"Take and Eat"

Thanks to a posting on Amy Welborn's blog, I was introduced to Mary Karr's book of poems, Sinners Welcome.

The book includes, as "Afterword," a remarkable essay: "Facing Altars: Poetry and Prayer." It reads like a contemporary "Journey of the Heart to God."

Here is how Karr sketches the far country:

my ueber-realistic worldview (we die, worms eat us, there is no God), to which I'd clung so desperately for its rationality, was never chosen for its basis in truth, nor for its efficacy in running my life. It was just a focal point around which my own tortured inwardness could twist.

And part of the path to her "unlikely Catholicism" rings a Pascalian note:

So through the simple physical motions I followed during Mass (me, following something?), our bodies standing and sitting and kneeling in concert, I often felt my mind grow quiet, and my surface differences from others began to be obliterated.... So the exercises during Mass that may rankle a lapsed Catholic as "empty rituals" made me feel like part of a tribe, in a way, and the effect carried over in me even after church.

There is no hint in the essay of smugness or absence of ongoing struggle, but the poem, "Disgraceland," celebrates what sustains:

When my thirst got great enough
to ask, a stream welled up inside;
some jade wave buoyed me forward;
and I found myself upright

in the instant, with a garden
inside my own ribs aflourish. There, the arbor leafs.
The vines push out plump grapes.
You are loved, someone said. Take that

and eat it.

Rev. Robert P. Imbelli, a priest of the Archdiocese of New York, is Associate Professor of Theology Emeritus at Boston College.

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