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Good Letters

How to Celebrate at Death


Not every death calls forth celebration. But when the loss is of someone who was granted the gift of a long, good life, it’s that life that we can celebrate. I’m moved to ponder this gift—and how we who remain can celebrate it—because during a single week this past summer, I went to three different…

Mutilated, Mystic, Heretic: The Inquisition’s Victims are the Folk Saints of Palermo


God is also tucked in the back alley with the criminals, the condemned, those whose bodies have been mutilated, and the mystics who encounter God on the wild edges of the church.

In the Cosmos of the Arts, a Christian Cosmonaut Is Born Again


Contrary to the warnings I received in church, the arts have not led me away from Christian faith. In fact, art—whether projected on a screen, singing through speakers, printed on pages, or displayed on gallery walls—goes on revealing and affirming the beauty and truth proclaimed by the Scriptures.

On Laying the Truth Bare: Willa Cather’s My Ántonia and Elizabeth Strout’s Olive, Again


“What do we do with that ‘little circle of experience,’ the reader of both books is left to ask herself? What do we make of the task of being planted here, in these bodies of bare bone and fragile skin, in the forever–between space that separates the earthly and the divine?”

Rebuilding the Cathedral


  A few years ago, I spent nearly every spring morning with my young daughter in the tiny playground behind Notre Dame Cathedral. It was a great place to take a break. There were comfy benches and shade trees and clean bathrooms with an attendant.   Often, we’d find ourselves back in the center of town…

Imagination and Affection: Photographer David Hanson Enters the Cloud of Unknowing


  David T. Hanson’s photography collection The Cloud of Unknowing takes its viewers into the mystical space between seeing and believing. Hanson’s photographs, which include holy spaces from both Eastern and Western religious cultures, lead viewers on a visual quest to encounter “sanctuary,” reminding us of the bright, empty mystery that remains at the heart…

The Source Becomes All


Picturing my imagined children, I just assumed we’d discuss history. There’s grounding in the past, and fascination, and uplifts and shames with every hue between, and I thought without thinking that my kids, sons likely, would root in that soil.

Handed Over


I decided to stop the pursuit of a tenure-track academic job several years ago. Around the same time I made this decision, I discovered W.H. Vanstone’s The Stature of Waiting, a reexamination of Jesus’ response to Judas’ betrayal in the context of our modern lives.

Bon Iver: A Little Town of People Trying to Be Good


A new commitment to noticing and caring for the other is all over i,i, and there are also critiques of those who refuse to do so.

The Quality of Light


A sore hip. A hesitation in calling a name, finding a word. A slight but persistent difficulty now, getting the page where I can see it comfortably as I read. The quality of the light has changed somehow.

Good Letters


Jessica Mesman

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For the humanists of the Renaissance, literature mattered because it was concrete and experiential—it grounded ideas in people’s lives. Their name for this kind of writing was bonae litterae, a phrase we’ve borrowed as the title for our blog. Every week gifted writers offer personal essays that make fresh connections between the world of faith and the world of art. We also publish interviews with artists who inspire and challenge us.

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