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I created this talk for Benedictine College’s Symposium on the New Evangelization. It’s about the role art can play in helping us realize our ideals of virtue and holiness. I linked G.K. Chesterton, his character Innocent Smith (from Manalive) and St. Francis of Assisi to show how Chesterton wove the things he loved most about St. Francis into his character, and thus drew all that joy and abandonment to God a bit closer to himself and his readers.
Quoting Chesterton’s biography of St. Francis, his own biography and autobiography, Manalive, and Orthodoxy, I moved back and forth between the character and the saint, the ideal and the imaginative realization, to suggest that we need such imaginative bridges to move toward full appropriation of supernatural joy, toward holiness. That art may serve to help us realize ourselves more wholly, more fully without any violation of the art, the ideal, or of our own being suggests that Catholics would do well to enter in to the work of creating stories, poems, paintings, and other works with the goal of becoming saints in the process.
- Poetess, weaving experience into wombs of words.
- Begging for help naming millions of babies!
- I create low-budget Catholic cultural initiatives.
This is fun, so why am I irritated?? [Read more…]
Update: Since this was first posted, I’ve learned that cancer researchers are learning to spot cancer earlier. Guess how?? By looking for knots! Characteristic tumor vasculature is tangled and knotted, as opposed to the lovely network of blood vessels that supply non-cancerous organs.
My whole life is an argument! It’s not that I go around picking fights, but that every choice I make, every action is, in its own way, an argument for choosing that action over other possibilities. This quality of actuality – one judgment realized in concrete form necessarily limits the range of possibility for the next choice – is one reason we keep ideas and virtue locked in a mental tower, and so seldom actualize them in forms, gestures, incontrovertible proofs of what we have thought about.
Thankfully, I don’t live intimately among people who choose quite differently. So, there’s not really much overt argument about my life choices. Every now and then, I realize that my very presence – because of these choices, not because I’m constantly mouthing off about my decisions – is a challenge to someone else.
I know how they feel. I’ve felt it myself – a little defensive in the presence even of someone who has chosen to dress nicer for this party, or go ahead and buy from that company. They might feel a bit wary that their choice for something I clearly chose against might be grounds for exile from my heart, my community, or my regard for them.
Their remedy – if my experience is any indicator – is to be much more clear than people usually are about the whys and wherefores of their own choices. The real challenge is to see that it’s me who needs to shift course when I feel defensive. I need to go over my own reasoning with a teachable spirit (not a combative, internal, self-righteous rehearsal) and then take a calm stand based on my own judgment.
Most important, I need to ‘own my own stuff’ and not attribute my discomfort to the other person, as though he were forcing me to defend myself.
I can stand my high ground, but need to stay free while doing it. Read some surprising reasons why you should argue.
Members of the Catholic Creatives Salon spent Season Ten considering the beauty of festival as a preparation for the Eucharistic Feast. Together, we created a Feast of St. Joseph that was a miracle!
It’s a miracle when friends spend Real Time together…a miracle when ten friends spend four long hours together around a dinner table…a miracle when those four hours are so rich and full of life they feel like kairos – time out of time. It’s a miracle when wine is present to symbolize that a spirit of prayer and joy pervades a time of fellowship.
I spent last night experiencing such a miracle. After a lovely St. Joseph vespers with hymn and chant-tone psalms, we ten sat down to hear food blessed and recite the St.Joseph Memorare before digging in to the salad course, served on fine china, amid candles and lilies.
Between the salad course and the soup & bread – minestrone, full of goodness, and hot-from-the-oven sheaves of wheat – we listened to readings about St. Joseph’s role in the life of Christ, and his patronage of all we brethren of the Lord. Likewise, before the main course, readings about the miraculous St. Joseph staircase and St. Teresa’s statue – the ‘tattletale’ St. Joseph.
After Sicilian meat roll, creamy garlic & cheese potatoes, basil carrots and asparagi al forno (oven roasted asparagus – heavenly!), we learned of St. Joseph’s patronage of families, fathers, expectant mothers (pregnant women), travelers, immigrants, house sellers and buyers, craftsmen, engineers, and working people…and that San Jose is the most used place name in the world. No wonder!
As the cheese and fruit were passed, we heard a beautiful prayer to St. Joseph in Italian. It’s hard to express how perfect Italian felt in this place, at this particular time, for all of us whose hearts all long a bit to go home to Rome. Talk turned to Blessed Pope John Paul and our various visits to the blessed city. Mmmmm….delicious, in so many ways. Two poems – my own St. Joseph Carpenter, and one by Paul Claudel (I surround her on all sides, Joseph says, of Mary….) – served as literary dessert.
It’s a miracle when you can eat all that and still have room for dessert! But then, the whole evening was an experiment in miracles. How fully is it possible to in-fill time…to layer meaning upon moment in a densification of time…to place eternity within the negative space of agenda, content, activity? Chocolate-almond biscotti and, traditional for tavolas di San Giuse, ricotta-filled, chocolate-ganache-topped cream puffs…we found room!
It’s a miracle when friends pull together a drama like this and then stay together to strike the set. But stay they did, until the loaded table was cleared; until every dish was washed, dried and put away; until the spilled wax was scraped up and the floor swept; until everyone’s prayer request was in the basket destined for a Mass in honor of St. Joseph; until the borrowed space was as though we had not invaded it with our merrymaking and solemnity. Just as we stay until Father cleans at the altar, we stayed.
It’s a miracle when, tired and busy-tomorrow and facing long drives home, friends stop for one more moment in kairos together – a sung Litany of St. Joseph and a closing prayer. Our desire had been to learn, to experience, to realize, “What is a feast, a festival, festivity?” “How does our capacity for festivity relate to our capacity for Christ?” “What kind of miracle is made by human effort that forms a vessel for the infusion of grace?” And we had. Thank you, St. Joseph, and thank you, my friends, for the miracle of this feast!