“I think that we human beings have a compass, a mysterious compass, which leads us to do what is right.” –Jean Vanier   Hearing the quote above–which begins Summer in the Forest, a documentary about L’Arche, founded by Jean Vanier–I was afraid the film itself would be overly pat and syrupy. I was wrong. When four men labeled as “idiots” were confined to a life of imprisonment in asylum-like institutes in the 1960’s, a young Canadian philosopher named Jean Vanier secured their… Read more

“Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart. Try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books written in a foreign language. Do not now look for the answers. They cannot now be given to you because you could not live them. It is a question of experiencing everything. At present you need to live the question. Perhaps you will gradually, without even noticing it, find yourself experiencing the answer, some distant day.” ~Rainier Maria… Read more

  In Camera Lucida, Roland Barthes speaks of the photograph’s punctum, of the detail that punctures, that draws the attention of the individual viewer and provokes an emotional response based on personal associations.  There’s a photograph of me as a baby, wearing something soft and white, including a soft, white hat with a huge pom-pom.  I’m being held by Peter, my erstwhile father (who I haven’t seen in years).  I believe we’re standing on a porch, and in this black… Read more

Why would a Protestant want to be part of Sick Pilgrim? There are basically two ways of thinking about what it means to be a Protestant Christian. One road is that of ascetic severity: if it’s not in the Bible or a given book of confessions, then it has to be thrown out. Calvinist strands in particular have tended to expel both extra-biblical Christian lore and the sensory engagement that has characterized popular piety – icons, incense, Marian devotion, etc…. Read more

Art by the crimson and reflective Brian Jocks. My sophomore year at Taylor University, a small Christian college in Indiana, I sat between two friends on a couch, watching a movie in our dorm. I was eating a snack-size package of bland vanilla cookies — the only sweet thing they’d had for sale at the front desk. They weren’t very good, but I couldn’t stop eating them. I didn’t know why, didn’t investigate why. But I was the only one… Read more

Several years ago, I happened upon naturalist Sallie Wolf’s website detailing her “moon project.” For 20 years, Wolf has observed the moon, desiring as she put it, to live like a preliterate person, without access to books or the internet, learning only through the power of her own observation. She developed a visual tool for charting the moon’s position in the sky, a semicircular diagram that she called “my watchful eye.” For years, along with all the other records and musings and… Read more

In those days, God delivered all these commandments: “I, the LORD, am your God,  who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that place of slavery. You shall not have other gods besides me. You shall not carve idols for yourselves  in the shape of anything in the sky above  or on the earth below or in the waters beneath the earth;  you shall not bow down before them or worship them. For I, the LORD, your God, am… Read more

The sun was setting, and this Cajun was still not freezing. In the distant north of Washington, D.C., at the unforgiving time of the ending of February, I expected frigid misery, but I’d eagerly accepted the invitation to lobby on behalf of the 1 in 10 Americans affected by a rare disease or disorder. After all, I’m a political nerd. But I was more nervous than Ramsay hearing that Sansa had released my starving hounds. There was no denying that… Read more

I’m ready for spring. Some people live for colder weather– the days when the air is chilly enough to wear more layers of clothes makes them giddy and eager to wear several accessories, making sure that everything matches or meshes together to look fashionable. I hate everything about that sentence. I blame my Cajun blood. Give me shorts or jeans and a tee-shirt over scarves, gloves, and petticoats any day. I’m not even sure what a petticoat is, and I… Read more

Art by the brilliant and transfigurative Brian Jocks.   I do not like Lent. There I said it. I don’t like the fasting. I don’t like the somber masses without the hallelujahs. I don’t like preparing for Jesus’ death. Yes, yes, I know that we are preparing for the glorious moment when he raises up from the dead, but from the minute I finish eating my pancakes and dancing with my students to zydeco on Mardi Gras, until I am… Read more

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