Spiritual Barrenness: Reflections on Dorothy Day’s ‘The Long Loneliness’ – Part 1

Mary TeckYear of the Pilgrim

By Teresa Vargo When I found out that the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops had recently approved Dorothy Day’s cause for canonization, I was surprised. Not because I didn’t think she was a good woman, but because I knew her as an activist. And although many activists do a lot of good things, they’re not typically saints canonized by the Catholic Church. I was intrigued by this. So when Marcie asked me to give this talk on Dorothy Day I agreed, but I really didn’t know too much about her beyond her involvement in starting the Catholic Worker Movement. I’m really grateful that I had this chance to get to know Dorothy Day, because it allowed me to understand why the Church is actually looking to canonize her. She was truly a remarkable woman. So, if activism doesn’t make someone a saint, what does? Well, an interior life. Okay, what’s an interior life? It’s a profoundly deep relationship with God in one’s life. Not just on the outside, but in one’s very heart, in one’s very being. And here we find Dorothy Day – the contemplative. Honestly, that is kind of shocking because there are many words we can … Read More

When Reading Feels Like a Waste of Time

Mary TeckYear of the Pilgrim

By Marcie Stokman As Bishop James Conley from Lincoln, NE recently said in an interview: “All of us who wish to bring forward a renewal of Christian culture in our world should begin on our knees, in prayer. But we must also begin with books in our hands, being formed in the great tradition of the classical mind.” You acclaim the benefits of reading; in fact, you’re convinced that as a society we need to read more. Yet, in the secret recesses of your heart, there is tension. For a woman wearing many hats and juggling many activities, reading a novel seems like a waste of time. Isn’t there more important work for a woman to do than read Frankenstein or all 985 pages of The Brothers Karamazov? With everything we have going on, maybe next month would be better for tackling Dostoevsky. Yes, of course, next month! The hammock that has been lodged in an upstairs closet for twelve years due to missing hardware will magically be hung and call my name! Next month, the weeds won’t grow, and the milk won’t spill. Next month the long-awaited reading reprieve will materialize! Don’t be fooled. Do you want to know … Read More

Finding a “Kindred Spirit”

Mary TeckYear of the Pilgrim

By Mary Teck I have always considered myself an avid reader. Through the years there have been times when my reading slowed down, or even stopped altogether, but deep down I truly love to read –it is part of who I am. Looking back, I can see how certain books influenced the way I view the world, and have formed me as much or more than the people or experiences in my real life. The book that has had the greatest effect on me is also the one that started me on my lifelong reading obsession when I was ten years old. Anne of Green Gables by L.M Montgomery, began for me a journey on which I am still traveling. I was introduced to Anne when I was ten years old, and fell in love with her story, her life, and Prince Edward Island in general. I worked my way through all eight books in the Anne series, and the love of reading was sparked in me. L. M. Montgomery’s enchanting, flowing writing captured me and filled my mind and spirit with beauty. Reading Montgomery’s books gave me the hunger to read more, and for the next five years all … Read More

Rediscovering Catholic Traditions of Reading

Mary TeckYear of the Pilgrim

By Alison Solove This piece was originally printed in the ‘Year of the Friend’ Newsletter. We Christians tend to underrate Jesus as a story-teller. Time and time again in his public ministry, he tells his disciples stories that help them understand who God is and how they are supposed to live. He even answers the difficult theological questions of the Pharisees and Sadducees with parables. Stories are a fundamental part of how we understand who we are. The trouble is, even Jesus’ parables sometimes leave his apostles scratching their heads. What do they mean? The Bible is full of stories. The tricky part is learning to understand them. Mediaeval Catholic scholars developed the four modes of reading to help them understand Biblical scriptures. The first mode is the literal mode. If we read literally, we find out what the text of the Bible actually says. The second is moral. If we read morally, we find out how we ought to live. The third is allegorical. When we read allegorically, we look for a deeper, symbolic “second meaning”. The final is anagogical. When we read analogically, open ourselves to God speaking to us through the things we read. If we use … Read More

A Literary Priest Talks Books and the Heart

Mary TeckYear of the Pilgrim

AN INTERVIEW WITH REV. ANDREW BRINKMAN by BETH NELSON This interview was originally published in its entirety in the ‘Year of the Spouse’ Journal. The Rev. Andrew Brinkman is a priest in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. His homilies are often filled with references to characters from great works of fiction. Fr. Andrew is a person who is clearly shaped and inspired by good literature. Here, we explore the relationship between literature, the heart, and culture.  Beth Nelson: Why is it important to read? Fr. Andrew: Reading is connected to the life of the intellect more than any other activity. It’s what gets the muscle of the intellect working. An active intellect is always a good thing. This is what distinguishes us humans from the animals, our ability to know things and make decisions. Our minds are where our actions begin. Through the intellectual life, humans are able to perceive the world, to understand it, and act upon it. It is important to engage the intellect by making it work, by feeding it with beautiful images or presenting it with hard things to solve. BN: One of the most frequent discussions within Well-Read Mom has to do with the … Read More

