About Jan Vallone

Jan Vallone is the author of Pieces of Someday: One Woman’s Search for Meaning in Lawyering Family, Italy, Church, and a Tiny Jewish High School, which won the Reader Views Reviewers’ Choice Award. Her stories have appeared in The Seattle Times, Good Letters, Faith & Values in the Public Square, Catholic Digest, Guideposts Magazine, English Journal, Chicken Soup for the Soul, and Writing it Real. She lives and teaches writing in Seattle.

The Way of Saint James

Jan ValloneMy Uncle Jimmy died in September at the age of ninety. Born in Sicily, he immigrated to New York when young and served in the U.S. Army during World War II. He was the husband of my aunt for sixty-one years, the frolicsome father of my two cousins, a regular part of my life until I married and moved away.

I can still see my uncle clearly as he was in January 1994. The way his brown eyes sparkled. The way his thick hair swept back from his forehead. The way he arm-wrestled my four-year-old son to laughter, easing tears caused by my father’s death.

That was the last time I saw my Uncle Jimmy. Almost twenty years ago.

On the day my Uncle Jimmy died, I didn’t even know that he was ill. He’d lived in Florida for two decades and I in Seattle for three. Through those years our correspondence was limited, consisting only of Christmas and Easter cards with a few scribbled pleasantries. Some years, even cards were lacking.

No, on the day my uncle died, I wasn’t at his bedside hugging him. Instead, I was in a Spanish cathedral embracing a very different Jimmy, not one of flesh and bones, but of gold-plate and jewels, the bust of Saint James, apostle of Jesus, whom Spaniards call Santiago. [Read more...]

Contemplative Questions: An Interview on Spirituality and Prayer with Fr. Raymond Shore, OP, Part 2

Continued from yesterday.

9009737695_41e216db24_mJan Vallone: You say that joy is the knowledge of the possession of the Holy Spirit, but that it doesn’t mean that you are happy. If joy doesn’t feel like happiness, what does it feel like?

Fr. Raymond Shore: It’s a confidence, a sense of fulfillment of God’s promise that he’s always with us. If you read about Saint Maximilian Maria Kolbe—he was a Polish Franciscan friar sent to Auschwitz during World War II—you don’t get the sense that he despaired. [Read more...]

Contemplative Questions: An Interview on Spirituality and Prayer with Fr. Raymond Shore, OP, Part 1

Spurred by both confusion and curiosity, I recently took a graduate course on contemporary spirituality and prayer that required us students to interview an “expert” on the meaning of those terms. As a result, I spoke at length with a Roman Catholic priest of the Dominican Order—The Order of Preachers—whose nom de plume is Fr. Raymond Shore. His perspective fascinated me.

5870093557_ae224540e3_mJan Vallone: Some people would say that spirituality is an awareness of human experiences that go beyond the material, like love, compassion, feeling at peace. They’d say that spiritual practices consist of any activities that facilitate these experiences. For them, walking in the woods, practicing yoga, meditating, and even having a manicure might be spiritual practices.

I take a yoga class, for example, and although it begins with rigorous exercise, it ends with savasana, corpse pose, when we lie facing upwards on our mats, close our eyes, relax our muscles, and quiet our minds. The sequence produces sensations of inner peace, and when we come out of the pose, we are prompted to take that peace out into the world by being kind and compassionate. After yoga, I find it much easier to be kind and compassionate. Is this a spiritual practice?

Fr. Raymond Shore: Not as you describe it. Spirituality is our approach to God. It’s how we draw close to him. It’s a process that produces a combination of thoughts, feelings, and actions, different for each of us, depending on our personality, but all directed toward the same end: union with God. [Read more...]

It Is Finished: Christ’s Words from the Cross

When Jesus had taken the wine, he said, “It is finished.” And bowing his head, he handed over the spirit.


It is finished. Of all Christ’s words from the cross, these move me most deeply. The words strike me as cryptic, charged with meaning. They trigger many questions in my mind. Jesus, what is finished? What exactly do you mean? What are you thinking as you speak?

[Read more...]

Complimentary Angles

cupsCristin slammed the kitchen door behind her when she came home from work a few weeks ago. She threw her Starbucks apron on a chair. “Mom, a new girl named Ashley started today, and I’m supposed to train her. But I can’t stand her!”

I looked up from the bills I’d been paying at the table. “I’m sorry, Hon. What, exactly, is the problem?”

“Well, first of all, she’s rude. She obviously doesn’t know how to operate the cash register, even though she worked at another branch of Starbucks for a year. And when I tried to show her how to do it, she told me she doesn’t like register—she prefers making drinks. I’m the supervisor. She’s a barista. She’s supposed to do what I ask.”

“So what did you do?”

[Read more...]