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God Drops and Loses Things

Kilian McDonnell, OSB

Out of a lifetime of familiarity with the great biblical narratives, Kilian McDonnell draws a portrait of the biblical God charged with vitality, at once prodigal in mercy and ruthless, thunderous, and painfully silent. It is dangerous to love this God, who exacts of "the God-mad Abraham" a faithfulness beyond sanity: "If God makes a covenant in blood with you, why are you surprised to see your flesh upon the altar?" Despite our longing, such apparent capriciousness can be reconciled only in the mysterium tremendum invisible to human eyes; for Father Kilian, such is "fire’s absolute autonomy that scolds me / for putting dirty sandals on glowing cinders, / but invites me to approach barefoot." Equally compelling is the character of Jesus Christ as a true son of God hungry for human contact, who likes hanging out with a fallible humankind and often happens to drop by at mealtime. The children of God who people these poems have God's own murderous prodigality in their genes. They are jealous, weak, and proud. They compete, lie, steal, cheat, betray, repent, and despair; and God loves them. Conscious of their dignity as children of God, they are quick to take exception. Father Kilian says of the poems themselves, "I am contending with God." In God Drops and Loses Things, his third collection, the poems are by turns edgy, affectionate, gentle, deeply moving, and always compassionate. Kilian McDonnell, OSB, is a monk/theologian of Saint John’s Abbey. He is author of Swift, Lord, You Are Not and Yahweh’s Other Shoe (Saint John’s University Press).

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Yahweh's Other Shoe

Kilian McDonnell, OSB

Only eternal life is worthy of the name, writes Kilian McDonnell, O.S.B., in an elegy for a brother monk, and in his poetry one feels the working out of this life that begins with Adam and proceeds beyond our own span of time on earth. These poems breathe human air, but are always conscious of the larger picture of life in Christ. I wrestle with God ‘flesh to flesh, sweat to mystery,’ and I limp away. This is how Father McDonnell describes his poetic project, and in these poems the reader attends a wrestling match of the highest order. He takes on the great themes of poetry: desire, mortality, love and age, brotherhood and God. Beginning with the figures of the Old and New Testament, he is aware of the human flailings, failings, and laughter in the stories as of what they say about God with us. Engaging with the events of our day, the great physical world around us, the intricate world of human relationships, and the spiritual journey of a monk, the poems continuously reveal what it means to be human. Kilian McDonnell, OSB, STD, is a priest, theologian, and monk of Saint John’s Abbey, Collegeville, Minnesota. His first book of poems, Swift, Lord, You Are Not, was published by Liturgical Press in 2003.

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Swift, Lord, You Are Not

Kilian McDonnell, OSB

Some poets begin very early to write great poetry. Arthur Rimbaud wrote one of his best poems at 15, Percy Shelley published his first book of poetry at 18. But Kilian McDonnell, O.S.B., did not start until he was 75, after decades of writing as a professional theologian. Now 82 he gives us Swift, Lord, You Are Not, poems of the struggle to find God—waiting for the silence of God to break. He does not write pious verse, or inspirational poetry, but of wrestling with the illusive God. His themes are mostly biblical and monastic. He closes with an essay "Poet: Can You Start at Seventy-Five?" in which he describes the literary decisions he makes within the monastic context—decisions he needs to make with some dispatch. At 75 he does not have decades to mature. He writes with a new language. Autographed copies of this book are available upon request. Please indicate in the comment box when ordering if you would like an autographed copy. Kilian McDonnell, OSB, STD, is a priest and monk of St. John's Abbey, Collegeville, Minnesota. He is author of John Calvin, The Church, and the Eucharist (Princeton and Oxford University Presses) and The Baptism of Jesus in the Jordan, and the forthcoming The Other Hand of God: The Holy Spirit as the Universal Touch and Goal, published by Liturgical Press. He served as the Consultor to the Vatican Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and is the founder and president of the Institute for Ecumenical and Cultural Research in Collegeville, Minnesota. He is the recipient of the John Courtney Murray Award for Significant Contributions to Theology, given by the Catholic Theological Society of America, the James Fitzgerald Award for Ecumenism, and was the recipient of the papal award for ecumenism from Pope John Paul II: Pro Pontifice et Eccelesia.

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Wrestling with God

Kilian McDonnell, OSB

Then the man said, You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed. (Gen 32:28) The Bible is full of persons who wrestle with God. As they stumble in their lives, they love and adore their Lord. They also scheme, lie, cheat, steal, quarrel, and fornicate. Abraham, the faith model for Jews, Christians, and Muslims, tells Sarah to lie; Sarah scolds God for ignoring her; Amnon rapes his sister; Judas recognizes Jesus’ unconditional love for him; Mary thinks that by distancing himself from her, Jesus hammered a spike into her breast; Peter’s wife crawls into their bed and snuggles up; Jesus’ relatives think he is crazy. In a word, as seekers of God the biblical characters mirror our lives. Like Jacob we limp away from the wrestling match. Kilian McDonnell, OSB, is a monk/theologian of Saint John’s Abbey, Collegeville, Minnesota. He is the author of three other books of poetry: Swift, Lord, You Are Not, Yahweh’s Other Shoe, and God Drops and Loses Things (Saint John’s University Press).

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