New Personal Essay on Contemplation in _Spirit & Life_

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

Webinar for Paraclete Press with Abbot Primate Gregory Polan on the Divine Office

I had the distinct privilege yesterday of having a conversation with Abbot Primate Gregory J. Polan, OSB and Rachel McKendree of Paraclete Press about the practice and virtues of the Divine Office (also known as the Liturgy of the Hours) and my new book, The Saint Benedict Prayer Book.

We discussed a bit of the history but more so the vision of reality that is conveyed by the performance of the Hours, why it matters as a form of prayer in the world today and how it shapes who we are. It was a fabulous discussion with much wisdom from Abbot Primate Gregory.

If you have an interest, you can watch the full conversation here, and you can pick a copy of the book here.

Pax et Bonum!

More Benedictiana: 6th century poem on St. Benedict in _Spirit & Life_ (+ audio)

I’ve come back from vacation to find my translation of a Latin poem on St. Benedict in the latest print issue of Spirit & Life, the magazine that the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration publish every couple months.

It’s a middle-length poem by a monk named Mark of Monte Cassino, and it’s the earliest attestation we have of St. Benedict’s existence—in plenty of time for his feast day on July 11th. The Latin is set in elegiac couplets, and I’ve translated them into alternating 12-syllable and 10-syllable lines modeled on French syllabic lines.

So, if you’re interested in arcane Benedictine texts (as you know I am), have a read here and a listen below if you like! Also: you can sign up for a free subscription to the magazine here.

Post(s) on Blessed Itala Mela Featured at Paraclete Press’s Site

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.

Pax

_The Saint Benedict Prayer Book_ Released by Paraclete Press

Very happy and humbled to announce the publication of The Saint Benedict Prayer Book. Those who read this blog from time to time for my verse might not be as familiar with my work on western monasticism, but Benedictine culture and thought are primary passions and preoccupations of mine in professional and personal capacities. Years of practice as a Benedictine oblate and of studying the texts that Benedictines have left us from the tenth thru the twentieth centuries have come together in this book in a way that leaves me grateful.

The volume features Little Offices, Commemorations, and Litanies, many of which have been sitting unused for centuries in manuscripts and for decades in scholarly editions. As Fr. Cassian Folsom, OSB says in his Foreword, these prayers are “deeply rooted in the liturgical life of the Church,” with most of them serving as a kind of “adornment” for the Liturgy of the Hours in the Latin Church’s offering of prayer to the Father thru the Son in the Spirit.

Any monastic, oblate, or anyone who is just curious about a 1,500-year tradition of religious life, culture, and liturgical experimentation should find something of value in this book. I offer it to the world ut in omnibus glorifecetur deus.

If you’re interested in a preview or a copy, you can find it here on Paraclete’s site. Thanks for reading!

“Unus Deus et Pater Omnium,” a translation of the Old English “Homiletic Fragment II”

In the interest of continuing to promote appreciation of Old English poetry and the anonymous poets behind the poems, and because it’s Friday, here’s a reading of an Old English poem.

This poem appears in the Exeter Book between the two big sets of riddles. It may not actually be a fragment, and you can see from the editorial title (“Homiletic Fragment II”) that it hasn’t received much love from editors and scholars of Old English literature. But I think it’s a nice little work, offering an exhortation to wisdom in light of the sweep of salvation history, and based in part on Ephesians 4:5-6. It does a lot in a little bit of room.

I thought it was interesting enough to have Br. Paul Quenon, OCSO and Sr. Sarah Schwartzberg do readings of the poem in a forum essay I did in the journal Religion & Literature too, and they mined monastic riches from it readily.

Anyhow, here’s the poem and my translation. It’s included in my chapbook Lofsangas: Poems Old and New, which features translations of oft-neglected Old English poems like this one.

Original text:

Gefeoh nu on ferðe ond to frofre geþeoh

dryhtne þinum, ond þinne dom arær,

heald hordlocan, hyge fæste bind

mid modsefan. Monig biþ uncuþ

treowgeþofta,      teorað hwilum,

waciaþ wordbeot;      swa þeos woruld fareð,

scurum scyndeð      ond gesceap dreogeð.

