The first reading for the First Sunday of Advent (Is 63: 16b-17, 19b; 64:2-7) begins benignly enough: You, Lord, are our father, our redeemer you are named forever. The line evokes a comforting certainty—I may not understand much else that’s happening right now (in my nation, my diocese, my extended family, etc.), but I know you, Lord, are our “redeemer,” “our father . . . forever.” Lines like this make reading some Advent Scriptures feel like being wrapped in a… Read more

As we approach the solstice, I am thinking about the truth and beauty found in darkness.  (Read Jeanette Winterson’s beautiful take on this time of year here.) This week’s post comes from Sick Pilgrim publisher Jessica Mesman Griffith.  Starting this Friday, Griffith will be teaching an online course with poet and novelist Rebecca Bratten Weiss, “Reading and Writing Through the Darkness: An Advent Journey.”  Registration information is here. –Joanna Penn Cooper, “Approaching Mystery” editor   This morning I saw St…. Read more

“Sick Pilgrim was founded as a space for fellow travelers to rest a while. We’re Catholic, but we write for those who are here in the church with us and those who are attracted to Catholicism but can’t find their way in; for those who have Catholic minds or Catholic aesthetics or Catholic hearts but remain, for whatever reason, outside the church; and for those who feel they must seek outside Catholicism to meet their spiritual needs. We want to… Read more

“My dishonesty with myself and others hinders the honesty of all humanity, hinders the progress of all people.” Journal entry on 2/12/12 In 2012 I made the decision to let go of some certainty in my life for the sake of exploring something unknown. I quit my job. I quit my salary-paying, insurance-giving job full of security and certainty so I could travel to the seventeen Cistercian monasteries of the United States. As someone who isn’t Catholic, this was a… Read more

“Fairy tales do not give the child his first idea of the bogey. What fairy tales give the child is his first clear idea of the possible defeat of bogey. The baby has known the dragon intimately ever since he had an imagination. What the fairy tale provides for him is a St. George to kill the dragon. Exactly what the fairy tale does is this: it accustoms him . . . to the idea that . . . limitless… Read more

  The inarticulate moans came from a closed bedroom door at my elderly cousin’s house – not sounds of physical pain but aggravated ennui. My six-year-old-self was terrified and stayed away from the part of the house where the wails came. Ignorant and afraid, I stayed among familiar faces, and kept sound distance from that fearful noise. My younger sister showed much more courage than I could muster and would enter the room stay there for hours at a time. Anne… Read more

In my 33 years as a Catholic, I’ve found the saints–canonized or not–have often found me when I needed them, when I was ready to learn the lessons they could teach. At the forefront of this cloud of witnesses, bearing me up and urging me on, is Dorothy Day. By now, many Catholics are familiar with her name, perhaps recognizing her as the co-founder and spiritual mother of the Catholic Worker movement. She is that, but also so much more –… Read more

  Aaron greets me at the counter of Carmel Ink: “What can I do for you today?” “I’m looking for a ghost tattoo.” Most of my tattoos are religious in nature–not the traditional flash pieces pulled from the wall, praying hands with rosaries, Celtic crosses, or scripted Bible verses with “blessed” in them. No, I carry a Micah 4:6 tattoo, I will gather the outcasts, a bleeding Arabic “N” to memorialize those martyred in the Middle East, and the word Catholic,… Read more

  White scar like thread runs up and down my wrist, not because I tried to die that time, but because a rabbit didn’t want to die, an old buck, a king who misplaced his kingdom in a row of hutches, and we were butchering, and he kicked out once, writing his resistance in one long red line. We were using cudgels, but the man drove his fist into the quivering head, and blood painted his face and mine. Later,… Read more

On October 25th, the Natural History Museum in New York closed the doors of its Hall of Gems and Minerals to renovate. The old room was a weird shape, almost like the cylindrical crystals of a beryl, with staggered steps up and down into viewing areas covered with plexiglass. The room was dim, the labels of some gems difficult to read, and the organization seemingly random–by color, maybe, until you realized that cut specimens were arranged in special anterooms, patterned… Read more

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