The Eternal Effect of a Rembrandt – A Reflection by Teri Severson

Janel LewandowskiYear of the Artist

           Does art have a message for the onlooker? Does it have a goal or a possible meaning behind it for the observer? Artist Francis Bacon stated “The job of the artist is always to deepen the mystery.”  In Henri Nouwen’s book The Return of the Prodigal Son, we learn that Rembrandt’s famous painting by the same name had a profound impact on the author.  It revealed life-changing truths to him as he contemplated and studied it for years, beginning with his first gaze upon it. Those truths brought with it the fruits of peace, inner healing, and total freedom and certainty in the revelation of Christ’s incomprehensible mercy and love for him.  It does make one wonder how a painting done in the seventeenth century, depicting a parable from the first century, could have such an effect on a person in the twentieth century! “A painting is never finished,” says Paul Gardener. “it simply stops in interesting places.”       In the book, Nouwen shows how he first, instinctively, saw himself in the prodigal son. “Over and over again I have left home,” he writes. “I have fled the hands of blessing and ran off in search … Read More

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

Saved by the Well-Read Mom book club

Janel LewandowskiYear of the Contemplative


by Maggie Kosloski (This article originally appeared on on November 17, 2016. ) Having small children at home doesn’t mean busy mothers can’t indulge their love of reading and desire for conversation and friendship. Reading has been a singular and great joy in my life. I was lucky to have been exposed to many great works of literature as a child, and came to love novels—to enter into the life of a character, whether real or fiction, is a gift. Stories offer an ability to see the world from another’s point of view and to gain insight into other times and places. I feel like some of the most transformative moments in my life were the result of something I read and the subsequent internal struggle with the issues the book presented. A good book gives a person much about which to pray and reflect. Recently, a friend introduced me to the following quote from St. Isidore, which perfectly sums up my thoughts about the impact reading has had upon my life: “If a man wants to always be in God’s company, he must pray regularly and read regularly. When we pray, we talk to God. When we … 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