I write this post with somewhat mixed emotions, because this is probably the last blog post of mine my friend Channing Dale, blogger and hostess of the “This Catholic Life” podcast, will ever read before she heads off into a life without new media. Who knows, perhaps she (and many of you) would see this as a good thing. So before she logs off for the last time, allow me to share some of my thoughts with you about this remarkable young woman, who has been called to the challenging, deeply spiritual life of the contemplative Carmelite Order.
You can listen to the story of Channing’s discernment of her religious vocation, and how she has been preparing for the new adventure of her life, by listening to this recent episode of the Catholic Weekend show, where she joined us to talk about how she came to realize that God was calling her in a very special way to be a bride of Christ. As you can see, Channing has already taken down her website, This Catholic Life. After tomorrow, she will be deactivating her social media accounts, as she enters into the contemplative, cloistered life in just a few weeks’ time.
I had the privilege of meeting Channing for the first time in real life at the Fortnight for Freedom closing mass celebrated on Independence Day last year at the National Basilica. Not only did we attend mass together, but we ended up on the front page of The Catholic Standard, the newspaper of the Washington Archdiocese! Well, sort of:
It is safe to say that was one of the absolute hottest, most stifling days I can recall being out and about in the Nation’s swamp capital, but spending time with such a poised, smart, and fun-loving young woman deeply committed to her faith, was a source of great hope and inspiration, knowing that gifted and intelligent people like her are responding to the call to religious life.
Then in January of this year, I got to meet up with Channing in person again, when she returned to Washington to participate in the March for Life. I managed to record a special segment for the Catholic Weekend show with her and over a dozen other Catholic new media users, who gathered for a meet-up at the National Gallery of Art before the March began. You can listen to that episode here, and to see more pictures of Channing and the rest of us, here is the link to the original post.
Though our friendship has not been one of very long duration, Channing has always been ready with prayers, encouragement, and humor throughout. I shall miss being able to simply type her a message and have a near-immediate response, or seeing her ask for prayer intentions for those who need them. Indeed, I shall particularly miss having her around during those moments when I lose my temper – not an infrequent occurrence, sadly – and need a bit of perspective on how not to pummel people into the ground on social media.
However I, do know that the calling which Channing is about to follow into the contemplative life is one which will bring her into an even deeper and more wonderful communion with Our Lord, and that she will be praying for all of us even as we pray for her. The great Doctor of the Church and reformer of the Carmelites, St. Teresa of Avila, described the experience of her own entry into that life in a rather powerful way, in her “Autobiography”, and I can think of no better way to conclude this post as she prepares to tread the same path. God bless you, Channing, as you enter into this new life with Christ, and please know that I and many others will be praying for you and wishing you well.
When I took the habit, the Lord soon made me understand how greatly he favors those who use force with themselves in serving him. No one realized that I had gone through all this; they all thought I had acted out of sheer desire. At the time my entrance into this new life gave me a joy so great that it has never failed me even to this day, and God converted the aridity of my soul into the deepest tenderness. Everything connected with the religious life caused me delight; and it is a fact that sometimes, when I was spending time in sweeping floors which I had previously spent on my own indulgence and adornment, and realized that I was now free from all those things, there came to me a new joy, which amazed me, for I could not understand whence it arose. Whenever I recall this, there is nothing, however hard, which I would hesitate to undertake if it were proposed to me. For I know now, by experience of many kinds, that if I strengthen my purpose by resolving to do a thing for God’s sake alone, it is His will that, from the very beginning, my soul shall be afraid, so that my merit may be the greater; and if I achieve my resolve, the greater my fear has been, the greater will be my reward, and the greater, too, will be my retrospective pleasure. Even in this life His Majesty rewards such an act in ways that can be understood only by one who has enjoyed them. This I know by experience, as I have said, in many very serious matters; and so, if I were a person who had to advise others, I would never recommend anyone, when a good inspiration comes to him again and again, to hesitate to put it into practice because of fear; for, if one lives a life of detachment for God’s sake alone, there is no reason to be afraid that things will turn out amiss, since He is all-powerful. May He be blessed for ever. Amen.