While out walking contemplating whether or not to blog, musing about why I chose the name “Seeking Pemberley” and whether I should venture into a new blog completely I started thinking about the story of Pride and Prejudice. It then dawned on me that the story itself is so similar to many people’s experience with faith.
Of course its a stretch with Austen’s work of art, but I can’t help to see the parallels–of course if you’re not the type that gives a sigh of delight when you, along with Ms. Bennett, get the first glance of Pemberley then this will be even more of a stretch for you, but bear with me and my obsession with Austen’s work.
You have unattached, penniless Elizabeth Bennett who is introduced to unattached, rich Mr Darcy. Their first encounter is not a positive one and she immediately turns her nose up because of it. Then her dislike is perpetuated by the opinions of others and she flat out refuses his proposal. Later, she visits his vast estate–that greatly enhances her impression of Darcy– and runs into the man himself where they have a very pleasant afternoon that further encourages the growing positive feelings Elizabeth is feeling towards him. Finally, Darcy makes a selfless move to save Elizabeth from ruin and her entire opinion of Darcy moves from one of disdain to one of admiration and love.
I see the above scenario played out so much in our secular world today, where the individual has a negative first encounter with Christianity and prejudice sets in. This could have been caused by any number of reasons, often though, it’s through a family member, maybe the parish priest or even a teacher. Then that negativity is passed on whenever the topic of “religion” comes up, along with misconceptions and flat out lies. Then, at a certain point in their lives, these same negative people hopefully have a “Pemberley” moment, where they find themselves rounding the bend to find a thing of beauty and peacefulness, where they expected to see something cold and decrepit and their negative perspective is forever changed. Suddenly, their closed and hardened hearts have been softened and they allow themselves to re-look at why they despised this person and that perhaps they were prejudiced in their assumptions.
Personally, this is what I see most often. Most of the people I know ‘were’ Catholic, but have fallen away, sometimes out of laziness and apathy, but largely because of some negative encounter they had in their youth that turned them off God and the Church all together.
So, what can we do as a Church to help create these Pemberley moments?
Honestly, for the most part I think God does the job of providing the Pemberley moments, but we as a Church can do our part to help build on those positive feelings. To help encourage that little spark, until it is a self sustaining fire. But, God is using the new evangelization to inspire, in particular, Father Robert Barron and his Catholicism series that came out a couple of years ago. In every episode of the series, there is beauty, wonder, history, truth and love, the very things that can give someone whose heart has been hardened a second look. A spark to make them aware that maybe their past attitude has been prejudiced towards God and the Church.
But, even with this first spark of positivity, there needs to be something after that. In the same way that Elizabeth ran into Darcy, soon after her first glance of Pemberley, we as members of the Church need to always be ready with patience and love to help build on that initial spark. For example, what if someone had just had their Pemberley moment that day, and then in a busy parking lot had their parking spot stolen by a car with a Rosary beed hanging from the mirror? An event that shouldn’t, but probably would put that person right back into the prejudice they had before.
It is not easy of course, because Christians are sinners and we are often–as unfair as that may be– put on these grand pedestals. But, if we are not striving on a daily basis to be better people than we were the day before than we will not influence people to give Christianity a serious look.