A New Stage of My Spiritual Practice

Writing Roomby Kate Lucas

After thinking about it for many years, I have started graduate school this fall. It’s an MFA program—at Hamline University—and I am quite excited about it.

Not much of a morning person, I was at the door of the college bookstore before it even opened on a recent Saturday morning, eager to pick up my books. On my first day of class, I was on the edge of my seat, trying not to miss a word from my professor, an instructor I am very excited to have.

I am sure some of the sheen will wear off after a time. But I do hope that what will remain, what will become stronger and more robust, is my writing practice. I hope that school will encourage me to develop a more intensive and intentional and regular writing practice, once and for all.

In my essay in From the Pews in the Back, I describe how writing has come to be my most regular spiritual practice—it is the place I come to be quiet, to listen, and to try to connect with something bigger than myself. I don’t mean that this is my only spiritual practice, but I do mean that I have found a more holistic practice in this, and piecing this together with multiple traditions. I’m not sure if I have found the right mix yet, but I am working on it.

Going to class once a week, then, will be a bit like going to church. Class will prompt me to read many other writers—people who are older and wiser, more skilled at their practice than I. Plus, class will provide the encouragement and accountability, the reminder and inspiration, to write regularly and give the time of day to the still, small voice inside me.

I think it will be these things, if the first class was any indication. We left with a stack of handouts an inch thick and a blizzard of writing prompts—some optional, some assignments, some “optional assignments,” whatever that means. While this is chiefly a reading course, our professor asked us to start turning in creative pieces too, as soon as possible. “You’re in an MFA program, after all,” she said, “Why wait?” And she implored us to keep our writer’s notebook “up—and—running.” So I begin.

But here’s the question I am left with. If writing is my most regular practice, more regular than traditional prayer or Mass attendance, does that mean I am not truly Catholic anymore? Perhaps only a cultural Catholic? Who gets to decide that?

Kate Lucas is a writer in Minneapolis, MN. She just moved to a new apartment that is close to the Mississippi and has its own writing room.

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7 Responses

  1. Something for you to consider, Kate…. The word “catholic” actually means universal. Even if the Catholic Church cannot retain that meaning for you… you could retain it for yourself. Call yourself “catholic” and let that mean what it really means.

  2. Have you looked at Dominican spirituality much? For them study is a kind of prayer.

  3. I haven’t, Jen. Thanks for the tip. That sounds quite interesting and potentially helpful.

    Cecelia, I appreciate your idea. I think I might find this tough to do, knowing all the layers of connotation of “catholic” and the ways it has come to mean something much more specific rather than universal. But I suppose it is true that since there ARE so many layers, there can never be one, tight definition, so there will always be some personal interpretation that I could allow myself to own.

  4. Kate,
    I hope you are still loving Hamline. I was just accepted into their writing MFA program for January, and can’t wait to start. (I live in Massachusetts, so this will be quite the change.)
    Enjoying your blog,
    Renee

  5. Thanks for the note, Renee. I am still enjoying Hamline quite a bit. Congrats on being accepted, and best of luck as you prepare for your move. Perhaps we can connect up once you’re here. Cheers.

  6. Kate,
    that would be wonderful. It’s going to be an adventure, certainly, as I live in Massachusetts and won’t know anyone in MN. I’m also a Catholic: lapsed, sometimes, but decidedly more Catholic every year as the weather gets colder. (I don’t really know why. It just happens that way.)

  7. Hey Renee,

    I was just remembering our correspondence and how you are starting at Hamline this semester. Hope things are going well. Let me know if you’d like to connect and I’ll find a way to pass my contact info along to you.

    Best,
    kate

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