Pen, Pal, and Peril


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“Danger, Will Robinson!”

Alert Robot B9 issued this warning to young Will only once in a single episode of the 1960s television series Lost in Space, but the phrase has since been immortalized in entertainment trivia. Whether it’s your fantasy or your nightmare that robots or aliens might someday take over the world, isn’t it nice, or at least harmless, to imagine having beside you an indestructible pal of your very own—with superhuman intelligence, foresight, and authority—who can confidently warn oblivious little you, in very clear and direct language, of impending danger or catastrophe? If we all had such a friend watching over us, and we heeded that friend’s advice, just think of all the victims to be spared suffering from the likes of crime, accidents, careless words, and deathbed anxiety.

As a longtime writer who has only recently taken her private reflections to the public sphere, I for one could sure use a friend like Robot B9. Why? Because writing for the public requires more caution than I had imagined. I’m learning by trial and error that it’s risky business for a non-aggressive introvert to take up the pen and write about her political or religious convictions (which, for many of us, evolve with life experiences and can ultimately deviate from our childhood formation)—and especially about her personal life, particularly when the reading public includes people whose histories are intertwined with her own.

Every time I write candidly about my past, or about my present blunders as an everyday Catholic who just wants to bear-hug the world with the truth and beauty of Catholicism, the danger of offending strangers and dear ones alike is ever clear and present. It’s most decidedly not my comfort zone. Admittedly, my skin for criticism is no thicker today than when I endured the “workshopping” of my confessional poetry in college; I still tremble and my tongue twists when I’m verbally challenged over an event or perspective I felt strongly enough to write about in the first place. Those who are comfortable speaking, speak; those who aren’t, write.

So, what’s this unseasoned Catholic writer to do? Above all, keep the faith and the pen. Ask or grant forgiveness when due. Spare unnecessary details, but never the truth. Pray that no one, because of something I have written or inadvertently done, will turn away from God or the Church today; rather, that he or she will remember and rediscover our collective mission as children of God. Accept that I can’t erase words someone has already read. Summon the courage to write again. And be wise enough to proceed with caution when I can’t hear “Danger, Leilani McDonald!” above my own symphonic enthusiasm to have found my writing voice, after all these years, in the hands of the everlasting friend who gifted it.





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