"When the scholar and the poet wrestles in you," Bonnie Thurston was once asked by a friend at Tymawr, "who wins?" The poems in Belonging to Borders are her response. In these poems, Thurston reverences the borders, literal and metaphorical, that have been a part of her life since childhood. This reverence shines in her deep appreciation for holy space, for nature infused with the divine, for roots that are deep. These prayerful meditations on Celtic saints and places invite the reader to honor the borders in their own lives and to recognize the holiness of living on the borders.
Bonnie Thurston, after years as a university and seminary professor, lives quietly in her home state of West Virginia. She is the author or editor of fifteen theological books, including Philippians in the Sacra Pagina series; Religious Vows, the Sermon on the Mount, and Christian Living; The Spiritual Landscape of Mark (Liturgical Press) and For God Alone: A Primer on Prayer (University of Notre Dame Press). Her poetry appears frequently in religious periodicals and has been published in two small collections from Three Peaks Press in Wales, The Heart's Lands and Hints and Glimpses.
These are poems written by a border-dweller negotiating those tricky boundaries between the sacred and the human, between life and death, and between saint and sinner. Part hagiography, part Celtic geography, part autobiography, the collection rings with the inflections of a compelling voice as the poet sings her connections with Celtic traditions, saints, and spirituality. We walk with her through an apple orchard leading to a graveyard; we hear her prayers, "great mufflers of words," leading her through Holy Week; we find with her the tiny bat's body in a chapel doorway; and we see the lamb close to death being nursed by an elderly couple. In this stirring collection Bonnie Thurston speaks candidly, providing notes and short explanations one usually hears only at a poetry reading. We are her eager audience, voluntarily cornered.
Jill Baumgaertner, Professor of English, Dean of Humanities and Theological Studies Wheaton Colleg e
Bonnie Thurston has given us in this book a rich resource for reflection and prayer. Anyone who wants to experience what Celtic spirituality might look like (as distinct from much of the pretense that passes for it today) could do no better than read and savour this little book. Rich and satisfying results are in store for the reader. I highly recommend it.
Tom Jordan, OP, Spirituality
Bonnie Thurston, a rare combination of professional biblical scholar and accomplished poet, through her spare and deeply felt poetry, against just enough historical, geographical, and literary background, invites her readers to share her contemplative immersion in the world of Celtic culture and spirituality. Unlike some romanticizing of "all things Celtic" in recent spiritual writing, Thurston's poetry exposes us to the unyielding harshness of early medieval life in what is now Scotland, Ireland, and Wales and to the robust and original spirituality that responded to its challenges and its mystery as the women and men of those ruggedly beautiful lands lived the quest for God, never far from the borders nor from the center. The book is truly nourishment for the spirit.
Sandra M. Schneiders, Jesuit School of Theology, Berkeley, CA
Specialists in Celtic studies, as well as newcomers to this unique Christian legacy, will find this little volume a welcome addition to their understanding of key monastic figures and useful for personal reflection; those serious about pursuing their own spiritual journey will find nourishment and new ways of praying about and belonging to the natural world.
Monica Weis, SSJ, Nazareth College
For students of Celtic spirituality, devotees of monasticism, and those who find poetry beneficial for personal prayer, Bonnie Bowman Thurston's new collection of deceptively simple poems will be a welcome addition to their library. Thurston is both consummate scholar and agile poet. Belonging to Borders, by offering deep theological insight and rich Celtic spirituality, celebrates a journey that is both personal and universal. It offers readers an integrated experience that is as uplifting as it is challenging.
Monica Weis, SSJ, Cistercian Studies Quarterly
Bonnie Thurston is that rare theologian who is also a poet. This volume, redolent of the Celtic world of saints and sacred places, combined with a Hopkinesque response to the natural world, is a book to be savored. Thurston conceals vast learning under the shimmer of poetry providing us with a cornucopia of texts for contemplation.
Lawrence S. Cunningham, John A. O'Brien Professor of Theology, The University of Notre Dame