Poets and Pope Embrace our Planet

5439014802_dc3b80295b_zPoets have no problem seeing the world evolving within God’s care.

Okay, that’s too general a statement. Let’s just take some of the poets in the special issue of Image (#85) on “Evolution and the Imago Dei.” (And since Pope Francis’s encyclical Laudato Sì came out nearly the same time as Image, I hear the Pope conversing with the poets.)

Poet Pattiann Rogers has for decades traced the minutiae of a natural world alive in unexpected ways. I reach for her collection Song of the World Becoming whenever I want to be drawn afresh into nature’s secret life. Here in Image, in “The Moss Method,” it’s the wondrous protective quality of mosses that Rogers burrows her language into. [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...]

Jesus Through Poets’ Eyes

15416184450_c48e41f5e6_mIn my Catholic faith, Easter lasts for seven weeks, until Pentecost; so I’m not too late with this little Easter offering. This year for Easter, instead of hunting for colored eggs, I hunted through my book The Poets’ Jesus for some of the many ways that poets have seen Jesus over the centuries. I found hundreds; but here, lined up chronologically in their carton, are a key dozen.

As indeed He sucked Mary’s milk
He has given suck—life to the universe.
As again He dwelt in His mother’s womb
in His womb dwells all creation.

This eye-opener comes from fourth century Syrian poet Ephrem, for whom the Incarnation marvelously turned everything in the universe upside down—here, imaging Jesus as mother. [Read more...]

Signs, Parables, and The Lord of the Rings

mapI’m reading The Lord of the Rings trilogy for the first time. I inwardly cringed when I wrote that, as I cringe whenever anyone asks me what I’m reading right now.

Despite his reputation among the beloved Inklings and many others I admire, I’ve always lumped Tolkien in with Dungeons and Dragons and Renaissance fairs, or at least with fanatical teenaged boys.

The Peter Jackson adaptations didn’t do much to convince me otherwise. They came out when I was in graduate school, and when I saw them I was unmoved. I realize now I was mostly uncomprehending—so much that gives the story its emotional heft is necessarily glossed over in whispers and asides—and distracted by the violence.

[Read more...]


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