Convivium Salon: On Walls and Pigeonholes

"Like all walls it was ambiguous, two-faced. What was inside it and what was outside it depended upon which side of it you were on."

—from The Dispossessed, by Urlsula K. Le Guin

"Don’t shove me into your damn pigeonhole, where I don’t fit, because I’m all over. My tentacles are coming out of the pigeonhole in all directions."

—also Urlsula K. Le Guin

 Queen Ursula

Queen Ursula

What are the walls and pigeonholes that we confront? How do we face them, climb them, crawl through them, tear them down? 

Convivium Salon: Nothing is More Interesting

by Meghan Berneking

Sr_AT_with_Imam.jpg

In talking with others, I understood right away that none of us knew what to expect. But at the invitation of a friend, we decided to ‘come and see.’ The presentations were all very beautiful, but many of us were particularly struck by the discussion, on Saturday afternoon, about St. Francis and the Sultan, which featured Imam Mohamed Arafat, Mark Danner, and Sr. Agnes Therese Davis, TOR. To see a Catholic sister and Muslim Imam on the same stage in small town Ohio was almost surreal. But what was more interesting was their shared desire to follow the examples of those who came before as a path to mutual understanding and friendship. In the encounters throughout the weekend--both in the presentations and in the meetings with others who were there--I understood that authentic friendship is quite rare in our culture, but when one does meet a true friend, nothing is more interesting. For me, personally, the Festival of Friendship was a sign of this great Encounter in my life. My 10-year high school reunion was the same weekend, and I was debating whether I should go to that instead. But the choice to go to the Festival was obvious, not only because the proposal is more interesting, but attending the Festival was an affirmation and verification of the great gift that I've received by encountering the Movement. Attending the Festival was a gesture of gratitude for me, and of the hope that is born in this friendship…I was so impressed by [the volunteers’] attitude this weekend. It was very clear that [they] were grateful for whatever was given for the Festival. I think if I had been in [the same] situation, I would not have had the courage to invite my friends to travel and share their witness; I would have been frustrated by all the ways it perhaps didn't meet my expectations, or by which friends could or could not attend. But it became clear to me that you all had encountered an interesting proposal for life that you simply desired to share with your friends that you live with every day in Steubenville. And to me, that is a more remarkable witness than if 1,000 people had turned up to hear a talk.

This excerpt first appeared in a collection of testimonies about the 2016 Festival of Friendship. Read the entire thing (and see lots more photos, including of Rebecca Bratten Weiss) here.

Why We Sing

by Luigi Giussani

Reprinted from the introduction to the Communion and Liberation Songbook for Great Britain

“There is no greater expression of human feeling than music.  Who is not moved by a string concert, or who can be insensitive to the variations of a piano sonata?  Can you imagine anything greater?  And yet when I hear the human voice … I don’t know if this happens to you, but I feel the human voice is even greater.  Truly there is no service to the community comparable to singing.”  With these words Fr. Giussani welcomes a large group of people for whom music is  a major part of life.  Some are music professors, others are amateur singers, but all lend their breath, their voices and passion to the choirs of Communion and Liberation.

In this occasion there were nearly 30 people gathered around the dinner table.  Piecing together various sets of notes, we have assembled the questions posed from one end of the giant table to the other and the answers or counter-questions raised by Fr. Giussani.  The theme of the discussion?  Music, of course, or more precisely, song.

Fr. Giussani repeats himself, “Yes, singing is the highest expression of the human heart.  I’m not saying this just because you are all singers.  I am saying what I have always said.”

An observation: few people sing nowadays, yet tunes are always escaping from headphones or blasting out of speakers.  A soundtrack, that we haven’t chosen, follows us wherever we go.  The latest fashion calls for mobs of people at karaoke shows or gathered around some singer-songwriter.

“And yet,” Fr. Giussani interrupts, “These types of exhibitions and songs might very well be the signs of the unspeakable corruption of an era.  Instead of being the expression of a people, song becomes an obsessive, sentimentalized repetition of the fears and whims of the individual.  Perhaps many listen to and recognize themselves in the melody and the lyrics, but they remain fragmented, collectively alone.”

