Nathaniel Martin sailed with his friend and fellow-naturalist Stephen Maturin on two long sea voyages in Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin series, first as the ship's chaplain and later as Maturin's assistant surgeon. Never much of a fist at sermonizing, Martin took to writing and publishing impolitic tracts that offended the Royal Navy Board and prevented him from returning as a chaplain.
Martin lost an eye to an owl, and, as long as Martin's eye was single, O'Brian let him rival Captain Jack Aubrey for Maturin's time and friendship. Martin married between voyages, however, and his newfound obsession with providing for his family began to make him tedious company for Maturin. (Banality is the worst symptom a character can present with in these novels.) Martin's overheated conscience led him to an end straight out of Hawthorne, with whom he shared his first name.
These are the sermons he never wrote.
All I can remember of Chariots of Fire are the endless slow-motion track meets and a single line: “When I run, I feel his pleasure.” I had a similar feeling a couple of years ago one morning while happily cross-referencing two or three of my books. I became aware that I was made, in part, for […]
Thoughts while reading Merton & Friends: A Joint Biography of Thomas Merton, Robert Lax, and Edward Rice, by James Harford I feel a tension between my devotional life and my love of writing. I have recognized this tension also in the writings of Trappist monk Thomas Merton, a modern-day contemplative and a gifted writer. I […]
Last month at Kenyon’s Gund Gallery, Victoria and I moved among Bethany’s hundred-and-forty-odd, glowing and pulsing sculptures. As our eyes adjusted to the dark, we found that we were becoming part of the installation. It was ourselves, and not the sculptures, that we began to see and understand.
This secret knowledge hid us from later visitors, at least from those who didn’t stay long enough to discover that the sculptures’ lights weren’t static. The lights pulsed neither in unison nor in disregard for one another. I sat under them to see how they got along, much as I spent long stretches on beds of pine needles as a kid wondering how the trees got along.
“Teach us to pray,” a student asks. So Jesus compares God to an unloving friend. He loans bread, but he doesn’t give it. He loans bread to his friend not because he’s a friend but because he’s pestered.
Later, teaching on prayer again, Jesus compares God to an unjust judge. The judge gives justice not because he’s a judge – he owns that he neither fears God nor respects men – but because he’s pestered.
We get these comparisons, but we don’t get the contrasts. As a result, our prayer is based not on friendship or justice but on magic and importunity.