Tuesday, October 17, 2006

God's Wheat: St. Ignatius of Antioch (and Me)

"I am God's wheat: I am ground by the teeth of the wild beasts that I may end as the pure bread of Christ."
–St. Ignatius, Letter to the Romans

Today's saint, a bishop chosen by Peter, a martyr eaten by lions, and finally, Father of the Church, showed me how easily one's writing becomes inspired if your life is filled with the Holy Spirit. Ignatius' final writing, his Letter to the Romans (from which the above quote is taken) is a classic example of just that.

Both amazingly bold ("Christianity is not the work of persuasion, but, whenever it is hated by the world, it is a work of power,") and exceedingly humble ("I do not command you as Peter and Paul did ... in chains I am learning to have no wishes of my own,") Ignatius practically begs the Roman Christians to allow him to be thrown to the lions in this written farewell. And yet, for Ignatius, it works. "I am writing to all the churches that I am, with all my heart, to die with God," Ignatius says, but when he writes it, it is neither a boast nor a death wish—it is merely (yet profoundly) God's will.

As a young writer, I would often get discouraged by editors' comments and rejection letters. "Too political," "too sentimental," "too poetic," "not literary enough," they'd say, and for periods of time, I would agree with them and give up. But as writing was God's gift to me, He would always call me back, in the face of logic, criticism or (worst of all) lack of funds. And, ground by the teeth of wild beasts (in my case, literary critics and bill collectors) my writing has been purified, perhaps not "the pure bread of Christ" yet, but closer to where Ignatius was when he declared, "It is good to set, leaving the world for God and so to rise in Him."

History records that Ignatius got his wish, being torn apart by wild beasts in front of the bloodthirsty Roman Coliseum crowds in approximately the year 107. I do not know if I will get my wish to make a living through my Catholic writing, but I do know that, like Ignatius, God has martyred me enough to allow me to leave my letters to you.