A little unease is felt around the table.  Is popular (i.e. of the people) song really impossible today?  One of the music professions poses the question in this way: how can we grow and be missionaries in music?

“The biggest aid from the point of view of expressivity comes from singing for the community.  And I underline the word for.  You don’t sing a solo at the Fraternity retreat in front of sixteen thousand people, you sing it for them!  This is the difference between Vasco Rossi [a rock singer], talented though he may be, and you who sing in the choir for sixteen thousand people.  You express these sixteen thousand, you express their awareness, you are the voice of a body, of a people, of a destiny.  In front of sixteen thousand people, Vasco Rossi expresses himself; he confirms those who adore him in their solitude and emptiness.  When you sing at the retreat, you express us, you are us and your voice rises and touches us like a gift.  For this reason song is freely given, singing is charity.  Song is pure charity.  If I can make a suggestion: don’t be overly worried about yourselves and your ability to express yourselves.  The reason for your worries cannot be the expression of self, but rather the expression of the consciousness of this people.  This is why the choir, why singing, is the most useful and charitable service given to the community.  A community without a choir is a community without passion, something is already beginning to come undone.”

Question:  How can we be sure that we aren’t following our own expressive whims?  Answer: “Certainty comes from belonging.  And this is something very natural.  A child who hasn’t experienced belonging to his mother and father grows up psychopathic.  You sing, and this song, which is emitted from the chest and the throat, expresses a consciousness if you belong.  Have you ever gone into the house of a young affectionate mother?  It is almost impossible not to find her child singing.  At four years old he is singing or humming melodies – and who knows where they came from.  This is the expression of gladness and peace that comes from being loved, that comes from belonging.”

Someone throws out this question, “Fr. Giussani, is this why in many places around the movement people sing poorly?”

“It is a symptom that the community is falling apart,” says Fr. Giussani calmly.  He then goes on to explain “The more the word companionship rolls off the tongue, the more our communion is dissolved.  Belonging to the companionship, communion, is substituted by the affective bond with someone who may even be a fascinating personality.  In the end, it is merely a psychological bond.  The community, instead, arises from the participation in Being, an ontological bond.  If the companionship doesn’t descend from the Mystery, it isn’t a community.  Furthermore, there must be the awareness of an event that takes place here and now.  And as for singing, singing is generally lacking in the movement, due to the fact that the leaders understand little about what man is, what Christianity is.  This carelessness and lack of love for music and song is a symptom of a grave decline.  Because I know what man is, I demand singing.”

Fr. Giussani’s is an old love.  He tells how in 1932-33, when he was 9 or 10 years old, his father would read the paper to decide to which Sunday Mass he would accompany his son.  He would search the whole region of Lombardy to find a polyphonic Mass.  They were hard times, but music was more important than bread.  There was no money to waste at his house in Desio, and yet on Sunday evenings they would have a trio or quartet come to play Schubert.  Someone remarks, “You either have music in your blood or you don’t.  So what do we do?  Send out the order to form choirs and sing, is that it?”

Fr. Giussani replies, “Nobody responds to mere words.  Those who belong want to learn.”

At this point, the discussion turns to the history of song in the movement.  The birth of singing in the movement was contemporaneous to the birth of the movement itself, it didn’t evolve at some later date with Adriana Mascagni and the others.  Can we say, then, that the movement and song are one and the same, that song is the charism of the movement?

Giussani recalls the beginning:  “Singing in the movement was born at the very first Mass we celebrated together in the church of San Gottardo al Palazzo in Milan.  Ten minutes before the Mass, I started to teach Vero Amore e Gesu and O Cor Soave.  I started waving my hands as I had seen my music teacher do in the seminary [and he repeats the motion].  I sang and they followed.  Singing in the movement started five minutes before the first Mass; it began when the movement began.  There was no difference.  As the movement comes to life, so does singing.  Just like the child and his mother.  You belong and a song arises.  There can be no choir without belonging.  Choirs are not imposed by decree, they arise as the movement arises – even today.”

