Shirt of Flame. My beloved Salzmann Library recently acquired Heather King's book, Redeemed, and I just loved it! My heart was frequently moved and I could relate to so much of what she wrote. Through the sharing of the story of her life, Heather is a wonderful witness to the joys of Catholicism. In fact, the entire fifth chapter is a great work of apologetics supporting the teachings of the Church, especially those that are hard for our secular society to accept.
Here are some of the reasons why I so loved Redeemed in the words of the author:
On writing: "When I first started writing I was aflame with the notion that finally, finally, I would create! What I didn't realize was that writing would create me....Right from the beginning, writing for me was a religious experience."
"....it's an impossible line of work..And at the same time the only reason you do it at all, or can do it, or want to do it, is because of this incredibly tender heart, this heart you're a little ashamed of, that makes you different enough in the first place that writing is really your only refuge, your only means of enduring the world."
On discovering Catholicism: "...as I gazed up at Christ, his head drooping toward his breast, everything in me wanted to move to him, to touch him, to be near. I saw that like us, he was in pain and he wasn't sure why, whether it would ever end, or what it was for. I saw he'd come to address the deepest mystery of humankind-the mystery of suffering. I saw he wasn't saying we were supposed to suffer more than we already were; he was acknowledging the suffering we were already in."
"It seems to me I got one glimpse of Christ and thought, O my God, can I come? Am I invited? Don't leave me out please! I've felt left out my whole life..."
On suffering: "Maybe the ones who suffer more bear it for the rest of us who are too weak and cowardly to bear it. Five years after 9/11, excerpts from the 1,613 emergency phone calls made from the World Trade Center that morning were released to the public. Melissa Doi, thirty-two years old, called from the eighty-third floor of the south tower. When the operator answered, Doi responded, "Holy Mary, mother of God," and continued, "there's no one here yet and the floor's completely engulfed. We are on the floor and we can't breath and it's very , very hot." The operator tried to calm her down, but a few minutes later Doi panicked: "I'm going to die, aren't I?" she asked. "No, no, no," the operator replied. "I'm going to die, Doe repeated. "Say your prayers," the operator advised. "Oh God, it's so hot. I'm burning up," Doe replied. Several minutes later, the line on her end went silent. And here's the thing, really, in a way-one of the very few things we have to hold on to: the operator continued to speak to her for another 20 minutes, "soothingly," according to a Los Angeles Times article, "repeating Doi's name over and over, calling her 'dear.'"
"Holy Mary, mother of God. Say your prayers, ma'am. Oh God, it's so hot, I'm burning up...Oh, Osama bin Laden (and let's remember there's a little Osama bin Laden in the best of us), if you were sitting beside this beautiful young woman-because all young women are beautiful, all people are beautiful-if you could see that part in her hair, feel her breath on your hand, maybe you could have seen that if one of us is hurt, we're all hurt. That whatever hurt has been done to you, this could never set it right. That it's not making fire in the sky and blowing up towers that make you a man. It's love: the kind of love where you'd offer yourself up to be incinerated so that someone else wouldn't have to be. The kind of love where you'd let yourself be nailed to a cross rather than order a brother to kill himself. The kind of love that says someone's name into the darkness and silence, over and over again, to say that Melissa Doi's life, her death, were not in vain. Twenty minutes, over and over, into the darkness, the silence, into what I have to believe ascended to, was heard, echoed through the farthest reaches of the cosmos. Twenty minutes, over and over, one beating heart to another, through the sky above New York, through the heavens, through eternity, until one stopped beating-and the other kept calling out to her anyway."
And in conclusion: "What qualifies me to write a book like this-as a human being, as a Catholic? In a way, nothing. I could point to almost anyone I know and say they are more tolerant, more patient, more generous, calmer, braver than me. From the outside my life doesn't look much different than anyone else's, but on the inside it's permeated by Christ-physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually. Inside, it's Christ who illumines it, blesses it, enriches it, gives it spiritual water and food and air. Outside I sit in traffic jams and buy groceries at Trader Joe's; inside, my soul thirsts for him, my flesh "faints" for him, "as in a dry and weary land where there is no water," as the psalmist says (Psalm 63). To believe in the Transubstantiation is to make my way through the world knowing that someone sweat tears of blood for me in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before he died, was scourged for me, carried a heavy cross for me, was crowned with thorns for me, was crucified for me. That one day, in the cool of the garden, like Mary Magdalene, I will meet him, and cry, "Rabboni!" and fall into his arms, so that every moment on earth is a preparation to be worthy of that. This is what qualifies me: I love him."