Dark Devotional: Faith and Doubt in the Labyrinth

I am easily led to anxiety in unfamiliar situations. I don’t like to do things with other people, and though I recognize the necessity in community, I’d almost always prefer to go about my day on my own, for comfort's sake. Like most of us, I like certainty. Like most of us, I realize life isn’t very certain.While walking a labyrinth with a group of friends last week, I was brought to a place of holding this uncertainty in a new way. In our preparation to walk, we reminded one another that th … [Read more...]

It Didn’t Count: Sexual Assault and Virginity

“An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach.” 1 Timothy 3:2“Deacons must be husbands of only one wife.” 1 Timothy 3:12When I was 17 years old, I was sexually assaulted by a classmate. It was my first sexual experience, and it changed the course of my life. In addition to the psychological damage, I had to reckon with what my status as an assault victim meant in the context of a Christian campus ministry … [Read more...]

The Grand Canyon by Wheelchair

Maybe I missed out on a fundamental aspect of being a Cajun. Maybe my ancestors roll over in their graves when I admit this.I’m not a big fan of Mardi Gras.I can pretend it’s because of a noble reason - that the modern celebration of Mardi Gras has little to do with the authentic celebration of feasting before the long Lenten fast preceding Easter.The truth though is that Mardi Gras brings out two of my worst enemies as an awkward introvert - large crowds and loud inebriation - all fo … [Read more...]

And The Title For The Sick Pilgrim Book Is….

  Jess: What do you think we should name our book? Jonathan: I dunno, what do you think we can get away with? Jess: Hmm, how about, Strange Journey: How Two Homesick Pilgrims Stumbled Back Into the Catholic Church? Jonathan: Jess, they'll never go for it. Jess: ... Loyola Press: Hey, we actually came up with the subtitle, so we love it! All: (Much Rejoicing) Fin Coming Fall 2017  in book outlets everywhere from Loyola Press  … [Read more...]

Praying with Depression (and Children)

"I want us to recite the Lord’s Prayer together in the mornings as a family before we leave for school or work,” Sergei tells me.I roll my eyes. Our mornings are hurried. There is barely time for breakfast, clothes, teeth and hair. Do we need to add another thing? And mornings are still hard for me. Some days, although I try to be more present in my life and work the program, I don’t come downstairs to help at all. But we start learning the Lord’s Prayer anyway. Sergei prints it out from his … [Read more...]

The Dark Side of Christmas: The Murder of Innocents

“They said there’ll be snow at Christmas. They said there’ll be peace on Earth. But instead it just kept on raining. A veil of tears for the virgin birth.”So sings Greg Lake, disaffected by Christmas—and he's not alone. A season so touched by light makes me even more aware of the depth of the darkness around us--“the people who walked in darkness have indeed seen a great light” (Isaiah 9:2). The contrast can be unbearable.Even the secular world senses it. Even left with the paper-thin sha … [Read more...]

Advent: The Catholic Church IS the Rebellion

A few days ago, I was talking about the new Star Wars movie, Rogue One (which I loved) when someone asked, rather sarcastically, if Jess and I see Sick Pilgrim as our own "little rebellion" against the Catholic Church. I responded, without thinking too deeply about my answer, "Why would I want to rebel against the very thing I gave up everything, and I mean everything, to join three years ago? That would be insane."Later, I thought about her question and I understood it a little better. … [Read more...]

Jesus Frankenstein: Mary’s Baby and Mary Shelley’s Hideous Progeny

“I, the miserable and the abandoned, am an abortion to be spurned at, and kicked, and trampled on.” So cries Frankenstein’s monster at the end of Mary Shelley’s most famous work, published in 1818, when the author was just 21. In her introduction to the 1831 edition, Shelley attempts to answer the question “so frequently asked” of her –   “How [did] I, then a young girl, [come] to think of, and to dilate upon, so very hideous an idea?” Her answer is less than satisfying: my parents were famous … [Read more...]

Dark Devotional: Fourth Sunday in Advent: Listen to the Misfits

A Reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah 56:1-3A, 6-8I’m a misfit, especially as a person of faith. I’m a Pentecostal Episcopalian, who’s never given up being Pentecostal (even though that is really not cool in the academic and literary circles I run in), and I haven’t yet been baptized Episcopalian (to the confusion of my priest and bishop). I also pray the rosary, venerate St. Mary of Egypt (was there ever a saint with a more charismatic conversion?), write Catholic fiction, think like … [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...]