And the songs that came out of GS?  “They were beautiful even from the very beginning and everyone sang them.  Then years and years went by and no one sang them anymore.  The beautiful songs of Adriana Mascagni fell by the wayside.  Even the most beautiful Chieffo songs fell into disuse (The War, The Ballad of the Old Man…).  When something is authentic, it must be passed on.  Now those songs have returned.”

Someone reopens the wound:  “And yet, it is almost as if these things fall on deaf ears in the movement.”

Fr. Giussani responds: “Laziness, inertia, and above all, aridity have spread.  Aridity dominates the society today.  But it is precisely with song that we can break this dry ground.  We lament and beat our breast whenever we realize that aridity has found space in us, and rightly so.  But just think that nine out of ten people who come to our meetings for the first time go away saying: ‘What beautiful songs you sing.’  We learn all the strongest human feelings – the meaning of sin, fear, mercy – much more through song than through reading.  I myself learned them when I was small not through sermons but through song.  Even the reform of the Church needed song to express itself – the reform was expressed through the songs of St. Philip Neri.  The most beautiful of these songs are sung by us today.”  Fr. Giussani concludes:  “Singing is the most authentic expression of man if man is man, and he is a man if he belongs.  If his mother is in the vicinity, the child will sing.  And just as soon as a fragment of the movement exists, so does song.

“There is no greater expression of human feeling than music.  Who is not moved by a string concert, or who can be insensitive to the variations of a piano sonata?  Can you imagine anything greater?  And yet when I hear the human voice … I don’t know if this happens to you, but I feel the human voice is even greater.  Truly there is no service to the community comparable to singing.”  With these words Fr. Giussani welcomes a large group of people for whom music is  a major part of life.  Some are music professors, others are amateur singers, but all lend their breath, their voices and passion to the choirs of Communion and Liberation.

In this occasion there were nearly 30 people gathered around the dinner table.  Piecing together various sets of notes, we have assembled the questions posed from one end of the giant table to the other and the answers or counter-questions raised by Fr. Giussani.  The theme of the discussion?  Music, of course, or more precisely, song.

 

Fr. Giussani repeats himself, “Yes, singing is the highest expression of the human heart.  I’m not saying this just because you are all singers.  I am saying what I have always said.”

 

An observation: few people sing nowadays, yet tunes are always escaping from headphones or blasting out of speakers.  A soundtrack, that we haven’t chosen, follows us wherever we go.  The latest fashion calls for mobs of people at karaoke shows or gathered around some singer-songwriter.

 

“And yet,” Fr. Giussani interrupts, “These types of exhibitions and songs might very well be the signs of the unspeakable corruption of an era.  Instead of being the expression of a people, song becomes an obsessive, sentimentalized repetition of the fears and whims of the individual.  Perhaps many listen to and recognize themselves in the melody and the lyrics, but they remain fragmented, collectively alone.”

A little unease is felt around the table.  Is popular (i.e. of the people) song really impossible today?  One of the music professions poses the question in this way: how can we grow and be missionaries in music?

 

“The biggest aid from the point of view of expressivity comes from singing for the community.  And I underline the word for.  You don’t sing a solo at the Fraternity retreat in front of sixteen thousand people, you sing it for them!  This is the difference between Vasco Rossi [a rock singer], talented though he may be, and you who sing in the choir for sixteen thousand people.  You express these sixteen thousand, you express their awareness, you are the voice of a body, of a people, of a destiny.  In front of sixteen thousand people, Vasco Rossi expresses himself; he confirms those who adore him in their solitude and emptiness.  When you sing at the retreat, you express us, you are us and your voice rises and touches us like a gift.  For this reason song is freely given, singing is charity.  Song is pure charity.  If I can make a suggestion: don’t be overly worried about yourselves and your ability to express yourselves.  The reason for your worries cannot be the expression of self, but rather the expression of the consciousness of this people.  This is why the choir, why singing, is the most useful and charitable service given to the community.  A community without a choir is a community without passion, something is already beginning to come undone.”

