Having the heart and mind of a writer – indeed the calling to be a writer – has been one of the greatest blessings of my life. At the same time, well, I won’t go so far as to call it also a curse, but I safely can say it presents some unique challenges. For one thing, I’m never able to turn it off. That’s true more than ever now that I consider myself called by my God to be a Catholic writer.
I knew when I was 10 years old that I was a writer. A writer already lived inside me. I merely had to coax him forth, introduce him gradually to the world, help him learn and develop. People taught him grammar, introduced him to a variety of some of the greatest writers the world ever had known, immersed him in words and experiences. My dream quickly involved sportswriting, a dream that drove me. I knew what I wanted to do and where I wanted to do it. And God blessed me with the realization of that dream in 1984 when I joined the sports department at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, where at the age of 23 I was the youngest writer with one of the leading newspapers in America.
Though never one of the best wordsmiths, I possessed strengths that led to an estimated 6,000 bylined stories during my 18 years at the paper. I relished research. I thrived on deadline. I worked – nay, overworked — with passion. I often conducted interviews with insight, compassion, flexibility and humanity. Along with luck, that could go a long way toward impactful stories.
One of my greatest strengths, however, was a knack for developing a long list of quality story ideas. Every story subject or source revealed new possibilities. Every game or event led to new and interesting directions. In the newspaper business, only two things prevented me from writing all I wanted to write: space and time.
I haven’t worked as a fulltime sportswriter for more than 13 years. I left that career because of major clinical depression and assumed my days as a writer were in the past. God has had other plans.
As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace. Whoever preaches, let it be with the words of God; whoever serves, let it be with the strength that God supplies, so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 4:10-11)
I write frequently about depression and other mental health issues. More often, I write about prayer and Carmelite spirituality, the Presence of God and the Sacrament of Reconciliation, marriage and parenting and death. I’m now a Catholic writer and have embraced that brand of stewardship with the same passion I knew covering St. Louis Cardinals baseball.
The forms of media are different, as I’ve left daily newspapers to my history and begun meandering into the realms of diocesan newspapers, books and online websites. One key common denominator: Topic ideas flood my heart to overflowing. One challenge: They never stop.
Granted, it’s not a gift I want to return at God’s customer service counter. I treasure it. I honor it. I am humbled by it. I also can’t escape it, and I’m still fine-tuning my ability to discern what the Lord is sending as a divine revelation that He wants me to share with other souls and what He is sharing for me and only me.
I might be praying Psalm 95, whispering these verses to myself: Forty years I loathed that generation; I said: “This people’s heart goes astray; they do not know my ways.” Therefore I swore in my anger: “They shall never enter my rest.” The Spirit stirs my heart with those words; there is purpose and a message in them, a message for today. “But God,” I ask, “is that something about which you want me to write for your people? Is it they who won’t yet enter into your rest? Or is it I?” Another time, as I listen to a speaker discuss the spiritual lessons of St. John of the Cross, something strikes me as profound and my first thought is to write about it – until I wonder if the lesson was meant to instruct my soul alone.
I am on a unique spiritual journey. Sure, everyone’s journey is unique, yet I find myself walking in a sacred storm. On holy ground or abandoned desert, in the bright light of noontime and in the cold darkness of midnight, when reciting Morning Prayer or meditating in deep silence … the messages come in a constant barrage to my spirit.
Messages received and acknowledged. Whether they are meant for me alone or for me to share, may God be glorified through Jesus Christ.