Excerpts from “Image and Likeness” – Part 1

NadineYear of the Pilgrim

By Eric Cyr All this week we will be sharing portions from the novel “Image an Likeness”, set in the time of the Cristero War in Mexico. The story follows a Catholic family, and their struggles and faithfulness during that time.  Prelude to a War In 1917, seven years of revolution that had started in order to end the ruthless Porfiriato finally produced a comparably stable president in Venustiano Carranza. One reason his presidency could claim a certain level of legitimacy is that it produced in that year a new constitution that has survived—in altered form, true, but still not superseded—until today. This constitution outlined in its many articles, among other things, the socialist and nationalist ideals of its creators. As part of that nationalism, it also included at least seven anti-clerical and anti-Catholic articles that gave the State ownership of all churches and church property, outlawed any worship outside of church buildings, banned foreign priests and limited the number of priests allowed in Mexico, closed down religious schools, and outlawed religious orders, among other things. To the Catholics of Mexico, these posed severe threats to their way of life. To the men who created the constitution, they were necessary … Read More

Is That a Tree or a Window to God?

NadineYear of the Pilgrim

Reflections on The Presence of God by Tracey Finck “One winter’s day,” Brother Lawrence “saw a tree stripped of its leaves would appear anew, followed by flowers and fruit. He then received a lofty awareness of the providence and power of God which never left him”(Lawrence 14). Brother Lawrence was a person who really lived the good life. He was surrounded by deep and steady peace, had confidence in God, felt joy in ongoing secret conversations with God, and had a fearless ability to face whatever happened knowing God was ordering all things well – these were his riches. How did he receive these riches? He received them by training his mind to attend to God. Like a doctor might put a child’s twisted foot in a brace to train it to grow straight and strong, Brother Lawrence braced his attention Godward again and again and again until it grew strong and steady in the right direction. Eventually the things and tasks around him became almost transparent. They transformed into variously shaped windows through which he saw new aspects of God at work in the world, “In all that he saw and in all that happened, he lifted his thoughts immediately, … Read More

“Roses, Poppies, Forget-Me-Nots” – Short fiction

NadineYear of the Pilgrim

By Susan Severson Rose Quinn sullenly watched her grandmother hide her saltine crackers under the frayed tablecloth. As she studied the hunched figure she noticed that her grizzled mane was even more shockingly disheveled than usual and that the strawberry patterned apron she wore every day had cranberry juice stains bleeding through the fabric. Rose couldn’t understand why she wore the damn thing; she couldn’t even cook anymore. “Grandma, you know you really don’t have to hide your food. The depression is over.” Rose scolded as she set her journal and pen aside and reached for the bowl of crackers that her grandmother’s hand was currently raiding. Rose was surprised at how young her hand looked next to the mottled one of hr grandmother’s. “What’s that?” the old woman stared at her quizzically. “I said… Oh never mind.” Rose shook her head as she stood up and leaned across the table to expose her grandmother’s stash of contraband, “Here, let me take these.” “No!” Rose clenched her jaw in anticipation as the old woman made a fist and then swung a left hook into the girl’s forearm. She was shockingly strong for an elderly lady. The surefire punch reminded Rose … Read More

Keeping Love Alive: A reflection on Karol Wojtyla’s “The Jeweler’s Shop”

NadineYear of the Pilgrim

By R. Mary H. Lemmons Years before the surge in divorces made long lasting marriages seem remarkable, Karol Wojtyla wrote a play about married love called The Jeweler’s Shop. This play, billed as a meditation, explores the love of three couples and raises the question about why the love of some couples endures while others perish. To guide our meditation on these questions, Wojtyla focuses our attention on the thoughts of Andrew and Teresa whose love dies only to be rekindled at the end of the play. Let us begin with Andrew. Wojtyla uses the character of Andrew to describe the loneliness and the blindness of those who live by their sense or lustfully; these find not true love but only islands. The objectification of typical lust makes one unable to see and to value the personhood of the other. Years later, after Wojtyla became Pope John Paul II, he wrote in an apostolic letter called On the Dignity and Vocation of Women that lust explains the male domination of women. He also argues that it was Christ who revealed that women were equal to men in dignity and pershonhood. Hence, in This is complementarity at its most personal level and it is … Read More

Humility

NadineYear of the Pilgrim

By Jo-C Elsenpeter I have always rejoiced in the beauty of God’s creation in the world. Today I rejoiced in those things in the parts that are not full of beauty in the eyes of the world, but are full of everlasting beauty in the eyes of its Creator. Take, for example, the majestic trees of the forest, even the aspiring sapling, and how they are humiliated by winter’s effect. Reducing their grandeur to mere emaciated branches that somehow still can bear the weight of Winter’s white, sparkling shapes. They bow down, gracefully accepting their breach of duty as Breath of Winter exhales her beauty. Until Spring Wind, Scamper Squirrel, then Turning Temperature disrupt Winter’s Whirl to bring about rebirth. Humbled no more, remembering their place in The Plan, Tree and now Young Yearling remember their purpose. Perking up toward Heaven, searching, reaching, sprawling across space, pronouncing a new Springtime, even more glorious than the previous! Humble yourself the more, the greater you are, and you will find mercy in the sight of God. For great is the power of the Lord; by the humble he is glorified. (Sir. 3:18-20) Whichever sapling, yearling, or tree I am in the forest, let … Read More