 

Question:  How can we be sure that we aren’t following our own expressive whims?  Answer: “Certainty comes from belonging.  And this is something very natural.  A child who hasn’t experienced belonging to his mother and father grows up psychopathic.  You sing, and this song, which is emitted from the chest and the throat, expresses a consciousness if you belong.  Have you ever gone into the house of a young affectionate mother?  It is almost impossible not to find her child singing.  At four years old he is singing or humming melodies – and who knows where they came from.  This is the expression of gladness and peace that comes from being loved, that comes from belonging.”

 

Someone throws out this question, “Fr. Giussani, is this why in many places around the movement people sing poorly?”

 

“It is a symptom that the community is falling apart,” says Fr. Giussani calmly.  He then goes on to explain “The more the word companionship rolls off the tongue, the more our communion is dissolved.  Belonging to the companionship, communion, is substituted by the affective bond with someone who may even be a fascinating personality.  In the end, it is merely a psychological bond.  The community, instead, arises from the participation in Being, an ontological bond.  If the companionship doesn’t descend from the Mystery, it isn’t a community.  Furthermore, there must be the awareness of an event that takes place here and now.  And as for singing, singing is generally lacking in the movement, due to the fact that the leaders understand little about what man is, what Christianity is.  This carelessness and lack of love for music and song is a symptom of a grave decline.  Because I know what man is, I demand singing.”

 

Fr. Giussani’s is an old love.  He tells how in 1932-33, when he was 9 or 10 years old, his father would read the paper to decide to which Sunday Mass he would accompany his son.  He would search the whole region of Lombardy to find a polyphonic Mass.  They were hard times, but music was more important than bread.  There was no money to waste at his house in Desio, and yet on Sunday evenings they would have a trio or quartet come to play Schubert.  Someone remarks, “You either have music in your blood or you don’t.  So what do we do?  Send out the order to form choirs and sing, is that it?”

 

Fr. Giussani replies, “Nobody responds to mere words.  Those who belong want to learn.”

 

At this point, the discussion turns to the history of song in the movement.  The birth of singing in the movement was contemporaneous to the birth of the movement itself, it didn’t evolve at some later date with Adriana Mascagni and the others.  Can we say, then, that the movement and song are one and the same, that song is the charism of the movement?

 

Giussani recalls the beginning:  “Singing in the movement was born at the very first Mass we celebrated together in the church of San Gottardo al Palazzo in Milan.  Ten minutes before the Mass, I started to teach Vero Amore e Gesu and O Cor Soave.  I started waving my hands as I had seen my music teacher do in the seminary [and he repeats the motion].  I sang and they followed.  Singing in the movement started five minutes before the first Mass; it began when the movement began.  There was no difference.  As the movement comes to life, so does singing.  Just like the child and his mother.  You belong and a song arises.  There can be no choir without belonging.  Choirs are not imposed by decree, they arise as the movement arises – even today.”

 

And the songs that came out of GS?  “They were beautiful even from the very beginning and everyone sang them.  Then years and years went by and no one sang them anymore.  The beautiful songs of Adriana Mascagni fell by the wayside.  Even the most beautiful Chieffo songs fell into disuse (The War, The Ballad of the Old Man…).  When something is authentic, it must be passed on.  Now those songs have returned.”

 

Someone reopens the wound:  “And yet, it is almost as if these things fall on deaf ears in the movement.”

 

Fr. Giussani responds: “Laziness, inertia, and above all, aridity have spread.  Aridity dominates the society today.  But it is precisely with song that we can break this dry ground.  We lament and beat our breast whenever we realize that aridity has found space in us, and rightly so.  But just think that nine out of ten people who come to our meetings for the first time go away saying: ‘What beautiful songs you sing.’  We learn all the strongest human feelings – the meaning of sin, fear, mercy – much more through song than through reading.  I myself learned them when I was small not through sermons but through song.  Even the reform of the Church needed song to express itself – the reform was expressed through the songs of St. Philip Neri.  The most beautiful of these songs are sung by us today.”  Fr. Giussani concludes:  “Singing is the most authentic expression of man if man is man, and he is a man if he belongs.  If his mother is in the vicinity, the child will sing.  And just as soon as a fragment of the movement exists, so does song.”

