Catholic Distance University

Villian, elle?

Daniel Gibbons

I am a burning book, a book of flame:
pale letters glow on skin-thin ash
an instant as your hand crumbles cinders, same.

If a book burns in the forest, without reader or name,
Is it no book, a glob of marks?—In its pages stashed:
“I am a burning book, a book of flame!” [Read more...]

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Refiner’s Fire

Shannon Berry

After

In the Old Testament, fire was a purifying element. The sacrifices were burnt because the Jews believed that their sins were transferred to the animal on the altar, and the burning devoured these sins and sent the aroma of repentance to the God above. In his letter to the Romans, St. Paul takes this idea a step further, adapts it to fit Christianity and says that we should offer our bodies as living sacrifices, making our very lives offerings to God, making our lives blazing, constant, purifying fires. Fires that burn, spark, and glow. Fires within. This same fire urged Teresa of Avila to reform her religious order, which had fallen into laziness and wealth. It drove her to sit for hours praying whether she felt anything or not. It’s a fire that isn’t extinguished unless we kill it, heaping buckets of lukewarm water on the blaze. [Read more...]

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Mary Queen of Angels 2006

Feature

Arthur Powers, Three Tales from Brazil

Fiction

Matthew Mehan,
Answer the Question

Stephanie Mader,
Open Great Wide Doors

Poetry

Karen K. Adams,
African Angelus

Heather Thompson,
Alessandro’s Ascent

Daniel Gibbons,
Autumnal

Cristina Montes,
The Edge of the Sea

Shannon Berry,
Ephphetha, that is, Be Opened

Karen K. Adams,
Little Hours

Rosemarie Monge,
May Showers

Amos Hunt,
Night Crossing

Sarah DeCorla-Souza,
Ordinary Time

J.B. Toner,
The Play Continues

J.B. Toner,
To Whom Much is Given

Daniel Gibbons,
Villain, elle?

Essays

Fr. Damian Ference,
Catholic Education and Masturbation

Katy Carl,
A Private Matter

Shannon Berry,
Refiner’s Fire

Art and Prose

Matthew Alderman
St. Gregory the Great

Art and Photography

Jacquelyn Barten,
Beauty Reflecting

David Lynch,
Higher Hopes

Shelley Mauss,
Icon of the Sacred Heart

J.B. Mincher,
Lady in the Water

Alysse Boyd,
Mary Full of Grace

Shannon Littleton,
Old Memories

Alysse Boyd,
The Streets of New York

Teresa Burkett,
Window

 

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Open Great Wide Doors

Stephanie Mader

I’m zipping down Parker Avenue, cursing myself and wondering why I didn’t charge my cell phone last night. If I were a smart man, which I sometimes claim to be, I might’ve called Tessa and asked her to sneak my charger over during lunch. Only, Mr. Boss-man was hovering around my desk all day. I could see his reflection in my computer screen. It’s like he knows. They were supposed to call today. [Read more...]

Answer the Question

Matthew Mehan

Little stars flickered behind the big ones. George had seen the big ones all his life, but this was almost too much. He’d read somewhere and remembered dimly that there were maybe seven—or was it nine—layers of stars to be seen in the night sky, and here, under this indigo dome ringed with pine trees, he fancied he could guess at maybe five, six layers.

“I see seven layers of stars,” he whispered to his sister. She, too, recalled dimly something perhaps their father had told them about Greek—or maybe Egyptian—astronomers seeing multiple layers of stars. She waved an unseen mosquito away from her ear. She rustled her windbreaker by moving her head to tell her brother that she’d looked over at him or nodded or something. “Incredible.” [Read more...]

St. Gregory the Great

Matthew Alderman

St. Gregory the Great

St. Gregory the Great

As with many of my works in ink, this project was in part inspired by the woodcuts of the fifteenth-century master Albrecht Dürer. However, I departed from my usual models in my depiction of St. Gregory, who is shown here not as a medieval bishop or a baroque pontiff, but in an atmosphere redolent of the austere grandeur of that nebulous, uncertain time between Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages. This is not to say there is not some measure of deliberate anachronism here as well that links the image back to Rome’s ancient past and forward to the present day.

