At National Review, J. D. Flynn suggests that Joseph Bottum's surrender on same-sex "marriage" reveals "a kind of kinship" between him and Fr. Sebastian Rodrigues, the protagonist of Shusaku Endo's Silence. Rodrigues, a Jesuit missionary in seventeenth century Japan, is forced to suffer the exquisite torture of causing, simply by his faithful presence, enormous suffering to those he has come to serve. His ingenious captors diagnose him as what the Stasi (according to Lives of Others) called an "hysterical anthropocentrist"--a dissenting artist who is rendered silent and docile by being treated relatively well in captivity--and deny him a praiseworthy martyrdom. Unable to tolerate the audible torment of even apostate Japanese Christians, Rodrigues tramples on an image of Christ and submits himself to a lifetime of marginal public humiliation on the outskirts of Japanese society. By the end of the novel, Rodrigues believes--or convinces himself--that he has finally learned how to figuratively "die for the miserable and corrupt" instead of for the "good and the beautiful." His living martyrdom is an imitatione Christi in a world in which God does not appear, in which "the rain falls unceasingly on the sea."
Flynn's appraisal of Bottum's influence complicates the likeness: Bottum is "the poetic voice of modern Catholic intellectual life" whose work has "shaped the minds of a generation." He is therefore more like Endo's Fr. Christovao Ferreira, the great Jesuit teacher whose mission to Japan is, at the beginning of the novel, rumored to have ended in "a humiliating defeat for the faith itself and for the whole of Europe." Flynn, then, would be Rodrigues. He comes after the "great missionaries" of old. He will seek to echo that "poetic voice" in service to its "enchantment." And he will end by asking: "What had happened to our glorious dream?"
Those of us who have not been so formed by Bottum must be guided by the dying words of a different priest: "Grace is everywhere."