Listers, contemporary Catholic authors are becoming more and more of an endangered species in the world of literature. Catholic authors have to toe a very thin line when trying to write works that will testify to the Catholic experience in art and literature. However, this is difficult when trying to appeal to a secular audience. The avenues of the exposure and promotion are becoming less and less available to authors who even hint in a belief in Jesus Christ. And, as anti-Catholicism increasingly grows the plight of Catholic expression in the arts becomes more perilous. The Catholic authors who we still cling to like Flannery O’Connor, Walker Percy, and G. K. Chesterton are all dead, but there is seemingly no one left to pick up their standard and carry on the tradition of good literature that still sings (or in some cases, hums) about the grace of God. Or is there?
Blessed Pope John Paul II acknowledges the crisis of contemporary Catholic literature:
It is true nevertheless that, in the modern era, alongside this Christian humanism which has continued to produce important works of culture and art, another kind of humanism, marked by the absence of God and often by opposition to God, has gradually asserted itself. Such an atmosphere has sometimes led to a separation of the world of art and the world of faith, at least in the sense that many artists have a diminished interest in religious themes.–“Letter of His Holiness Pope John Paul II to Artists”
Although the Pope acknowledges the present crisis he calls for authors and artists to continue speaking of the beauty and wonder of creation and of God in their world. He says:
On the threshold of the Third Millennium, my hope for all of you who are artists is that you will have an especially intense experience of creative inspiration. May the beauty which you pass on to generations still to come be such that it will stir them to wonder! Faced with the sacredness of life and of the human person, and before the marvels of the universe, wonder is the only appropriate attitude– “Letter of His Holiness Pope John Paul II to Artists”
These struggling and rare artists must be supported, but finding efficient and reputable outlets are perhaps even more rare than finding the authors themselves. Therefore, listers, I have compiled a list of a couple of journals that I found helpful in sating my hunger for contemporary Catholic literature. (N.B. I encourage you all to check them out, and if you have the finances to support these or other Catholic publications that support and encourage Catholic expression through the arts please do so.)
Dappled Things is pure Catholic joy. From the moment you open the journal, you will be inspired. Dappled Things includes short stories, poems, essays, and visual art by faith-filled authors, scholars, and artists. The artwork is uniquely exquisite with a wide range of styles from artists you may or may not heard of. My personal favorite of the artwork is the icon Our Lady of Merrimack by David Clayton in Fifth anniversary issue. The essays are edifying, interesting, and, at times, provoking in the good kind of way. However, my favorite aspect about Dappled Things is the editorial board is unafraid of exhibiting authors and poets who have a profound and deep love for Jesus Christ. In a world where it is taboo for an author to share the realities of Catholicism, Dappled Things is a voice crying out in the wilderness. One of my favorite short stories from Dappled Things is “Dirty Little Coward” by Gerald C. Matics in the 2009 Mary, Queen of Angels Issue. Here is a quote from Dappled Things about who they are:
The Psalmist invites us, “Come, let us sing to the Lord, and shout with joy to the Rock who saves us!” We the editors of Dappled Things invite you, our Catholic brothers and sisters, to sing and shout in our pages about our dappled world. Write about spotted trout and brinded cows, or write about the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We ask only that your work be inspired by your love for Him and His Church in the fullness of her Scripture and Tradition, her sacraments, and her communion of saints. –Dappled Things
Although not strictly a Catholic journal (it is ecumenical including pieces from Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, and Islamic authors and artists), Image is unafraid of exhibiting and promoting many Catholic authors and artists. Each issue is filled with beautiful images of contemporary artwork. What makes Image really unique is the interviews they have with many of the featured artists in their publications. I have learned so much about modern religious art just by reading these amazing and stimulating articles. As a lover of classical art, Image helped me understand a little about the modern spirit of the contemporary religious artist (I love the interview they did with Marc Quinn in 69th issue). Their ecumenical listing of various authors and poets have helped me understand different cultures, but also led me to some wonderful authors who have been touched by the Christian tradition (especially the illustrious Thomas Lynch, undertaker and poet). They, like Dappled Things, are unafraid of allowing authors to speak about their religious experience, especially Catholics.
Few Christians have applied the concept of “stewardship” to culture itself. While it has been natural for Christians to see themselves as stewards of natural resources, or wealth, or the institutional church, there has been little sense of stewardship over our national culture.
Image speaks with equal force and relevance to the secular culture and to the church. By finding fresh ways for the imagination to embody religious truth and religious experience, Image challenges believers and nonbelievers alike. –Image
Pilgrim is an online Catholic Journal. All of its content is free. But just because it is free, doesn’t mean that it isn’t good. In fact, the content is fantastic and exciting. The website consists of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, paintings, and photography. It not only includes and promotes contemporary literature and art from a Catholic perspective, but it looks back to older pieces of work and analyzes it from a contemporary standpoint. If you need something that will feed your soul, Pilgrim is the perfect journal for you.
How does Christianity, lived in communion with the Roman Catholic Church, affect the way men and women experience life in the world? What would an integrated, Catholic approach to life look like today? In what ways should it draw and depart from historical expressions of Christianity? How should it engage ideas and ways of living traditionally unassociated with the Church? Considering such questions, Pilgrim is committed to helping Catholics grapple intelligently and humanely with challenges posed to them both by the Church and by contemporary society. We explore what it means to sustain a Catholic identity and live Christianity holistically in today’s world. We also provide a forum for Catholics, and those sympathetic to Catholic ideas and approaches to life, to develop their capacities for criticial thought, creativity, and concern for one another and for all God’s creation.