 


A Musical Journey Across Continental Europe

by Maggie Pawsey

chatham_baroque.jpg

Chatham Baroque took us on “A Musical Journey across Continental Europe” on Friday, September 29, as Pittsburgh’s Festival of Friendship got off to a lovely start.

The group’s violinist, Andrew Fouts, explained that the selections for the night were pulled from several important countries of the baroque era, to give a sense of diversity in the music. The concert included pieces ranging from “Sonata Arpeggiata” by Italian composer Giovanni Girolamo Kapsberger, to “Toccata in G minor” by Portuguese Carlos Seixas.

The energy in the room was tangible as each member put themselves into their performance, their bodies moving enthusiastically with their instruments, just as pleasant to watch as to listen to. Each performer built off of the others’ liveliness, passing smiles back and forth during particularly fun pieces.

In between sets, the musicians introduced themselves and their instruments, explaining what the uniquely-shaped theorbo is (an instrument of the lute family), and giving anecdotes about the composers they played from (did you know Johann Heinrich Schmelzer wrote music for horses to dance to?). The ensemble ended the night to a standing ovation from a thoroughly pleased audience.

Chatham Baroque is a Pittsburgh-based group that has been playing and performing baroque music all over the country for 27 years. They have produced ten CDs, and another is in the making! You can listen to their music, and learn more about them, at chathambaroque.org.

The concert was a free event put on by Revolution of Tenderness as part of their annual Festival of Friendship. The Festival includes presentations on various topics of the Arts as well as current social issues. The weekend is open to all, and music lovers are welcome to come to Synod Hall on Saturday, September 30, at 7:30 pm for a traditional Appalachian music performance.

When I Try to Say “God,” Strange Sounds Come Out

Original post first appeared on the blog of Rebecca Bratten Weiss, Suspended in Her Jar.

Recently I attended a conference for Catholic writers at the University of Notre Dame. The name of the conference, Trying to Say ‘God’, would have attracted me even if I weren’t already acquainted with several of the organizers. And I was not disappointed. Between the beauty of the campus, the scintillating openness of the conversations, the rich presentations, and above all the opportunity for community, I felt a little like Sam visiting Rivendell, and was sad to leave. For a detailed report of the conference experience I refer you to these pieces by fellow Patheosis (and conference presenter) David Russell Mosley, and Sarah Margaret Babbs.  And in case you are thinking, “I wish I had gone to that!” – well, there will be another, in Toronto, in 2019. And if it’s hard to wait that long, some of the same speakers and themes will be found at Revolution of Tenderness’s upcoming Festival of Friendship, where we will be hosting a mini-conference on the theme of “The etymology of Convivium.”

For the moment, I want to talk about the theme of the Notre Dame conference, and what it means for a religious writer.

Trying to say “God” meaningfully, communicatively, is not easy. And it would be a mistake to think that this difficulty is simply set up external to the self, set up by some theoretical “secular culture” that won’t let us talk about God. If there is a dividing line between the place where one can say “God,” and the place where one can not, it is a porous and wavering line, and has little to do with secular vs. religious culture. It may be a wavering line drawn through the human psyche.

So certainly if enough of us could get together in a safe space with no one telling us what to do, we could put our heads back and bellow GOD loudly enough to pierce the heavens. We could write little stories for one another, in which the characters happily talk about their religious experiences. We could put formulaic praise to formulaic prosody. We could shake our heads over narratives that don’t work hard enough to “prove” God.

