Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Lunch with Elisabeth Elliot: Reprised

I stumbled on this exchange on "The Kid Sister of Blessed Imelda" by chance tonight, and thought I should follow up a little more visible (e.g. on my own blog) regarding the article I wrote about my lunch with Elisabeth Elliot, many years ago now. Here's the link to the article (which also appeared on Catholic Exchange.)

Most people who make the journey to the Church in relative anonymity (myself included) experience a certain amount of pressure from family and friends who neither understand nor approve of the change. It is difficult enough handling this as a private citizen … how much more as such a public figure?

For many people (especially Protestants who cannot imagine such a thing), the temptation will be strong to simply discount what I wrote out of a sense of loyalty and respect for Elisabeth. Indeed, more than once now I have wondered if I showed her the respect I should have by revealing this exchange the way that I did — not because it was untrue, but because I now realize that her interest in “things Catholic” was apparently not as commonly known as I had thought it was. (For those who are interested in reading a different take on her beliefs, here's another article -- this one in a Baptist publication -- I recently encountered. Not nearly as flattering to her, but there it is.)

While I cannot deny that the exchange took place as I said it did, it would grieve me deeply if anyone perceived it as a smudge on this dear woman’s character. She is among the bravest and most devoted of Christian women. If I had it to do over again, I would have concealed her identity better — out of respect for her privacy. Of course, one cannot unring a bell.

I urge readers to consider that the spiritual journey God has prepared for each of us is oftentimes a hidden and intensely private one. Elisabeth is now in the twilight of her life, and has been walking with the Lord faithfully since her earliest years.
In the end, it is not about whether one side or the other can claim her for themselves. It is all about whether, before God, she was faithful to the light she was given. Not by our standards — but by His.

The Catholic Church has always taught that there are those outside the visible parameters of the Church who are united by virtue of baptism into the same Body of Christ. Whether or not Elisabeth ever enters into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church, she is a true daughter of God. She is not a coward … nor is she the kind of woman to speak idle words she did not mean. (Several have asked me if she was “just being kind.” Anyone who knew Elisabeth even casually would know better.)

Someday in heaven, when denominational affiliations and petty arguments have long since ceased to matter, when we are all perfected and perfectly united as God intended from the beginning, I hope we can all sit down with Elisabeth and have a cup of tea with her, and ask her to recount the final chapter of her faith journey. I think we will all be amazed … and humbled … by what she has to say.

Myself included.

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