for all those who keep the season of holy fasting we call “lent” in english (or those who are interested in world religions for whatever reason), i’ve got a new essay out in the benedictine magazine spirit & life.
it’s based on an interaction i had with some other guys here in milwaukee last year as well as some studying of the nature of christian atonement i did years and years ago now (when i first read william langland’s tremendous poem, piers plowman—read piers if you haven’t!).
all i’ll say here is that the essay involves the devil as a monstrous fish and the holy cross as a tricky hook. enjoy!
for any readers out there who are interested in monastic spirituality, i’ve got a new essay up at macrina magazine on devotion to the sacred humanity of christ and its monastic origins.
lots of good work being done over at macrina, so take a look around if you have an interest.
I’m always grateful for the support of Spirit & Life, the Benedictine magazine that the congregation of sisters I’m affiliated puts out every other month. But especially so right now. On the occasion of the Exultation of the Cross coming up on the 14th of this month, they’ve published an essay of mine that brings together American neo-bohemia, altered states of consciousness, devotion to the Sacred Humanity of Christ, and contemplation. (!) You can find it here.
This is by far my most personal essay so far, and I find it’s getting easier over the years to just say what I want to say. Spirit & Life has helped foster that growth for sure—if you like what you see there, please subscribe; it’s free and a very pleasing material publication!
pax inter spinas
In celebration of all things Benedictine and in the wake of The Saint Benedict Prayer Book coming out, Paraclete has also recently posted a brief life and translations of prayers I’ve written up on the first (modern) Benedictine oblate to be beatified, Blessed Itala Mela.
If you have an interest in Benedictine history, the liturgy, or arcane mystics that you didn’t even know were a thing, I hope you check it out, and support Paraclete while you’re at it if you’re able to.
Anyone looking for a liturgically-focused read to set your trajectory on Advent might appreciate this new, brief meditation of mine just posted. Thanks to Dappled Things for giving this a home!
And, in the shameless self-promotion department, if you enjoy that, you might just want to pick up my wife’s and my new book, O Shining Light: Old English Meditations for Advent and Christmastide, available from Gracewing.
An essay of mine bringing together my interest in the Benedictine monastic tradition with my concerns about the pervasive (and pernicious) influence of Big Tech has just been published in The Windhover.
In the essay, I bring to bear on our screen-saturated consciousnesses two key, foundational insights of the western monastic tradition: the daily practice of calling to mind one’s own death (Rule of St. Benedict 4.47) and the call to treat all things like “the vessels of the altar” (Rule of St. Benedict 31:10).
In light of these and other teachings of the monastic tradition, I suggest that “If we were to tend to our own attention with care and concern, we might individually and collectively find ourselves again, find the stable parts of who we are, and begin to build something new with the technological advances that we have surrounded ourselves with . . .” Doing so would bring us into accord with Benedict’s prescription to “let peace be your quest and aim” (Rule of St. Benedict Prologue.17).
The Windhover doesn’t make its contents fully available online, so if you have an interest, please do help support a literary journal open to a variety of Christian perspectives and that publishes solid poems, fiction, and essays by buying a copy here.
As anyone who is familiar with me, my writing, and my teaching knows, I am a big fan of the arcane, the obscure. And that’s in keeping with my personality and the way I live my life. And so I do not often weigh in on politics and social movements, as I prefer to be private, keep my peace, and cultivate charity and openness where I actually am.
But in recent months with all that’s been going on, I did feel a need to contribute something to the surge in attention to the racial inequalities and injustices in American society. But I did it in a bit of a round-about way, as I tend to do. In response particularly to Fr. Bryan Massingale’s interview with Commonweal that I heard several weeks ago, I wrote up an essay that Dappled Things just published on their blog, “deep down things.”
It’s certainly an “in-house” argument pitched primarily at fellow Catholics, but I hope that it would be of interest to any person of good will. While its argument is about the nature of the Church, it is exactly in its surprising structural and cultural diversity that my point could mean something of import to both Catholics and anyone else “looking in” on this internal reckoning going on right now.
Anyhow, for what it’s worth.
One of my favorite activities during the school year is taking my Honors Program students to a performance at the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra.
When we went this February, I feverishly started writing notes in the program’s margins. The resulting short essay on electronic media, art, consumerism, etc. was just published by the folks at Dappled Things–many thanks to them, Marquette Honors, the MSO, and especially my students!
My new essay in Commonweal is a meditation on the overlapping sanctity of place embodied by both the Late Woodland effigy mounds found throughout Wisconsin and the Catholic tradition of shrines set in natural areas.
The essay is set at Man Mound, a county park tended by the Sauk County Historical Society (which watches over a couple other sacred sites in the area). Man Mound is the only remaining anthropomorphic earthwork in North America, and the Sauk County Historical Society got the mound recognized as a National Landmark in 2016 to protect its future. It’s a drastically underappreciated part of the indigenous contribution to North America’s cultural history, and well worth a stop if you’re ever in the area.
If you’d like to help the Society protect Man Mound and improve the grounds, you can donate to the Man Mound Project here.
Essential to the rumination in the essay, too, is Durward’s Glen, a small property in the same area as Man Mound, called the Baraboo Hills. The Glen was turned into a homestead and artist’s colony by Milwaukee poet and painter Bernard Isaac Durward, whose poems I’m currently editing, and I’ve enjoyed time at the Glen since I was a young child visiting my grandparents up in Baraboo. I can’t recommend a walk or a sit at Durward’s Glen enough. You can arrange a visit to the Glen here.
Thanks to Commonweal for helping me share these treasures at the meeting point of nature and culture.
*Photo of Man Mound by Ethan Brodsky, courtesy of Sauk County Historical Society.
The good folks at Commonweal just published a short reflection piece I wrote up for the Advent season on their website.
It speaks to the expectant waiting encouraged by the liturgy during Advent, with help from the western monastic tradition’s central practice of rumination.
A big thank you to the editors and readers of Commonweal, and a happy Advent to everyone!