Adherents to a culture war ideology imagine some monolithic and hostile secular culture to be the true threat to articulators of the divine. I won’t argue that there isn’t hostility to religion. I see it in the reverences and irreverences implied in the write-ups of many arts journals. But I can understand this hostility, too, because of how the word “God” is often abused, precisely by those claiming to be the arbiters of where God can and can’t be. The recent nationalistic co-opting of Christian trappings for Trumpism is a perfect instance of this.

Maybe when we say “God” we actually, if not consciously, mean something else. Something pompous and priggish. Something that has to do with drawing lines in the sand.

The lines are drawn, and on one side are those shouting GOD aggressively, writing about God, defining God, sticking God into their stories, deus ex machina, like in ancient mythology but without all the sex. Usually without the sense of power and mystery, either. And almost invariably without the beauty.

On the other side are those doing art that people take seriously.

So, yes, this can pose an external challenge to the Christian writer, sometimes, but it’s a challenge that largely disappears if one succeeds at overcoming the much more difficult internal challenge, to say God without accidentally saying something else. That the challenge is ephemeral is evident in the fact that many fine writers who are taken seriously by the secular culture are, in fact, Catholic. Are they not making noise about it because they’re afraid, because they’re going incognito? Or is it, perhaps, that making a lot of noise is rarely the best way to say “God”?

Toni Morrison, for instance, is a Catholic Nobel laureate whose works are filled with themes of community and redemption. But the Catholic critics who enthuse over Flannery O’Connor and Graham Greene regard Morrison only as a controversial writer on race relations. “She’s not practicing,” they might say, as an excuse to ignore her. And yet, C.S. Lewis, who is revered in their circles, was never even Catholic at all.

Mary Karr – the keynote speaker at the conference – not only is a Catholic convert, but wrote extensively about her conversion, but is deemed by some not to be a “real” Catholic writer, because of her openness about certain sexual issues. And yet Graham Greene was a notorious womanizer who slept with over 300 prostitutes, was condemned by church spokespersons in his time, and closed The End of the Affair with the prayer:   "O God, You’ve done enough, You’ve robbed me of enough, I’m too tired and old to learn to love, leave me alone for ever.”

Perhaps the critics who are timid about these powerful Catholic writers working right now in our midst are waiting for someone else to “baptize” them? Perhaps they are waiting for someone else to say “I heard God there” – because they, themselves, have not learned to open the inner chambers of the ear? Because we do not have a robust Catholic arts culture that teaches us to open all the portals for reception, but instead have embraced a misnamed “Benedict Option” which is all about putting up walls and barriers, drawing those lines in the sand.

We are all a little deaf, from time to time, anyway. For instance: I once had the option to submit a collection of poems to a contest for religious poetry. Looking over what I had written recently, I saw poems about sex, apple orchards, ripe tomatoes, dying horses, sex, road kill, insects, compost piles, and sex – but not a whole lot of “Jesus, Mary, Joseph” type phrasing. Embarrassing confession:  I tweaked them. I stuck words like “pray” in. “Hosanna.” Hosanna is neat and iambic.

What an error that was. I had tried to make them overtly religious, failing to recognize that every one of those poems had been about God already.

Happily, I did not win.

The conference on Trying to Say ‘God’ dealt with the real external obstacles to Catholics trying to publish. I moderated one panel (on vulgarity in religious art) and participated in two others (on Catholic women writers, and on science writing). In all three of these, and in others at the conference, we spoke with an awareness of the obstacles we faced, both from other Catholics, and from non-Catholics. Our work is too religious for secular presses, sometimes, and too gritty or disturbing for Catholic presses. I can find a publisher for a poem about a vagina. I can find one for a poem about Jesus. But is there a publisher who wants a poem about Jesus entering the world through a vagina?

