In a culture that largely likes to pretend death does not exist, there are some vocations which don’t have the option of ignoring the most unavoidable aspect of human existence. For those in law enforcement, medicine, ministry, and mortuary services, death is a regular, if not constant, companion. Of those four, the minister and the mortician are most often called only after a person has died, and the family, doctors, and nurses have run out
Lord, help me . . . save me from the world outside of me, trying to crush me and push me into its mold. But Lord, I have swallowed the world and it is inside of me. Save me, too, from the world within. . . . The world that burns, that eviscerates, that kills like an ever-spreading cancer. Save me from being eaten alive, emaciated, and gutted. Save me from being drowned by the
Photo: Paul Gauguin, “Vision of the Sermon” (Jacob Wrestling with the Angel), https://www.nationalgalleries.org/art-and-artists/4940/vision-sermon-jacob-wrestling-angel …what would prayer be without this inward combat with the dumbness in us? This prayer that is so violent and at first uttered against our will— who can say if it is authentic or inauthentic? Jean-Louis Chrétien, “The Wounded Word” In his provocative essay “The Wounded Word: The Phenomenology of Prayer,” Jean-Louis Chrétien argues that prayer is the “religious phenomenon par excellence,”
I was recently struck by a line from Peter Leithart’s review of Vern Poythress’ recent book, The Mystery of the Trinity. At the end of the review Leithart offers what he deems to be high praise for Poythress: Each chapter of Mystery of the Trinity ends with a prayer. Poythress and Frame want theology to speak to ordinary people in ordinary language, rather than become a playground for professionals who bandy intimidating technical terms about to keep
Bonaventure’s entire theological project is deeply prayerful, and many of his most famous works are bookended by prayer. This is nowhere more evident than the Itinerarium, which begins by advising souls seeking peace to cry out in prayer, and ends with David’s words from Psalm 73—invoking mystical “passing over” into Christ through death. To read Bonaventure rightly is to stand in humility before God, the immeasurable Creator Whom no one can see and still live.
Just two years ago, Fr. Thomas Keating, O.C.S.O. died at St. Joseph’s Abbey in Spencer, MA. Prior to his passing, he had lived at St. Benedict’s Abbey in Snowmass, CO, where he left a rich legacy of contemplative teaching and interfaith dialogue. Although his death was not widely reported, Fr. Keating’s passing marked the temporal close of a unique monastic ministry, one reflective of both the energy of post-Vatican II Catholicism and the meditative turn
In Part One of this Pascalian reflection, we considered Pascal’s first step in the path of the spiritual quest. At nearly every point of his Pensées, Pascal goads his readers to pay close attention to the movements of the soul in response to the wonders of the created world. There, he insists, you will find flickers of light, glimmers of reality breaking through the darkness. Those sparks, however, are the beginning, and not the end.
In The Hare with Amber Eyes, Edmund de Waal measures the relative space of a collection of small sculptures. Small. A few inches at most. And though there are 264 of them, they could all be put in an average-sized box and stored away on a shelf somewhere. De Waal recognizes, however, that these wee pieces, called netsuke, take up considerably more space than their actual size. Paraphrasing Lord Digory, they’re bigger on the inside
The Scriptures are clear: “Abraham was called the friend of God” (James 2:23) … A Sunday School teacher told me once that we should read the Bible every day, and I was an intense, introverted child: I followed her advice, opening my third-grade presentation edition after my evening shower, my hair dripping dimples onto the onionskin pages. Jesus, on the cusp of his crucifixion, called the disciples friends, not servants (John 15:15). I was raised
God of the margins, We encounter you in the ostracized, in the liminal, on the outskirts of town. We encounter you in the pariah, the reject, the apostate. Sometimes we are the pariah, plagued by the ghosts of failed expectations. Of merciless accusations. With no consolation but your deafening silence. Sometimes we find you again. In a fellow outcast whose words spark hope. Whose vulnerability is magnetic. Whose inspiration is contagious. Their voice reverberates with
A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to spend a week in Taizé, an international, Christian ecumenical community in central France that is known for its meditative prayers and chants. It was a powerful experience, to say the least. Before visiting, I knew that Taizé was an international destination for pilgrimage, but it wasn’t until actually visiting that I understood why. Taizé was founded by Brother Roger, who came upon the village of Taizé
It could be said that, throughout history and even now in the “less enlightened” parts of the world, the cults of the Saints drive not only the practice of Christianity but also speculation (in the older, more revered sense of the term) about Christianity itself. That is, hagiography as such – the vitae Sanctorum – is not a strange collection of bygone myths (in the newer, less revered sense of the term), but the pulse
Signs. Wonders. Inbreakings of the divine into the mundane. Transcendence foisting itself upon the natural order of things. Is this what Christians are talking about when we describe miracles? People often think of miracles and magic as synonymous. From this standpoint, miracles rupture the fabric of reality—poking holes in a static backdrop of predictable causes and effects. But reality is not as static or predictable as we assume. In his book Historical Consciousness, John Lukacs
“I hate going to Confession,” I told my father-confessor recently. “As long as you keep on going,” he responded. Then he added, “Of course you do. It’s not easy admitting to failure.” I grew up in a dysfunctional household where disapproval reigned. Expecting chastisement or even condemnation is a hard habit to unlearn. I’d been anxious enough about making my first Confession that I had postponed my Chrismation and entry into the Orthodox Church for
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action,
Images of the Shroud I stay up late at night searching for high-resolution images of the Shroud of Turin weighing the evidence and different theories. I can see the blood on his arms, ringing round the bicep and shoulders, running like tattoos, the wound on the hand, and those on the feet, ribcage, and brow. They trace a body on the cloth, the relic of a crux connecting earth to heaven, there to issue blood
Purgatory and the Playboy: Remembering Hugh Hefner Two weeks ago today, Hugh Hefner died at the age of 91. Almost immediately, writers rallied to denounce (or acclaim) the fraudulent idea of his “legacy.” What he left behind him can be called a legacy only in the same sense as the aftermath of a disaster. My hope is that his life’s work, like that of the Marquis de Sade, will fade to the point that while
“Prayer comes first. Neither serving nor preaching is good if you are not praying. If you have not got Christ within, you cannot give him to others. You can put words and doctrines before people, but that is not preaching the Gospel. It is only when you have the Gospel and Christ within that you can communicate it to others…The Gospel is primarily not a word to be preached but the Spirit to be communicated”1
Mary, Mother of God, Mother of the Church Given that yesterday the Church celebrated the memorial of the Most Holy Name of the Blessed Virgin Mary, I thought that this week instead of my usual poem I would share a prayer, a traditional litany in honor of her beautiful Name. As I prepared this piece, I couldn’t help thinking that much of the prayer’s language will be unfamiliar to my Protestant brothers and sisters. It
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers (Acts 2:42 NRSV).” This article is the fourth article in a series on the early Christian church as depicted in Acts 2:41-47. The first three articles were on the apostles’ teaching, fellowship, and the breaking of bread. Both the Renaissance humanists and the Protestant reformers were guided by a similar ethos–a return to the original sources (ad fontes).