Looking Past the Miracle: The Poetry of Mary Szybist

I first heard Mary Szybist’s poems about 13 years ago in a St. Louis reading series. The illustrious restaurant/bar that hosted the series was dimly lit that night, save for strings of small white lights around the picture window to the street. The lighting created a large halo behind the readers—Szybist, a professor at Lewis & Clark College, and her husband, Jerry Harp. Szybist’s poems like “Via Negativa” enthralled me: Sometimes it’s too hard with words or dark or silence.Tonight I wan … [Read more...]

I Walked into Suffering on the Road to Santiago

“For as long as humans have walked, they have walked to get closer to their gods." The words appear on top of a PBS website in white upon a black background—an over-simplified truth, smacking with arrogant certitude. At least that’s the way it feels to me when I stare at the screen just a few days after returning from pilgrimage on El Camino de Santiago, the Way of St. James, in Northern Spain.“For as long as humans have walked, they have walked to get closer to their gods.” The phrase rolls … [Read more...]

The Theology of Suffering Questions the Benedict Option

Allow me to tell you a story. A few years ago, I went through the worst period of my life so far, a time of personal suffering that I pray to God I never will have to through again. A painful divorce resulted in a move away from my children so that I could get a job that would cover their insurance. I gave up friends and a sixteen year career as a Presbyterian minister to enter the Catholic Church.Needless to say, I didn't enter the church with a shout of triumph, profound theological … [Read more...]

St. Joseph’s Altar: The Lenten Feast?

Every year in my school, the classes would take a bus to a nearby banquet hall in our town of Opelousas, where we’d be able to eat some of the great food prepared for the St. Joseph’s Altar, a practice especially popular in Catholic southern Louisiana. That “altar” was really just a few tables adorned with flowers, breads, desserts, and meatless meals to commemorate the Solemnity of St. Joseph.Since the Solemnity falls during Lent most years and is not technically a Feast Day, the rules of th … [Read more...]

Introducing Brian Jocks, Sick Pilgrim’s Illustrator

Louisiana artist Brian Jocks will be contributing original illustrations to the Dark Devotional, Sick Pilgrim's weekly meditations on the Mass readings.Sick Pilgrim ("a decidedly dark and offbeat, yet stubbornly hopeful blog founded by misfit Catholic writers") is meant to be a platform for artists. As a blog, most of the artists we've gathered are writers, and we’ve been excited to feature so many (with more than 60 guest posts in our first year online), each with a unique voi … [Read more...]

Destruction As Grace – Dark Devotional

I stared up at the Basilica in hate. I hated them. Every single one of them. I did.Yet more than anything I hated the Church in general. The Catholic Church.I held the Catechism of the Catholic Church deep gripped in my sweaty teenage hand. I stared up at the peak of the tower. It hailed over me in unapologetic grace. Unaware of me. Uncaring. I stared at the towering mural of Jesus and the Virgen de San Juan del Valle. It stared back at me. Yet saw nothing.I watched all the crusty … [Read more...]

Trying to Say God (as artists)

A few years ago, Kaya Oakes wrote in America Magazine that "Catholic literary culture today might best described as a funeral for multiple corpses. This, for living Catholic writers, makes for a rather depressing set of circumstances to enter into."Soon after, I went to the Future of The Catholic Imagination conference at USC and saw this funeral on full display.What depressed me most was that no one ever really defined a Catholic artistic imagination, how it gets formed, and what we can … [Read more...]

Burn the Catholic Witches! (Like Me)

I've been doing some research on American saints and martyrs. A few of these stories seem to be ripped from a modern horror novel. For example, there are the five North American martyrs who underwent burning, flaying, and beatings. But one particular martyr caught my eye in Brian O'Neel's book, 150 North American Martyrs You Should Know. Why? Because the martyrdom took place just before one of the most infamous events in American History: the Salem Witch hysteria. And this martyrdom is … [Read more...]

We’re All Catfishers….

My heart broke when I read Chase Padusniak's catfishing post  and his story of being taken in by someone passing herself off as a 23-year-old single woman under the Twitter handle "That Catholic Girl." He gave his heart to her, and it got stomped on by a woman who is actually 30 and married.Of course, those of us who read his story were appalled. We should be. But if we practice self-reflection, we will see how much we are like this woman.  We wear masks for people and lead them away from our … [Read more...]

Dark Devotional: I Don’t Believe in the Fatherhood of God, do you?

  When it comes to the story of the Prodigal Son, it's hard to come up with a new angle. It's been done. The story has been dissected over and over again. Is there anything new that we can learn from it?The popular picture of Jesus' parable is about the wayward son who sins like a Catholic at Mardi Gras and then gets forgiven by the father. That's a great story, but it's not really the point of the tale. If you go a little deeper, you see that just as much time is spent … [Read more...]