There’s something I want to share with you but have been reluctant to do so. You see, I’ve been published.
I enjoy writing but I’ve always wondered if I’m good at it. Although I received an “A” in High School AP English, I got back my first college paper without a grade. The professor said it was not good enough to grade. It was my first introduction into competitive academia. I attacked the subject with a fierce intensity and was able to squeak out a “B” grade and some newly found humility.
Upon entering seminary, I again found myself in a competitive academic graduate school in Berkeley. Most of my classmates had advanced degrees and several had been published. I wondered what I was doing there and if I could survive. Graduating with a 3.5 GPA helped me understand that perhaps God had put a theologian’s mind in me. But then came the ordination process and more humility.
The diocese required that I write on a number of subjects because a reviewer had made the assertion that perhaps I was not a good-enough writer. I was given two mentors – one for theology, a cantankerous and tetchy old priest who knew how to write about theology for the Church, the other for writing who is a deacon and professor at Gonzaga University. They both believed in me and were confident in my call to the priesthood. And, they were mad, not at me, but at the process. With the same fierceness that I discovered as a freshman in college, my team and I went to work. They didn’t want praise from the diocesan reviewer. No, they wanted silence, for him to become dumbstruck and silent with awe.
Now that I reflect on it, I never actually heard what the reviewer thought. The result, however, was a bunch of happy people on the diocesan committee that enthusiastically recommended me to priestly ordination.
My team told me to continue writing, which I did. Each week I wrote an article that I eventually called a Reflection. A good friend of mine, Tim Hunt from Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, a funny and jovial retired English professor, took me under his wing and to this day continues to edit my reflections.
Starting at Saint John’s, Fr. Jack Tolley read my weekly reflections and contacted a major publication called Forward Day by Day. He suggested they publish some of my stuff. They reviewed it but turned me down. More humility; nevertheless, the managing editor put me in touch with one of her editors who was putting together a book with daily reflections about seeking God. I sent her some samples. She asked for five reflections and then continued to ask for submissions. And, as the book was going to print, I found out that she had published eleven of my reflections.
I was reluctant to share this with you because I expected there to be a snag in publication of the book; just like in college and just like in my ordination process. But there wasn’t. I guess after feeling for such a long time that I couldn’t write, to finally see that I can requires me to think differently about a part of myself. And that part I still have not accepted. You see, somewhere deep inside me is a fierceness, like a chip on my shoulder, but it’s being replaced by a sense of God and of teamwork. I would not be published were it not for Jack, Tim, and my ordination team. I am grateful for them and in humility for the lone reviewer who asserted I can’t write. Although now deceased, I can imagine he is smiling in heaven. They saw in me what God has been trying to draw out, a witness of God’s love and grace, which can speak, in writing, to God’s people.
And now, on a weekly basis, I endeavor to write in a spirit of humility so that you may experience what God is trying to draw out of all of us.
- Fr. Marshall