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The Nature of Saint John's

A Guide to the Landscape and Spirituality of Saint John's Abbey Arboretum

Saint John's University Press

This is the first comprehensive field guide to the natural and human history of the Saint John's Abbey Arboretum of central Minnesota. Its 2,500 acres of forest, prairie, savanna, and lakes have been carefully stewarded by Benedictine monks for more than a century and a half. It is Minnesota's largest arboretum and includes one of the state's finest forests of native oak, the state's first reforesting project, and its oldest planted pines. The guidebook features detailed topographical maps and descriptions of the Abbey Arboretum's hiking trails, descriptions of 120 native species of vegetation and wildlife, profiles of pioneer Benedictine stewards, and meditations and prayers for spiritual renewal, a "lectio on nature." It's an ideal pocket-guide companion for hikers or for those who simply wish to hold the Arboretum in their hands. The Saint John's Abbey Arboretum celebrates and preserves the beauty and richness of God's creation, fostering the Benedictine tradition of environmental respect, spiritual renewal, and education.

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Aggressive Mercy

Kilian McDonnell

The Bible contains vast and varied portraits of God's multifaceted mercy. In his typical style Kilian McDonnell's latest collection of poems reveals a lifetime of contemplating biblical characters and their experience of the tenacious mercy of the Sovereign God. What might the Prodigal Son have been rehearsing on his way back home to his father? Did the disciples think Jesus was "teasing" them when he asked them to feed the five thousand? Imagine Mary trying to explain her "bulging belly" to her mother. How are we to understand God's mercy in the turmoil brought about by the birth order of Esau and Jacob? Where was mercy for Jesus on the cross? "Dark Night of the Heart" explores the question of the apparent absence of God's mercy. Enter the drama and amazement of the first miracle at Cana and Jesus' pursuit of wild, ornery fishermen after a long day at sea.Aggressive Mercy demonstrates the mystery of an extravagantly merciful God. "Who would believe that God / gives away gold buillion / with professional absurdity?" Most poems are accompanied by a Scripture passage and offer readers a starting point to plumb the depths of this coveted characteristic of God and to wonder, struggle, and be awed by the unfathomable mercy of God.Kilian McDonnell, OSB, is a monk/theologian of Saint John's Abbey, Collegeville, Minnesota. He is the author of four books of poetry: Swift, Lord, You Are Not; Yahweh's Other Shoe; God Drops and Loses Things; and Wrestling with God (all from Saint John's University Press).

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Saint John's at 150

A Portrait of This Place Called Collegeville

Hilary Thimmesh, OSB, Editor

As Saint John’s celebrates its 150th anniversary the story of this spiritual community is told in captivating words and telling images in Saint John's at 150. The 160-page book features compelling essays by a variety of writers and striking black-and-white and color photos. All who know Saint John’s and Collegeville will find that the words and images ring true in this lively book about such a remarkable place. Launched to coincide with the celebration of Saint John’s Sesquicentennial, Saint John's at 150 includes a glimpse of life in Minnesota and the nation as background for the Saint John’s story. Personal essays about Saint John’s first 150 years are provided by writers from Saint John’s monastery, the university faculty, and friends around the world. They focus on such intriguing topics as the missionary lifestyle of the first monks to cameo images of college professors. The full-page photos by photographers such as Greg Becker, Lee Hanley, David Manahan, O.S.B., and Placid Stuckenschneider, O.S.B., make the book a visual feast. More than 30 authors contribute sidebars and special features on a variety of subjects: Katherine Powers remembers her father, J. F. Powers; Bill Kling reminisces on the founding of Minnesota Public Radio; author Jon Hassler recalls his college days and his professor, Steve Humphrey; Thomas Merton reflects on the beauty of a summer afternoon and the chapel across the lake. This volume, edited by Hilary Thimmesh, O.S.B., professor of English and president emeritus at Saint John’s University, also includes numerous photographs of campus life in the monastery and the university, as well as images taken by Peter Engel, O.S.B., before he became abbot in 1895. Though not a comprehensive history, Saint John's at 150 references the surprising number of people, places, and events that comprise this exceptional place called Collegeville. The book includes Foreword, by Abbot John Klassen, O.S.B.; Introduction: Outside the Pine Curtain for 150 Years, by Annette Atkins; Chapter 1: A Time to Plant and a Time to Grow by Hilary Thimmesh, O.S.B.; Chapter 2: A Little Rule for Beginners, by Columba Stewart, O.S.B.; Chapter 3: ‘A Scientific, Educational, and Ecclesiastical Institution’ by Joseph Farry; Chapter 4: ‘Proudly Stands Our Alma Mater, Tow’ring o’er the Oak and Pine,’ by Larry Haeg; Chapter 5: Plowing the Fields, Scattering Good Seed upon the Earth, by Hilary Thimmesh, O.S.B.; Chapter 6: Saint John’s and the Liturgical Movement: A Personal View, by William Franklin; Chapter 7: Virgil Michel and the Collegeville Community: Liturgy and Social Justice, by Bernard Evans; Chapter 8: Nursery of the Arts, by Robin Pierzina, O.S.B.; Chapter 9: Going Forth to Work till Evening Falls, by Annette Atkins, Norma Loso Koetter, Zach Lewis; Chapter 10: Two Benedictine Communities Seeking God Together, by Jana and Charles Preble; Chapter 11: The Design and Construction of Saint John’s Abbey Church, by Victoria Young; Chapter 12: For Beauty as Well as Bread: Saint John’s and the Land, by Derek Larson; Afterword, by Dietrich Reinhart, O.S.B.; and Poems, ‘My Funeral,’ by Kilian McDonnell, O.S.B., ‘The Mind Is the Great Poem of Winter,’ by Eva Hooker, C.S.C., and ‘Crew (Saint John’s),’ by Carl Phillips. Hilary Thimmesh, OSB, is a professor of English and president emeritus at Saint John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota.

