educated. There’s also a great satisfaction in being able to pray together in an expanded setting.
In fact, plans are being drawn up to include Christ Himself in a visible literal way in our community, as within the next three years we hope to have a chapel built on the property. We have many priests as friends and look forward to letting them use our property as a place of retreat. But that’s all in the future, of course.
Swim on over to Catholic Radio International’s Cover to Cover, featuring a reading of Matthew Lickona’s firsthand account of his swim across the shark-infested waters of the culture of death. (In an artist’s rendering, a young woman is depicted here swimming with a scapular-like garment on.) While you’re at it, and if you’re in the mood for more in the way of recorded books, check out Maria Lectrix.
Also note that Godsbody is back in business.