Let’s begin with an introduction.
I am a daughter of a Loving and Forgiving God.
I am a student and an observer.
I am a faithful Catholic, living in a perfect Church run by imperfect people.
I am a theologian and an academic.
I am a third generation American, proud granddaughter of immigrants.
I am the daughter of two incredibly selfless parents and proud sister of a brilliant brother, all of them the hardest workers I have ever known.
I am wife and best friend to the greatest man in the whole world.
I am a tired but happy mother of four very busy and kind young men.
I am completely unqualified to tell these stories. And yet, here we are.
In the spring of 2016, I stood back and watched as divisive attitudes and anger slowly ripped apart the faith community I love (though I am beginning to wonder if we were ever whole to begin with). I watched as members of our churches and institutions slandered, gossiped, and ridiculed their brothers and sisters, both within and outside of our faith community. And I watched as those outside our faith community partook in the same ugliness and same divisive dialogue, many times from some of the most public positions in the land.
And I watched.
I thought I had no part to play, that all I could do was watch and pray. (Prayer works, by the way, but not always in the way we think).
And then I heard the words of my best friend, my husband, and partner, words he had told me in the first year of our marriage: “You’re a storyteller, Julianne! I have always loved your stories.”
Mystery Through Manners is a storytelling podcast. With each episode, we carefully weave together the stories of Catholic Americans trying their very best to live out their faith in the midst of the American cultural experience. The Catholic American story is similar to the story of the faith that we have always known; it is chaotic, it is painful, and it is beautiful.
In the brilliant work Mystery and Manners, Flannery O’Connor wrote “it is the business of fiction to embody mystery through manners, and mystery is a great embarrassment to the modern mind.” But it occurred to me that the need to uncover the great mystery of faith isn’t limited to fiction alone. All stories, especially the ones that matter, must embody this mystery.
This podcast was born out of the pain and divisions which still exist today, but it could (God-willing) also be a means to help end those divisions and build the bridges we so desperately need. By examining the stories of our past, and the way those stories continue to play out today, we hope in some small way that this podcast can bring to the surface God’s ever-moving grace in the reality of the American Catholic experience.
We hope to uncover, as Flannery would say, “grace through nature,” in the stories we will tell this season. We are all sent, in some way, into the great story of our faith. This is my small contribution to a much larger story.