I set about to depict St. Gregory the Great in a manner that alludes to Benedict XVI’s search for unity with the Eastern Orthodox churches through references to our shared heritage, and to the role that the papacy has played in guarding those inherited truths. Gregory’s vesture is that of a bishop of his day, with the distinctive pallium formerly restricted to the pope depicted in the form most commonly associated with Benedict’s pontificate. However, the figure of the acolyte bearing the pope’s mitre is a deliberate anachronism. Mitres are known to have been worn as early as about a hundred years after Gregory’s time, and originated as a distinctive non-liturgical piece of papal regalia known as the camelaucum. Its appearance here makes reference both to Gregory’s authority as Bishop of Rome, and also, due to its distinctive Western shape, to his authority as Patriarch of the Latin Rite. The simple band around its base is a subtle reference to the coronet worn at the base of the camelaucum, which in time grew into the magisterial beauty of the tiara. Rather than supplanting or replacing the tiara, this is its magnificence in seed form. It also recalls, in conjunction with the pallium, Benedict’s own favored form of vesture.

The triple-barred cross is at once a reference to the traditions of the High Middle Ages that depicted canonized pontiffs with such an insignia and to the pastoral staff adopted by John Paul II and Benedict XVI. While the triple-barred cross is predominantly an invention of the world of art rather than serving as an accurate representation of liturgical praxis, here it serves subtly to link past, present and future.

Gregory’s posture is a fairly literal quotation of Ingres’s 1806 “Portrait of Napoleon on the Imperial Throne.” There is some deliberate and triumphal irony here, considering that the Church has outlasted Napoleonic glory. It is also intended to return the pseudo-theological airs of Ingres’s work to their proper domain, considering how strongly Napoleon apes both the poses of a Byzantine Christ in majesty and a pagan Jupiter in Ingres’s depiction. Christ’s pose on the metalwork cover of the gospel book Gregory holds in his right hand further compounds the quotation.

This, in turn, introduces another antique reference into the work, hinting at the ancient city and already venerable institution that Gregory occupied. His face suggests the survival of strength and virility in the face of age. It is inspired by the Dürer depiction of the Old Testament strongman Sampson, and also by those same images of Jove that Ingres would have known from casts and engravings, and which might have peeped out of mud and moss in the days of St. Gregory and of his father, the Roman senator St. Gordian. This, in turn, suggests the amazing antiquity of the papacy, its apostolic origin, and the pre-Christian roots of the title Pontifex Maximus, showing that in Christ all things can be made new, baptized and turned to the good of the faith. We see here a true Pontifex—- bridge-builder—- uniting East and West, old and new, antique and modern, a mirror of prudence and justice for our age and all ages to come.

To Whom Much Is Given

J.B. Toner

My gift?  My gift?  My burden, onus, cross,
 Spine-bending load, soul-chafing, grinding yoke,
 Bit, spur, leash, collar whereupon I choke,
The gain that means my ease and freedom's loss—
This gift of words, bequeathed I know not why:
 This keenest hound without a scent to track,
 This knight without a dragon to attack,
This arrow with no target but the sky.
Thou madest me a steward, but what for?
  A herald with no message to proclaim,
Shall I condemn, exult, blaspheme, adore,
  Spit, sing, scream, carol, cry, laud, lie, praise, blame,
Repudiate my powers forevermore—
  Or only murmur patiently Your name?

The Play Continues

J.B. Toner

For Peg

We tire, and wither, and our souls grow old;
   The trillion miracles that swarm our sight
   No longer lend our hoary hearts delight—
Bright kings enthroned, we weary of our gold.
But oh, our Father is more young than we:
   A child who never tires of one glad tale,
   He calls an encore, lifely, without fail,
And younger actors age-old lines do read.
For every birth renews, redeems, the world—
   To startled eyes, just closed on Heaven's views,
The dazzling panoramas are unfurled,
   With dawn-dew-dappled grace freshly imbued;
And one child born to one good-hearted girl
   Can make the very earth and heavens new.

Ordinary Time

Sarah DeCorla-Souza

Today is a day like all other days.

Today, like every day,
I worry about time. [Read more...]

Night Crossing

Amos Johannes Hunt

Who then is this, whom even wind and sea
submit to for instruction, who shuts up
their elemental raging, interrupts
their wild destruction with authority?
What then is this authority, that made
us cross at night, without a stated cause,
without assurance that the thoughtless laws
of nature would not trump our brave crusade?
Where then is this crusade advancing to?
What fate can this most questionary man
be on his way to meeting in this poor
and questionable world? And once more, who,
and who, and who is this, who proves he can
sleep easily when death is at his door?

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