Soul Work

NadineYear of the Pilgrim

  By Charlotte Ostermann You’ve got work to do: roles, duties, tasks aplenty. If I suggest more work, your first thought is probably, “No time!” and your next, “No energy!” Yet, I do suggest you take on more: the work of cultivating freedom. Interior freedom lightens all the other loads you carry. Whatever realities you face can become doorways to freedom if you perceive them as means to your own formation. Your power to bear tension of all kinds is enhanced through the practice of placing your interest into the people, world, works, and words around you, and through the practice of allowing your heart to be deeply affected by it all. Harness intellectual and emotional power to increase your capacity for reality, for Christ. Mind and heart are not superfluous – to be ignored until after the chores are done – but are the very muscles to engage more fully to lift the various ‘loads’ of life. It may frustrate you to start exercising a rusty brain, and it may hurt to allow your heart to respond more fully, but without these powers, you can become just a body going through the motions of life, instead of wielding yourself … Read More

Suffering and Parenthood

NadineYear of the Pilgrim

By Alison Solove The Betrothed [book selection from ‘Year of the Spouse’]  is a novel about suffering. The young couple, Renzo and Lucia, suffer separation, arrest, exile, abduction, pestilence, and despair before they are able to be together. Their suffering isn’t unique: suffering is a part of human life. We live in a society uncomfortable about suffering. Fast food and prepackaged meals prevent the mildest rumblings in our stomachs. Smartphones ensure we are never bored. There are even services at theme parks so we don’t have to wait to ride roller coasters. Our fear of pain is killing us. Doctors prescribe narcotic medications more than three hundred percent more often than they did a decade ago. Partially as a result, the number of people who die from prescription pain medication overdoses each year has more than doubled since 1999. There is even a growing call to allow euthanasia so that patients can have “death with dignity,” as if suffering itself is somehow shameful. We bring these norms into our homes. We make special meals so our children won’t have to eat things they don’t like or go hungry. We buy them toys because we don’t want them to have unmet … Read More

Tilling Deeper Soil

NadineYear of the Pilgrim

The University of St. Thomas (St. Paul, MN) Catholic Studies program has been a generous supporter of the annual Well-Read Mom Conference, and of Well-Read Mom in general. The article below appeared in their recent Alumni publication. It began with some frustration. One day, Marcie Stokman’s daughter Beth, a new mother, called her to say, “I’m done going to mother’s groups. All they talk about is diapers. Isn’t there a place after college where women can keep growing and learning and asking[important] questions together?” Beth ’11 had experienced a kind of approach to the Catholic intellectual life in her Catholic studies courses that she wanted to continue to pursue after college. Stokman, a Tommie parent five times over, had been speaking to mom’s groups throughout the area about children’s literature and then more generally about being well-read. She found herself coming home sad from events because women were not reading. “They were too busy, too tired, didn’t know where to start,” she said. “I realized I wasn’t reading so well myself and that we needed to do this together. It mattered that we do this. If we quit reading as women, then our children don’t read, our husbands don’t read. … Read More

A Place to go Deep – “The Surprise of Friendship Through Literature”

NadineYear of the Pilgrim

By Emma Gillette When my friend Colleen first asked me to join her brand new WRM group, I thought to myself, “Oh, I’m not holy enough to participate. I couldn’t possibly.” (If you knew my friend Colleen, you’d have the same reservation!) And yet… the idea lodged into my brain. A voracious reader, I had been in several book clubs as an adult, but they had never lasted either because the point was solely for young moms to get out and socialize, and the book was just the excuse, or because my desire to read books that matter conflicted with the others’ wish for a “fun read”. (What, you don’t think Thomas Merton is a fun read ?!) “I’ll give this group a try,” I thought. I did know some of the women whose email addresses were on the list. I recognized Stephanie from a softball team, and Colleen Number 2 (Another one! We’re chock-a-block with Colleens. There’s another one, if you can believe it. Hurrah for Irish Catholics!) because she is a lector at our church. I knew some of the women from my kids’ school. Some were strangers to me. I signed up, read the first book (Hannah … Read More

Learning From the Little Flower – “The Surprise of Friendship Through Literature”

NadineYear of the Pilgrim

By Colleen Bassindale Sometimes we delve into a new book with preconceived notions, based on something we’ve read or heard from a friend, or on past knowledge. This was true for me prior to reading [I Believe in Love: A Personal Retreat Based on the Teaching of St. Therese of Lisieux]; not because I had heard anything in particular about it, but because of the subject: St. Therese, The Little Flower. I considered the term “Little Flower” a bit too cutesy and I didn’t think I could relate to her. Yes, I judged her by her name! But I soon discovered that she could not be further from a “little” anything – she was a powerhouse. Here’s a brief synopsis of what St. Therese endured in her short life: Besides suffering enteritis (excruciating intestinal problems) since birth, coupled with emotional problems – her beloved mother, who taught St. Therese how to pray and most importantly how to love, died when she was four. This harsh beginning made St. Therese long for heaven, viewing life as continual suffering. She became a Carmelite nun when she was 16, joining her two older sisters who had previously joined the Order. The other nuns … Read More