Blow on the Coal of the Heart

candlesI light the first candle of Advent. We have no wreath. This is our first Christmas in the evergreen forests of Northern Michigan, and bringing branches inside seems redundant. Besides, there hasn’t been time. I’ve been coughing and wheezing since I caught a late September cold I can’t shake.

We have to wake before the weak winter sun rises to get our daughter to school. The roads are slick and icy and the commute into town takes twice as long as usual. There are parties and performances to attend and presents to buy and three family birthdays to observe.

The candle is an ordinary white candle, not purple or pink. I don’t know where to buy Advent supplies in town and I ran out of time to order online. [Read more...]

Going Home by a Different Way: The Image Fall Appeal

Guest post by Stuart Scadron-Wattles


The word conjures up for me an image of a medieval minstrel, someone pale and languid for love, lute in hand.

But in his recent post on Image’s 25th anniversary, Greg Wolfe cites Ezra Pound’s use of the word, evoking a more active vision—and one closer to the etymology: a troubadour is someone who finds something.

Or perhaps discovers it.

When I first began working at Image, I began asking people how they encountered us. With rare exceptions, it was by human agency. The poet Betsy Sholl, for example, answered my question by recounting a visit to her sister’s house, where her brother-in-law left a copy of Image Journal next to her bed.

“I had no idea such a thing existed,” she recalled. She read through the night and at her host’s urging, took that copy with her.

After the initial discovery, however, comes the recognition that this new thing ought to exist. It both awakens a thirst and slakes it. It leaves one both satisfied and disturbed.

And twenty-five years ago, the journal was just the beginning.

[Read more...]

Living Advent

“What should I do for Advent this year, Bill?”

The year was 1993. Bill had been my spiritual director since 1985. He was Fr. William Shannon, retired theology professor and Merton scholar…but soon after our monthly meetings began, he was urging me (as he did all his friends) to call him Bill.

On his retirement from teaching, Bill had become chaplain of the Sisters of St. Joseph in our hometown, and he lived at their Motherhouse. In response to my question, he suggested, “Why not do what we’re doing here—paying special attention to the insertion in the Lord’s Prayer.”

It was the insertion at Mass that he was referring to, where the priest adds after “Deliver us from evil”:

Deliver us, Lord from every evil

And grant us peace in our day.

In your mercy, keep us free from sin,

And protect us from all anxiety,

As we wait in joyful hope

For the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

At daily Mass at the Motherhouse during Advent, all the Sisters were saying these lines along with Bill as presider. My husband and I don’t go to daily Mass, but for Advent that year—and for many years thereafter—we said these lines at the start of our meals together.

[Read more...]

Twelve Days To Sit with the God-Made-Man

As a child, I was somewhat confused by the partridge in the pear tree and by Advent calendars. I liked both—especially the calendars, with their stiff little paper tabs opening up to an image of a toy or a bird or a tree for each day—but I didn’t understand the numerology.

Advent calendars were calendars, but they didn’t last the entire month. They ended at twenty-four, the payoff of the often-arch-shaped double door opening up to reveal a honey-tinted scene of the Christ child in the manger. [Read more...]