"What a delight, to find so extraordinary a collection meant for use in "ordinary time." Any book that includes passages from The Wind in the Willows and Moby Dick, as well as poems by George Herbert and Christina Rossetti, is all right with me. Especially because each of the works chosen is meant to awaken me to the movement of the spirit in daily life.
-–Kathleen Norris, author of Dakota, Cloister Walk
and Acedia & Me
"For the avid or eclectic reader, Sarah Arthur's At the Still Point is a pungent bouquet of words sequestered in poetry and prose. Her selections and compositions make the heart sing and give the mind pause; cause my soul to pray and my body increasing time for Sabbath."
-–Bishop Jonathan D. Keaton, co-author of The Confessions of Three Ebony Bishops
Spend the summer weeks of "Ordinary Time" praying with novelists and poets.
At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;
Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is…
— T. S. Eliot, from "Burnt Norton" in Four Quartets
With a title inspired by T. S. Eliot, this "literary" prayer book will delight any Christian who is inspired to discover the truths of faith in the pages of great literature.
The liturgical season of Ordinary Time runs for roughly twenty-nine weeks, from Pentecost Sunday (May 27, 2012) in the spring until the first Sunday of Advent in late fall. It's the longest season of the church year, with few significant events along the way, which gives it a kind of ordinariness that the other seasons lack. There are no narrative high points, no showy colors or costumes, not even a signature hymn or two. At the Still Point expands the genre of spiritual writing to include classic and contemporary fiction and poetry, aimed at inviting you to experience God through your imagination during Ordinary Time. In these pages there are worlds to be explored, characters to meet, images to gaze upon, phrases to savor. You will encounter passages from novelists from Austen and Tolstoy to Dostoevsky and Garrison Keillor and poets from George Herbert and St. John of the Cross to Scott Cairns and Kathleen Norris.
Lord let me suffer a lot
and then let me die
Allow me to walk through silence
Let nothing not even fear linger after me
Make the world go on as it always has
let the sea continue to kiss the short
Let grass still remain green
so a little frog could find shelter in it
and someone could bury his face
and weep his heart out
Make a day dawn so bright
it seems there is no more suffering
And let my poem be transparent as a windowpane
against which a straying bee hits its head
This unusual devotional is a book after my own heart. Sarah Arthur has thematically arranged classic and contemporary fiction and poetry to look a little deeper at the worship inherent in the words.
Designed for use in Ordinary Time, themes range from "Seeking God's Face" to "Quarrels with Heaven" to "Rending the Veil." Readings are taken from such diverse fiction sources as The Wind in the Willows and Mansfield Park, and from poets spanning the Italian Christina Rossetti to Enuma Okoro, a contemporary Nigerian-American.
I must admit I've had this book since the beginning of Ordinary Time and now we are approaching the end of it. I haven't written a review until now because, to tell the truth, I do not know how to do it justice. However, I will try.
The daily readings pull one into an almost inadvertent practice of Lectio Divina. It makes me slow down, look outward for God and inward for my self, and brings me to a place I haven't been before.
I usually am not drawn to poetry and the daily immersion leaves me feeling as if I've stepped out of real time when I'm done reading it. It shakes me up mentally in the best possible way. It is transformative, even if I can't label the transformation ... which, now that I think of it, may actually speak to the authenticity of the "shaking up" that these meditations carry for me.
I do wish that the publisher had provided room for the daily scripture readings instead of simply putting the reference. I, for one, am too lazy (yes, I said it and it's true) to go look up the references. It may have taken a few more pages but would have made At the Still Point a complete devotional. However, that is a small point and certainly one that is easy to remedy, if only I overcome my laziness with a bit of forethought in having a Bible to hand.
I hope that this book does well because I would really love it if Arthur did volumes for Advent, Lent, and Easter. Definitely recommended and not just for Catholics or Christians but for all spiritual seekers who love transformation through words.
Called to Be Saints
Christina Rossetti (English, 1830-1894)
The lowest place. Ah, Lord, how steep and high
That lowest place whereon a saint shall sit!
Which of us halting, trembling, pressing night,
Shall quite attain to it?
Yet, Lord, Thou pressest nigh to hail and grace
Some happy soul, it may be still unfit
For Right Hand or for Left Hand, but whose place
Waits there prepared for it.
Julie D, Happy Catholic Blog
As we look toward Lent and Easter, I am happy to recommend a new book by Sarah Arthur, At the Still Point. In this lovely book, the author has compiled selections from Holy Scripture, along with works from 20th century writers to give her reader something new each day. When you are taken unawares in your meditations by a line of poetry from Christina Rosetti or a scene set in a novel by John Irving, Arthur offers new language in various contexts to provoke and to nudge readers toward a quiet moment with God. As we look forward to Jesus rising from his ultimate sacrifice to let us follow him on the road home, we can find a poet, a novelist, an essayist, or a musician to light the path. Enjoy this generous new book in the spirit of love, joy, and thanksgiving.
Novice Mary Cathryne Vanek, St. Placid Priory