Taking Off My Shoes

“Nor can foot feel, being shod” This line from Gerard Manley Hopkins’s poem “God’s Grandeur” is a commentary on what the poet saw as one of many pitfalls of the burgeoning industrial revolution, which, in his imagination, divorced people from knowledge of the natural world in which they lived. People are “shod”—shoe-wearing, meaning that they can no longer feel the earth beneath their feet. For decades I’ve held this line as a metaphor—until now, when, […]


Back in my coaching days I learned to develop a particular kind of vision: I saw details of my athletes’ performance that others would miss. This one slouched a bit; that one overreached; and so on. The vision was the product of careful, attentive, even loving work. What others saw was just a boat full of rowers, either winning or losing. I think that the Christian life involves a similar deepening of vision, of attentiveness. […]

As Kingfishers Catch Fire (Song)

In honor of National Poetry Month, enjoy this musical rendition of Gerard Manley Hopkins’s “As Kingfishers Catch Fire” by the Euphonage. If you’re receiving this via e-mail, click through to watch the video As Kingfishers Catch Fire (Song). Read the text of the poem here.

Hopkins Anniversary

This year marks the 125th anniversary of the death of Gerard Manley Hopkins, SJ. In celebration of the Jesuit poet, Boston College is hosting an exhibition of Hopkins-related memorabilia. The exhibit also includes works about Hopkins. Paul Mariani, professor of English and Hopkins biographer, said: “”¦it is my experience that his words can best be understood in terms of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola, which so deeply shaped him as a priest and […]

In Praise of Obscurity

In his well-known poem Ozymandias, Percy Bysshe Shelley observes something of the transience of all human effort.  Writing about a massive statue of the Egyptian pharaoh Ramesses II, which appears in a stretch of desolate desert, he wonders what, in this vale of tears, really lasts. And on the pedestal these words appear: “My name is Ozymandias, king of kings: Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!” Nothing beside remains. Round the decay Of […]

Best Ignatian Songs: Spring and Fall: To a Young Child

Some time ago I featured the Natalie Merchant song “Wonder” in our occasional “Best Ignatian Songs” feature. Here is another. It’s a setting of Gerard Manley Hopkins’ poem “Spring and Fall: To a Young Child.” The song is in the middle of a concert Merchant gave at a TED conference. Go to the 16 minute, 23 second point in the video. The poem is very lovely and very sad. It’s a good idea to read […]

What to Avow or Amend

For Ash Wednesday — a poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins and a painting by Dennis McNally, SJ, inspired by it. The poem is titled “The Lantern Out of Doors.” Sometimes a lantern moves along the night, That interests our eyes. And who goes there? I think; where from and bound, I wonder, where, With, all down darkness wide, his wading light? Men go by me whom either beauty bright In mould or mind or what […]

Faith and Action

Ignatian spirituality owes a great debt to Aristotle. Not a surprise, really–Ignatius absorbed the theology of Thomas Aquinas, who imbibed the philosophy of Aristotle (by way of his teacher, Albert the Great, and in conversation with Muslim and Jewish philosophers, who had been using Aristotle for centuries). Here’s my thumbnail sketch; it’s on my mind because my freshman seminar is reading Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics. Everything we do is oriented toward some goal. We reach our […]

Ron Hansen's Exiles

Ron Hansen is one of my favorite writers.  I heartily recommend his latest novel Exiles.  The novel tells the story of how the account of a maritime disaster in 1875 moved the Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins to return to writing poetry. The disaster was the shipwreck of the steamer Deutschland.  Among the lost were five German nuns who were on their way to establish a house of their order in America.  Their agony and […]