Movements of the Lord

I got up very early this morning to clean up dog diarrhea, and my husband was finally home from a week of travel for work, so I slipped out for a walk to what used to be the brick house. The brick house was a house just like ours, perched on a higher hill with orange poppies lining the driveway. It had a scenic barn and a windmill, until last week sometime, when I walked there, and discovered that the whole place had been bulldozed and pushed into a hole in the ground.

It made me feel sad, not only because there are so few of these ancient houses left in the county—but because the brick house has been my turning point for so long. I go for a walk, often feeling pent up, and at the brick house, I turn 180 degrees and come home. This exercise makes me feel better. [Read more…]

Poetry Friday: “The Spirit of Promise”

image of an individual in a church looking upwards and maybe taking a photo; her back is to the camera.Memories can make good material for poetry. In “The Spirit of Promise,” Daniel Donaghy is remembering his Catholic childhood in the particular church that he’s now re-visiting. At first the poet’s memories are negative: “my grade-school nuns shaking // their heads at me”; the priest “putting down his Chesterfield / to tell me how many decades // of the rosary I’d need to say.” Then he recalls his parents in church: a softer memory, which however ends in their deaths from smoking. The remainder of the poem turns to his interlocutor, who had asked “what church was.” I love the poet’s multifaceted answer. “Church is a building, // or a service, or a group of Christians.” But then it’s even more: “something / you can give, so I’ll give it here”—and this something is “a blessing.” To think of “church” as a “blessing” is very moving to me. And the blessing given carries out the “Spirit of Promise” of the poem’s title: it’s “a blessing to a young woman / at the start of something or, /  like you, the start of everything.”

—Peggy Rosenthal [Read more…]

Calling the Lapsed

Black and white film image of the interior of a large white-wooden walled church, with high vaulted ceilings and large windows at the top of the walls. There are three enormous white balloons floating near the ceiling. To the left of the room is a table set up with things on top of it (maybe food). Several people stand in the center, holding a large balloon, and helping set up. The left and right side of the image is a blank strip of light from the film being exposed to light.By E.D.

The parish party was a bust. As a member of the Parish Council, I had promised—yet not followed through—on calling the database of lapsed Catholics the Council had acquired by asking parishioners to fill out notecards during Sunday Mass, listing friends and family members who had fallen away.

Of the targeted invitees, the lapsed Catholics, only one showed up. And the Council attendees ambushed her, four of us at once, smiling so hard our faces hurt.

I needed the party to be a success—mainly because it was only when I arrived on scene that I saw how hard one councilmember had worked to make it happen.

Sure, a few of us brought cookies, but otherwise, she alone had called the database; she alone had brewed the coffee; she alone had bedecked the folding tables with festive runners and golden coins filled with chocolate; she alone had been there since three decorating and putting out coloring pages and crayons for the children.

The initiative was her brainchild, since she herself, once lapsed, has only been back in church a few years. She is on fire, so excited to be Catholic again, which is a beautiful thing to behold, the energy she conjures for things about which the rest of us have lost hope. [Read more…]

The New Critics and the Barbarians

Thomas_Stearns_Eliot_by_Lady_Ottoline_Morrell_(1934)The poet and writer Dana Gioia penned an essay for the December 2013 issue of First Things titled “The Catholic Writer Today: Catholic Writers Must Renovate and Reoccupy Their Own Tradition.” The essay does not inspire much confidence in the state of “Catholic” writing at the beginning of the twenty-first century.

Our own Gregory Wolfe wrote a response published in Image issue 79, called “The Catholic Writer, Then and Now.” Mr. Wolfe’s essay consists in a broadening of the discussion to all Christian writers (Jews too). It also contains a strong pushback against Gioia’s mostly negative assessment.

In pushing back, Wolfe argues, against Gioia, that the problem is not so much that we lack good writers of faith, but that there is a general cultural unwillingness to recognize these writers of faith for what they are. Writers of faith, in short, are producing as many brilliant works of art as they ever were. It’s the public discussion that has gone silent.

In essence, Wolfe flips Gioia’s argument on its head. For Gioia, the primary factor in the decline of Catholic writers (and Christian writers more broadly) comes from the fact that the writers themselves “ceded the arts to secular society.” [Read more…]

Knee Walk

By Grace Talusan

Our Lady FatimaWe stumbled onto the bus in Lisbon, sleepy after the overnight flight from New York.

The pilgrimage tour guide handed out rosaries while the priest told the bus driver to play a recording of the rosary prayers on the sound system. I fingered the pink beads, following along with the Hail Marys and Our Fathers. By the time we got to the Sorrowful Mysteries, I had fallen asleep, lulled by the warm bus and the whispers of prayer.

Our first stop on the pilgrimage was the Church of St. Anthony of Padua to see the Bleeding Host. Waiting for our tour guide to organize us in front of the church, I got my first good look at my companions: elderly nuns in the habits of their order, women traveling alone who were not nuns, a priest, married couples, and an extended family.

Except for a six-year-old boy, I was the youngest person there by at least fifteen years. [Read more…]