An is geleafa,      an lifgende,

an is fulwiht,      an fæder ece,

siþþan geong aweox     

mægeð modhwatu      mid moncynne;

ðær gelicade      þa… …op

in þam hordfate,      halgan gæste,

beorht on br…      …e scan,

an is folces fruma, se þas foldan gesceop,

duguðe ond dreamas. Dom siþþan weox,

þeah þeos læne gesceaft longe stode

heolstre gehyded, helme …edygled,

biþeaht wel treowum, þystre oferfæðmed,

se wæs ordfruma ealles leohtes.

*

Translation:

Let your spirit rejoice, take solace, and thrive—

set your glory in God’s service.

Hold well the inner wealth of your thoughts,

boldly binding your mind and heart,

for true friends often turn out

to be strangers: their big words stray

from the truth. And so this world sails on,

disturbed by storms and enduring its destiny.

There is one faith, one eternal Father,

one baptism, and one blessed Lord.

There is one Creator who made the world,

its goods and its joys. Its glory grew—

although this passing world was wrapped

in darkness, covered in cloud, totally

enveloped in a vast thicket of gloom.

Among Adam’s kin a girl grew,

a virgin and vessel for great wealth.

That handmaiden pleased the Holy Spirit,

and the Son shone bright from her breast:

he, the origin of all Light.

A (Very) Short Old English Poem for February

As it continues snowing here in southeastern Wisconsin, it is a prime season for reading Old English poetry, which seems so at home in the cold and frost and dreary skies.

So, I thought I’d send a short Old English poem out into the world. I translated this little poem (mircro-poetry before micro-poetry!) in my chapbook that St. Francis University Press put out several years ago. Its editorial title is “A Proverb of Winfrid’s Time” and is found in an early-tenth-century manuscript copy of St. Bonfiace’s (born “Winfrid”) letters. It’s the earliest independent verse proverb in the English language that we know of. Text and audio below.

.

Old English:

Oft daedlata dome foreldit,

sigisitha gahuem, suuyltit thi ana.

.

Present Day English:

The idle man puts off glory

and fruitful deeds—then dies alone.

If you’re interested in some poetic translations of less frequently translated Old English poems, and some originals, you can pick up a copy of the chapbook on Amazon here.

New Advent Meditation on _Dappled Things_’ Blog _deep down things_

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.

Marian Poem by Dame Gertrude More (Audio)

On this Marian feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, I thought I’d offer a reading of Dame Gertrude More’s poem “To Our Blessed Lady, the Advocate of Sinners.”

A short prayer-poem set in common metre, “To Our Blessed Lady” was composed by the Benedictine nun Gertrude More in the early seventeenth century and is edited in my fourth book, Dame Gertude More’s Poems & Counsels on Prayer and Contemplation.

Benedictines paved the way of Marian devotion thru-out the early and high middle ages, and here’s Gertrude, co-foundress of Stanbrook Abbey, carrying on the tradition.

New Book for Advent: Translation of a Thousand-Year-Old Poem with Commentary

I always say I’m excited to announce a new book. But this time I’m even more excited than normal. Gracewing in the UK has done me a great favor in bringing out a book that pulls out all the stops. O Shining Light: Old English Meditations for Advent and Christmastide is the first stand-alone, poetic translation of the Old English Advent Lyrics, a poem that opens the Exeter Book. (The Exeter Book is the first anthology of English poetry, copied down in the southwest of England sometime in the later tenth century.) You can get a copy here!

The Advent Lyrics are a set of short meditations on the “O Antiphons” sung at Vespers leading up to Christmas, and several others. (O Come, O Come Emmanuel” is based on the O Antiphons too.) The early English poet gave us a heartfelt, brooding, and celebratory poem. At the same time, it can be hard for modern readers to see what he is doing clearly at first blush, so we’ve included commentary that breaks open the poetic and theological riches of the poem too. Guides for individual and group reflection too make the book perfect for devotional Advent reading.

I’m particularly delighted because of the following features: my wife Mamie and I collaborated on the Introduction and Commentary; Daniel Mitsui provided illustrations inspired by Anglo-Saxon manuscript illustrations that frame the poem thru-out; Br. Paul Quenon, a terrific poet, photographer, and Cistercian monk, provided a welcoming and astute foreword; and the crew at Gracewing set the work in splendid typeface imitative of Anglo-Saxon script. It’s a poet’s (this poet’s) dream book.

Oh, and for anyone who might want to hear the original poem read aloud, I have posted audio files of myself reading the lyrics here. You can follow along in your book, just like when we were kids! 🙂