Who We Are & The Stories We’re In by Julia Harrell

Janel LewandowskiYear of the Pilgrim

I’ve been a member of a Well-Read Mom group outside Washington, DC for three years. During that time, I’ve discovered some new gems and reread some old favorites. I was thrilled when The Power and The Glory, one of my all-time favorite novels, was on the Well-Read Mom list last year, the ‘Year of the Contemplative.’ It’s fitting that The Power and The Glory was a ‘Year of the Contemplative’ selection since I’m still thinking about it now. Greene’s whiskey priest haunts me, and I think it’s because of the way Christ haunts him. The whiskey priest is weak and compromised. He has fathered and then abandoned an illegitimate child. He drinks too much. He fails even to pray the daily office. But for all that, he is not Padre Jose, living with a common-law wife and too terrified of the government even to offer a prayer for a grieving mother. The whiskey priest, at least, is on the run, offering Mass and hearing confessions from villagers in remote outposts of the Mexican mountains. What makes the whiskey priest different from Padre Jose? It isn’t great personal moral fiber. It isn’t natural courage or piety. The whiskey priest possesses none … Read More

Awakening the Moral Imagination, Awakening the Culture, Part 2

Janel LewandowskiYear of the Contemplative

by Marcie Stokman I once heard about a pastor and his wife who studied theology and read the Bible every day. After listening to a talk on the importance of literature as a method for communicating the faith, they were intrigued and began reading C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia. At one point, the wife stopped her husband’s reading and exclaimed, “Tom, something has been missing from our lives, and it is the imagination!” In this brief anecdote, we see a woman who has discovered the fascinating connection between reading good literature and understanding deeper realities. I have no doubt that reading literature did not supplant her reading and meditating on God’s Living Word, the greatest literature of all time! But when we read works of literature, not only do we strengthen our imaginative muscle, but we also learn truths that are powerfully conveyed through story. Robert Houston Smith writes, “When functioning as it should… imagination is the most important means by which higher truths can be communicated.” One could argue that TV and film exercise the imagination, however, awakening the imagination via good literature is an entirely different experience from sitting passively in front of images streaming in from a … Read More

Awakening the Moral Imagination, Awakening the Culture (Part 1)

Janel LewandowskiYear of the Contemplative

by Marcie Stokman There is a battle going on in our culture and at the heart of this battle is the education of the imagination. We are together in Well-Read Mom to awaken our moral imagination to a greater truth of reality. This awakening, we believe, can benefit our lives and the lives of our families as well as impact the broader culture. What is the imagination and how can a well-formed imagination help us? Human beings have the unique capacity to imagine. The imagination is what allows us to perceive more than what is immediately before our eyes. We ponder the universe. We can live with a sense of wonder. We ask questions like, “Why am I here?” and “What is the meaning of life?” Animals can’t do this. Dogs don’t sit around and ponder how they can make a difference in the world or how family meals can be more meaningful. We have a remarkable capacity to use our imagination, but here’s the catch: this capacity needs to be developed. When we are inundated with a constant stream of images, this imagination can be severely diminished or underdeveloped. Over 60 years ago, C.S. Lewis made this observation about … Read More