Salvador Lopez Essays

Salvador Lopez Essays-53
Michigan Quarterly Review (Fall 2005); Georgia Review (Spring 2006); in No Bottom: In Conversation with Barry Lopez (2008) by Mike Newell; and in Conversations with Barry Lopez: Walking the Path of Imagination by William Tydeman (University of Oklahoma Press 2013).See also Other Country: Barry Lopez and the Community of Artists by James Perrin Warren (University of Arizona Press 2015).

Michigan Quarterly Review (Fall 2005); Georgia Review (Spring 2006); in No Bottom: In Conversation with Barry Lopez (2008) by Mike Newell; and in Conversations with Barry Lopez: Walking the Path of Imagination by William Tydeman (University of Oklahoma Press 2013).See also Other Country: Barry Lopez and the Community of Artists by James Perrin Warren (University of Arizona Press 2015).

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We were largely innocent of the world, however, so innocent it should have scared us.     When I graduated, I took a job with a publishing house in New York, but the question of both my vocation and my religion remained unsettled.

A few months into my employment I asked for a week off and traveled to Kentucky, to make a retreat at Gethsemani, the Trappist monastery near New Hope where Thomas Merton lived.

It was flanked and fronted by dark wrought-iron stands, on which racks of votive candles burned in deep-red and dark-blue glass vessels.

The Grotto, as it was called, was lit day and night by these hundreds of flames.

by Barry Lopez     I entered a Jesuit prep school in New York City at the age of eleven and later finished two degrees at the University of Notre Dame.

During those years in the city, I served regularly as an altar boy at low Mass and also at Catholicism’s most complex public ceremonies, including the solemn high Easter Mass, when the Paschal candle is ritually prepared and light begins to fill the cavernous dark of a cathedral, ending the purple-shrouded silence of Good Friday and Holy Saturday.As attractive as I found the lives monks led there, however, the answer for me still seemed to be no.     In the decades following that decision to look elsewhere, I was fortunate to be able to travel often and widely, from Greenland to Tierra del Fuego, from Tajikistan to Namibia, from Poland to Tahiti.Much of what I would see, to employ a noun popular in some Catholic circles when I was young, was the culture of heathens, though these foreign epistemologies and metaphysics always appeared to me to be recondite and profound on reflection.No matter what pangs of adolescence I might have been feeling then, and they were in my case severe, or whatever family troubles I might have been embroiled in, I felt the support and consolation of this Catholic ritual and the theology beneath it.Catholicism, though, was not a religion I was formally born to.No philosophy but that which had produced the culture of the West was examined.We were middle-class white youths, being taught to perpetuate our religious and economic values throughout the world.The Church, in their view, was asking them to embark on lives that had already been led.     I drifted away because the religion I sought was, finally, not to be found at Notre Dame.The environment in which we learned was not just exclusively male; hardly a single Protestant attended class with me, let alone an agnostic or Jew.At the Masses at which I served, I felt no doubt or cynicism about what I was doing.Whatever my moods might have been, I believed and understood that I was in the presence of a great mystery.     As a freshman and sophomore at Notre Dame, I attended Mass three or four times a week.

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