I often rock my baby to sleep at the witching hour. These can be the hours when thoughts, either darkly vivid or hazily formed out of interrupted sleep, stray to mournful or anxious things. But on this night, my mind is pleasantly occupied with thoughts of my beloved grandmother who died a decade ago. My grandmother was the first person I knew who would read so late that it would often be early morning when she finally got to sleep…. Read more

The Buddhists have four stations of the heart: Metta (kindness), Mudita (compassion), Karuna (joy in the joy of others), and Upeka (equanimity). The Jews have four matriarchs: Sarah, a mother who laughs and who does not speak when her husband takes her son before dawn to offer him as a sacrifice in the place God will show him; Rivka, a mother who bears conflict and from whom is delivered two nations that will be at war with each other to… Read more

Marilyn Nelson is the author or translator of twelve books and three chapbooks. Her honors include two NEA creative writing fellowships, the 1990 Connecticut Arts Award, an A.C.L.S. Contemplative Practices Fellowship, a Fulbright Teaching Fellowship, a fellowship from the J.S. Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, three honorary doctorates, and the Commander’s Award for Public Service from the Department of the Army. Nelson is a professor emeritus of English at the University of Connecticut; founder and director of Soul Mountain Retreat, a small… Read more

The daughter of a Tuskegee Airman and a teacher, Marilyn Nelson was brought up primarily on military bases and started writing while still in elementary school. She earned her BA from the University of California, Davis, and holds postgraduate degrees from the University of Pennsylvania (MA, 1970) and the University of Minnesota (PhD, 1979). Her long teaching career included positions at Saint Olaf College and the Universities of Connecticut and Delaware, and brief stints at the US Military Academy at West… Read more

Literary reader of faith: I urge you now, as I’ve urged friends, students, and anyone who would listen for over a decade, toward the poetry of Adélia Prado. She is without question one of our greatest living poets, her inimitable voice at once earthy and mystical, unassuming and ecstatic. In her introduction to The Alphabet in the Park, Prado’s first book in English, translator Ellen Doré Watson tells the story of the “discovery” of Prado in the 1970s by Brazil’s… Read more

In my first church job, I rarely had to serve communion so, every month I’d get a few moments to remember what church was like before I had come on staff. In The United Methodist Church, the way we celebrate communion is fairly standardized. I’ve heard arguments that this standardization (read: boring; unwilling to change) is indicative of problems facing the Protestant church. But the liturgy—the giving and receiving of the elements—is familiar and comforting to me. Something I mouth… Read more

Suffering is the most dissociative word in the Christian lexicon. Raised Catholic, I was taught to “offer up” my suffering for the salvation of a soul in purgatory. The sooner I embraced my suffering, which meant releasing or suppressing it, the sooner suffering would turn to joy. Joy was the preferred endgame, and it was always within our power. Likewise, Christian women are often taught to embrace the “privilege of being a woman,” as Dr. Alice Von Hildebrand calls it,… Read more

The 1960s were the years of the Gemini and Apollo missions. I doubt I missed the television coverage of a single launch, spacewalk, or splashdown. For someone who did not live through that era, it is difficult to convey the aura of excitement and adventure that these missions conjured. They were scientific enterprises, to be sure, but for me they were also adventure stories: the risks and rewards of a journey toward mystery. (more…) Read more

Growing up as I did amidst the dazzling lights of New York City, it is strange that even as a small child I was madly in love with the stars. The city’s glare effectively canceled out the night sky, admitting only the rare glimpse of the brightest heavenly orbs. Beyond the moon and Venus, you’d be lucky to spot Sirius, Vega, or Rigel—or constellations other than Orion and the Big Dipper. (more…) Read more

They say the flu circulating this season begins with the sensation of having swallowed a tiny sword. For the relief of such ailments, some Catholics seek the Blessing of the Throats in February on the Feast of St. Blaise, patron saint of sufferers of throat diseases. The narrator of  Matthew Thorburn’s “Relic” describes his schoolboy experience of this ritual as “weird magic,” “ a spell to believe/in” – as much a relic in his present life as an old coat… Read more

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