About Jessica Mesman Griffith

Jessica Mesman Griffith is a writer specializing in Catholicism and culture. Her book, Love and Salt: A Spiritual Memoir in Letters, won the 2014 Christopher Award for literature that affirms the highest values of the human spirit. Her home on the internet is www.jessicamesman.com.

Approaching Mystery: Timekeeping

Some of the most interesting writing happening today exists in the liminal space between genres—micro-memoir, prose poem, lyrical essay. Poet and essayist Joanna Penn Cooper recently taught an online course based on the potential these “in-between” genres have to explore mystery--one of our favorite topics at Sick Pilgrim. The course was called “Approaching Mystery: Writing Vignettes about Mystery and the Unexplained,” and we liked the idea so much that we’ve partnered with Joanna to offer a new … [Read more...]

For the People Who Cry During Holy Week

On Palm Sunday, we process into church waving blessed fronds. The priest walks amongst us, bearing the crucifix. We're recreating a scene that has the power of a cruel joke: Our Lord, greatly feted by his people, riding to his kingship on a borrowed ass. And Jesus knows, as we know, waving our palms like spears, that this kingship means torture and death. The victory march is a death march, victory and death braided as intricately as the little girl next to me braids her fronds to pass the time. … [Read more...]

That Old Catholic Magic: Jacob Popcak Explains St. Patrick’s Day to Sick Pilgrim

We invited some Sick Pilgrims over to talk about one of our favorite saints, St Patrick, in honor of his feast day this Friday, March 17. And then Jacob Popcak took us all to school.First things first. St. Patrick wasn't Irish.Jacob Popcak: Patrick was a slave of the Irish, who escaped, became a priest, and came back to convert his captors. He loved them. Which is ... insane, from a modern perspective.David Russell Mosley: He wasn't "Celtic," or at least not Irish.Jonathan Ryan: H … [Read more...]

Blog of the Year

When I told my fellow pilgrims that we'd received an award for faith-based blog of the year, our associate editor Matt Lafleur responded, "Does this mean we're....winners?" Good question.Jonathan Ryan and I created this blog for the margins, the narrow audience not being served (or published) by Christian presses and magazines -- those of us who've never felt at home anywhere but are tired of traveling alone. That audience has turned out to be a lot bigger than we anticipated.The Wilbur … [Read more...]

Beyonce and the Black Madonna

 A few thoughts on Beyonce's pregnant body:It is breathtakingly beautiful.It is unashamedly sensual.And it is holy.Full stop.No qualifiers.Watching Beyonce's Grammy performance, I nearly wept. We've seen stylized photos of pregnant celebrities before--they're hardly controversial at this point. But I can't remember seeing a pregnant woman on stage at a mainstream cultural event, doing her thing--being an artist, interpreting, performing, working--instead of … [Read more...]

Mary Karr: Trying to Say God

This post begins our series of features on the writers, musicians and artists who will be speaking and performing at the Trying to Say God Conference, June 22-24 at the University of Notre Dame."Talking about spiritual activity to a secular audience is like doing card tricks on the radio," Mary Karr, bestselling author of and "unlikely" Catholic convert, told Terry Gross. I remember hearing Karr on Fresh Air as I pulled into the parking lot of my desk job after a miserably cold and g … [Read more...]

The Artist’s Fiat: An Interview with Sister Sinjin

I’ve been listening to Sister Sinjin’s new album, Incarnation, as a daily Advent prayer, and I was so inspired by their dark-folk-Medieval vibe that I wrote this essay last week about women and suffering and art and faith instead of the album review that I’d set out to write.Sister Sinjin is Elise Erikson Barrett (vocals, keys), Elizabeth Duffy (vocals, cello, banjo, guitar), and Kaitlyn Ferry (vocals, violin, mandolin, keys). They’re three mothers who connected through various church events … [Read more...]

Mothers, Artists, and Pain: Moon River and the Feast of the Immaculate Conception

My maternal grandfather was born on December 8, 1912, on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. I barely remember him now, only that he was a heavy smoker and a Wild Turkey drinker, that he wore thick-lensed, heavy black-framed glasses that would be hip today, and that he often growled at my complaining grandmother to "go on, y'ol bitch" (under his breath, but loud enough that we could hear that Georgia smoker's rumble).But my mother loved her daddy with such ferocity that when I complained … [Read more...]

Advent: A Brief History of Time

The first Sunday of Advent begins the Catholic Church's New Year, and in his homily, our priest took the chance to reminded us that here, in the Church, time works differently.Secular time is a straight line, stretching out ahead indefinitely. I picture the diagram of "the flea and the acrobat" that the science teacher in Stranger Things draws on a paper plate to illustrate how one might exist in an alternate dimension. In fact, I draw it on my song sheet, a straight line and a stick figure, … [Read more...]

The Anointing of a Sick Pilgrim

I hobbled into church yesterday for the Rite of the Anointing of the Sick, holding the railing to relieve the pain in my left leg as I climbed the steps to the choir loft. I tore my meniscus on Election Day, when, distracted and anxious, I tripped over myself in my kitchen.People smiled at me sympathetically, but this isn't why I'm here. I didn't come to get anointed. I'm in the choir, and I volunteered to sing.The organist begins the opening hymn as I'm still shuffling through my music. … [Read more...]