The Place Within: The Poetry of St. John Paul II

Mary TeckYear of the Pilgrim

  By Carla Galdo In honor of St. John Paul II’s feast day celebrated earlier this week on October 22nd, we are posting this insightful piece about his life and poetry, originally published in the ‘Year of the Spouse’ Journal. “I am on a pilgrimage to identity.” (1) Cocooned in my childhood bedroom over my university’s winter break, I encountered Karol Wojtyla, the faith-filled philosopher-turned-priest, for the first time, through the pages of his book, Love and Responsibility. Pencil in hand, I spent hours marking the book with exclamation points and emphatic underlines, shocked that a celibate, Polish archbishop from halfway around the world could enunciate with such amazing specificity all the subtleties and longings of my American, female, collegiate self. Although I had already been experiencing an awakening engagement with my Catholic faith, my love for the then-Holy Father blossomed at that moment and led me on a pilgrimage to receive his last World Youth Day blessing in Toronto, to study in graduate school at an institute founded under his name and to beg for his intercession during the birth of each of my children, particularly my third son, John Paul. By reading Love and Responsibility I met an educationally … Read More

Beauty in Truth and Sorrow – Part 2

Mary TeckYear of the Pilgrim

Last week we shared three poems by Josephine Corr-Elsenpeter, about the loss of a pregnancy. Today we continue to reflect on the beauty and pain of loss with two more selections of poetry. Thank you Josephine for sharing your beautiful writing with the Well-Read Mom Community!   Desolation There is a stirring in my heart I do not know how to get it out I trust my honest arid prayer Does some good for some one some where I long to share Your mercy, humor, and grace That is here deep down beyond this saddened face I feel the urgency, but wait by the hour For you to unleash your unknown power Let this life be not a waste But if it comes to end in haste Let me abide with dear desolation And give to others your sweet consolation   Why did I cry Why did I cry When my sweet child died? The most natural and certain event in life Is death We celebrate life, it brings such joy When we know It will not always be so Life has sunshine and rain Sorrow and pain We struggle and toil for years on end Smiling with pleasure Wincing … Read More

Beauty and Truth in Sorrow – Part 1

Mary TeckYear of the Pilgrim

The following selection of poetry was written by Well-Read Mom member Josephine Corr-Elsenpeter, from her larger collection of poems entitled “Beauty and Truth in Sorrow”. They are posted now in honor of National Pregnancy and Infant Loss day, on October 15th. A second selection will be posted next week. The Cup The precious gift you sent to me Was wrapped in swaddled pink   Her lips were sealed in quiet adieu The cup of sin she would not drink   Her eyes were shut in peaceful sleep Carnal desires were not bequeathed   Her heart laid still within her chest Warm from the womb that paired as her tomb   This wholesome cup of suffering from which I was chosen to drink   Was the ultimate paradox of life and death For which I was forced to think   This was sin at its worst For the devil a succulent taste of Hell   And salvation at its finest For Jesus wanted to pass but did drink His cup well   Burden Avoiding the unavoidable Discussion of death Of the long-awaited daughter The day is coming The day will pass Few will be wiser Fewer still know what to say … Read More

Questions to the Mothers of Saints

Mary TeckYear of the Pilgrim

October 15th is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss day. Here at the Well-Read Mom blog, we want to take the month of October to honor and acknowledge all mothers and families that have mourned the loss of a child with beautiful posts written by our members. This week we have a reflection, “Questions to the Mother’s of Saints” by Margaret Pauwels, found originally in the ‘Year of the Mother’ Journal. When are you having children? How many children do you have? Aren’t you about ready for another one? Are you having any more? Are you done? Why do you want more? Are you trying for a girl this time? Why do you need another one? Why can’t you be happy with the children you have? Don’t you think you are a little too old to keep trying? Do you think maybe the miscarriages are God’s way of telling you have enough? Don’t you know everything happens for a reason? Why would the next time be any different? Why don’t you just adopt? Why do you need more children why you already have three? Why would this pregnancy be different?Why would you expect to carry to term? Did you try reading … Read More

Tobit’s Dog – A Book Review

Mary TeckYear of the Pilgrim

 Have you ever reached the end of a book to find yourself feeling a little sad that it was finished; as if you were saying goodbye to good friends? That is how I felt as I closed Tobit’s Dog, by Michael Nicholas Richard. Tobit’s Dog is a novel based on the beautiful Old Testament book of Tobit. I had never read Tobit in its entirety, and decided to do so before reading the novel. As I moved on to Tobit’s Dog, I quickly discovered how creatively and thoughtfully the author brought the Biblical book into the Twentieth Century. The story is about the Messager family (a black family living in North Carolina during the Great Depression) and their many trials, sufferings, and joys. I immediately connected with Tobit Messager, his wife Anna, his son Tobias and of course his faithful companion Okra. Tobit was a hard working man of faith. He was respected by those who knew him well; however being a black, Catholic man in the south didn’t make life easy for him. After losing a good job Tobit made his living by finding things at the dump to fix up and sell. Anna cleaned houses to help. Hardships continued to find … Read More