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!
I have an enduring appreciation for all the spiritual and religious traditions of humanity, and within the Church I am particularly enthusiastic about the witness to unity that the full communion of the Latin Catholic Church and the twenty-three Eastern Catholic Churches (all twenty-four being sui iuris Churches in communion with the bishop of Rome) share.
The extensive diversity on the surface (of liturgical form, spiritual culture, and secular culture and language), attended by the willingness and desire to share in the most profound depths of sacred ritual (most especially the Eucharist) point up just how much we can be united within our very real differences.
In one specific and practical example, I address the fruits of this communion in a new article published by Spirit & Life, the magazine put out by the congregation of Benedictine sisters with whom I am an oblate. You can read the full essay here.