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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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One Heart, One Soul

Many Communities

Edited by Mary Forman, OSB, PhD

The School of Theology•Seminary of Saint John's University sponsors an annual Monastic Institute to provide continuing education and spiritual enrichment for American monastics and all those interested in monastic spirituality and practice. One Heart, One Soul revisits the 2006 institute and its focus on the future with such important questions as: How do the origins, history, and present state of Benedictine monasticism point to the viability of its future? How can the new intentional communities contribute to the revitalization of Benedictine monasticism today? In what ways do the Benedictine Rule and its array of communal arrangements and the perspectives of these members and oblates inspire and provide the scaffolding for new communities of life and hope in our modern world? Attempts to answer these questions showcase the theme of unity in diversity and address Benedictine monasticism in broad, institutional strokes as well as in the very specific practices and narratives of monastics, oblates, and others living in various communities. In this volume, you will hear the voices of many community members—young and old, men and women, Benedictines and intentional community members—all speaking from the heart of their lived experience and wisdom. Mary Forman, OSB, PhD, is a Benedictine sister from the Monastery of Saint Gertrude, Cottonwood, Idaho. She is associate professor of theology, teaching monastic studies and theology at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University in Central Minnesota.

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Stoked

Five Artists of Fire and Clay

Matthew Welch

"I am in a place of excellence, peace, and earthiness," wrote the young American in his journal, "with an unbelievable knowledge of clay." That place was a heavily wooded mountain valley on the island of Kyushu in southern Japan. The date was August 1975. And the 22-year-old with bright eyes and an easy smile was Richard Bresnahan, a small-town boy from eastern North Dakota. Three-and-a-half years later, he had acquired such formidable skills that his famous sensei, or teacher, Nakazato Takashi gave him the title of "master potter." After returning to the United States, Bresnahan accepted an offer from Saint John's University in Collegeville, Minnesota, to be its first artist-in-residence. In the summer of 1979, he set up his initial studio on campus and that fall built a climbing kiln: a Japanese-style wood-fired noborigama. This book celebrates the 30th anniversary of the Saint John's Pottery, another place of resounding excellence, where unique collaborations occur daily between experts and novices, teachers and apprentices, humans and nature. At the same time, the text documents "Stoked," an exhibition featuring the work of several talented potters who studied with Richard Bresnahan and then became masters in their own right: Kevin Flicker, Stephen Earp, Samuel Johnson, and Anne Meyer. Lavishly illustrated with nearly 90 color photographs, Stoked: Five Artists of Fire and Clay explores a range of contemporary American ceramics: from the robust stonewares of Bresnahan, Flicker, and Johnson to the whimsical redwares of Earp and the elegant sculptures of Meyer. The essays reveal each individual's search for identity and the cross-fertilization that inevitably occurs when creative people from diverse backgrounds are mindful not only of the past but of generations yet to come.Matthew Welch has been on staff at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts since 1990. He has coauthored several books and in 2001 wrote the award-winning Body of Clay, Soul of Fire: Richard Bresnahan and the Saint John's Pottery. A specialist in Japanese Zen painting, Welch spent four years at Kyoto University as a Fulbright scholar and received his PhD in Asian art from the University of Kansas. As curator of Japanese and Korean art at the Institute, he has organized eleven exhibitions, including "First Fire," which featured ceramics by Richard Bresnahan from the inaugural firing of Saint John's Johanna kiln. In 2008, the museum made Welch its assistant director for curatorial affairs, and since 2003 he also has served on the editorial board for Saint John's University Press. He lives in Minneapolis in a Japanese-style house with his wife and two children.

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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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