Approaching Mystery: Marie Kopp Travels Those Haunted Appalachian Roads

I grew up in the Appalachians of Western Pennsylvania, enfolded in these ancient, forested mountains. It’s a place of constant drenching rain and mystic fogs. Oaks and maples, emerald in the summer, blaze out come October frosts, before waning to spindly bare branches beneath the snow. The roads through my mountains turn and swerve every which way. Our friends from Texas hated them, missing the gridlines of their home. Their mother said Pennsylvania roads must’ve been plotted by “a drunk… Read more

The Bleeding Woman

  When two friends told me that not only was the Bleeding Woman their favorite story in Grit and Grace, a book of “creatively re-imagined” Bible stories I wrote for tween-age girls, but that they cried while reading it, I chalked it up to their being women of a certain age and, well, perimenopausal.   Hormones.   After all, I’ve heard enough stories from my older friends about periods gone wild as menopause sets in that I figured these two… Read more

Dark Devotional: In Praise of the Wild Grapes

It’s hard to write when you’re hugely distracted by really entertaining friends. The type of friends who have all the snark, and more wit than you can ever aspire to possessing.   That’s what I realized when I sat down to write this, a week ago, attempting to submit something early for once. Look, roomie! I did it!   It’s hard to reflect when the song on your Pandora station is happily chanting like a drunk 1990s jock, “Welcome to… Read more

Approaching Mystery: Marybeth Bishop Haunts the Dead

States of Matter * I don’t know why the idea of dead bodies didn’t bother me. They never did. Maybe it was because I believed the resident was no longer home, had somewhere better to be, and what was left was delightfully quiet. We could respect each other and go about our business unbothered, theirs stationary, mine frenetic, different states of matter. Solid to liquid, liquid to gas.   There is this old cemetery in my home town where we… Read more

Dark Devotional: Saint Paul Say WHAT?

I love to pray. I love to spend time with God, in silence, in community, in Word and in liturgy. Sometimes, though, at the most inopportune times, I’m called upon to lead prayer and I just want to laugh in despair (Who, me? Lead you in something vulnerable and heart-opening? When I feel like THIS?!) At a recent planning meeting in which I was supposed to launch a new ministry, I gave our pastor the look, turned to the person next… Read more

Welcome to Spooky Pilgrim Month: Looking for Places of the Uncanny and Strange

The Nicene Creed tells us that God is the Creator of all things “Seen and Unseen” or “Visible and Invisible.” Sick Pilgrim owes its existence to the blurry lines between the two, places that are not quite “night” and not quite the “day,” places of the the uncanny where Mystery, not certainty, rules. A few years ago, we (Jonathan and Jess) met for a beer at a faux-pub near Notre Dame. Jonathan, who was working as an editor at a… Read more

Things Keeping Us Alive, September 2017

Maybe this is contradictory to what is expected from a somber sick pilgrim in a post reminding us of the small joys right now, but September has been great to me. Maybe the blusteriness and deathly season of autumn and the approaching of THE BEST HOLIDAY- HALLOWEEN stirs something within us unwell sojourners. The Great Pumpkin comes soon; be glad. Last month, I visited a graveyard with my mom after her diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, and wrote about it here…. Read more

Approaching Mystery: Joanna Penn Cooper Talks to the Dead

Last week, my brother was visiting from out of state, and one night he told me that he wanted to watch a “campy” movie, something light and fun.  I suggested Practical Magic, the witch movie from the ‘90s with Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman based on an Alice Hoffman novel.  Very soon after starting it, I remembered that this is, in fact, a somewhat unsettling movie.  The Puritan witch in the opening barely escapes hanging, then curses herself and her descendants… Read more

Pest’s Letters: This Son-of-a-bitch Doesn’t Stand for the National Anthem Either

Dear Patriot, I’ll set the stage for you. Smells of sweat and cheap beer hastily drunk and the cacophony of of over 90k fans envelop me as the loudspeaker begins to play “Livin’ On A Prayer” – the Bon Jovi anthem that has strangely become dear to most LSU fans, who shout the words. Even though they sing gruffly and unmelodically, it doesn’t matter. “Take my hand, and we’ll make it, I swear” speaks to college students, and they resonate… Read more

The Greatest Fault of Fr. James Martin’s Book? It’s Boring. Here’s Why.

  Some Catholics are ferociously angry at James Martin, SJ’s recent book, Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter Into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity. “Father James Martin is one of the most vocal advocates for the Catholic Church’s acceptance of active homosexuality,” sensationalist LifeSite News railed. Church Militant reported that 77 percent of its followers think Fr. James Martin should be defrocked and laicized (that is, stripped of his priestly “powers”… Read more

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