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

Mary TeckYear 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

Gifts of Friendship – “The Surprise of Friendship Through Literature”

Mary TeckYear of the Pilgrim

Today’s post is a continuation of the series, “The Surprise of Friendship Through Literature”. By Stephanie Beatty Lucy and Ethel, Laverne and Shirley, Tom and Jerry, Piglet and Pooh – all classic friendships! When I sit down to read a good book, I often regard that book as a friend or companion or a well-worn sweater I want to wrap myself in on a winter afternoon. We’ve all had the experience of regretfully reaching the end of a favorite book. We want the characters to live and breathe and come out of the pages and let us know what they will do next. We yearn for more understanding of the choices they made, and to gather strength from the power of having stood by them for hundreds of pages, living their wondrous lives. It is with this same zeal that my WRM group inspires me with from month to month. Together we enjoy the gift of classical, contemplative literature and eternal friendship. The selection for January (2017) was A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. The protagonist, a young Francie Nolan, journeys from an ambitious library-card-carrying 11-year-old to young writer whose words detail the realities of her often dark, … Read More

You Are Not Alone – “The Surprise of Friendship Through Literature”

Mary TeckYear of the Pilgrim

We will be running a series over the next few weeks entitled “The Surprise of Friendship Through Literature”. Five Well-Read Moms will share their experiences and the friendship they found through literature and Well-Read Mom. You Are Not Alone  By Claire Vaidyanathan and Marcia Otto Moved by a Well-Read Mom presentation in New York City in 2015, two friends in Houston, TX proposed WRM to a group of women in their community. During the kick-off meeting for the ‘Year of the Worker,’ it became clear that those who accepted the invitation shared the desire to read good literature, to spend more time together, to take life more seriously, and to face deep questions about the meaning of work. Little did we know that a surprising journey was about to begin. We found ourselves generated by an unexpected new engagement with daily life. Page by page, book by book, we began to share about some of the most intimate matters of daily life, with an increasing awareness that our hearts were longing for the same thing: a companionship that would help us see the invisible hand of our loving Creator at work in the most ordinary moments of the day. Here … Read More

Spiritual Barrenness: Reflections on Dorothy Day’s ‘The Long Loneliness’ – Part 2

Mary TeckYear of the Pilgrim

By Teresa Vargo Continued from Part 1 A third of the way through her biography, Dorothy wrote, “I never intended to write an autobiography. I’ve always wanted instead to tell of things that brought me to God and that reminded me of God”(94). Here we see the longing. Towards the beginning she quoted a character from Dostoevsky novel The Possessed, “All my life I have been haunted by God… this must indeed be so as former friends and comrades have said this of me” (11). She was haunted by a longing for God. When her mom had a little baby boy, Dorothy was absolutely enamored with him. She really experienced God through him. Despite all of this she still spoke about this longing and called out for union. But she was also afraid of this longing for God. She approached God through this longing and realized that He is a living God – the living God. Omnipotent. And this is a scary thing. This is what I call the transition from longing to loneliness. She had the longing for God and then she grew tired of it, or scared even. She was scared of the intimacy with the eternal God … Read More

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