If we are going to get past this obstacle, however, we need first to deal with the more fundamental challenge to say God without accidentally saying other things – abusive things, untrue things. The Graham Greene way strikes me as especially powerful. The protagonist does not say “God exists and is good” – nor does he end with a happy embrace of divine favor. Go away from me, God, he says. This is honesty. Many of us might also respond like this if Jesus were to appear before us and say “follow me,” and mean it. We like to repeat, blithely, from Flannery O’Connor, that transformative grace is painful and grotesque – but until we are able to confront this in our stories, we won’t really be saying “God.” We’ll just be selling something.

image credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cristo_Velato_Volto.jpg

Root and Twig: Convivium a New Literary Journal

 Description English: The Minister’s Pine According to local legend, the spirit of the Reverend Robert Kirk who is said to have had contact with the faerie world is trapped within the tree. To this day people still tie pieces of material or “clooties” to the branches of the tree in the hope of having their wishes granted. Date 21 December 2008 Source From geograph.org.uk Author Kay Lennox (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Description
English: The Minister’s Pine According to local legend, the spirit of the Reverend Robert Kirk who is said to have had contact with the faerie world is trapped within the tree. To this day people still tie pieces of material or “clooties” to the branches of the tree in the hope of having their wishes granted.
Date 21 December 2008
Source From geograph.org.uk
Author Kay Lennox
(CC BY-SA 2.0)

Ordinary Time
29 June 2017
The Edge of Elfland
Manchester, New Hampshire

Dearest Readers,

I feel rather remiss, but I have something to tell you. Not long ago I had an essay appear in a new literary journal called Convivium. The first issue was titled Root and Twig and looked at issues of inheritance and the bearing of literary fruit. It is edited by fellow Patheos Catholic writer Rebecca Bratten Weiss, and is wonderful. I cannot recommend it enough and least because of my own small contribution to it.

The set up is a combination of poetry, essays, reviews, and short stories. This first issue features poetry from Joanna Penn Cooper, John Farrell, Bruno Cassarà, Meldrum Serbicki, the editor––Dr. Weiss––herself, Elizabeth Beasley Kramp, Michael Martin, and Michael Delp. It also includes a short story by Pellegrine Deuel, reviews by Meghan Berneking and Suzanne M. Lewis, an interview with other fellow Patheos Catholic writer, and Sick Pilgrim co-founder, Jessica Mesman Griffith, and an essay entitled “To Be a Tree” by yours truly.

It was a joy to be included in this interesting literary group, particularly as one who, at times, sees himself as a dry and dusty theologian. To be considered literary or artistic is something of a dream come true. If you will allow, I will give you some examples of the beauty within:

Skulking about outside churches
pointing out irises to my son––See?––
I imagine burrowing down and being in place,
moving soil around, saving annuals
over winter. ….

From “Cultivate Your Garden” by Joanna Penn Cooper.

Why is it hard to imagine,
The passage after death?
You can see the afterlife
In Nature’s grasp. ….

From “Judgment by John Farrell

When I awoke, I was naked and blind, supine on a high hill – see, one said,
and I opened my eyes to smile at the kindly sun – walk, one said,
and I rose and raced above the whispering reeds, to
the mountain’s peak, and there the four winds came with cloaks of green, ….

From “St. Catherine’s Wheel by R. Bratten Weiss

When ripe, he gathered their heads
and buried the new generation
in a field made rich with dead leaves
and a rare elixir stirred from a cow’s horn.
The crows never left them alone.

From “Seed” by Michael Martin

I have always loved trees. Growing up in central Illinois, the once Great Plains, trees were not in abundance. I grew up in a relatively small town, though I never saw it as one for there were towns far smaller not ten minutes away. Still, because it was not a large town, we often had to drive out of it to get certain things. Also, my parents were not huge on flying, so we often drove wherever we went on vacation. What this meant for the child me was long trips in the car with mostly great open spaces to look at. I would see fields of corn and later soy fly past. But there were two different kinds of tree encounters that shaped my imagination. The first was the lone, often gnarled tree. It nearly always stood in the front yard of a house or farm near the road. The gnarled variety would conjure up images of witches and ghosts. The living variety, especially when the farm was farther away, conjured up images of Bilbo’s part tree under which he delivered his farewell speech.

From “To Be a Tree” by David Russell Mosley

This is only a taste of what is contained in this slim, but full, volume. Consider getting an issue here.

Sincerely,
David