6 Buried Treasure: Unearthing the Faithful Imagination through Journaling and Creative Writing

Br. Francis de Sales Wagner, OSB

“The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”

Matthew 13:44

There is very little about the landscape – for an adult, at least – that seems especially captivating: A creek (really just a sewage ditch) separating our backyards from acres of fields filled with beans or corn, occasionally interrupted by small patches of woods. As a young child, however, there was nothing that would keep my neighborhood friends and me from leaping over the creek (often not making it without losing a shoe in the goo – or worse, falling into it).

Whatever the risk, it was worth it. The other side of that nasty creek was a rich paradise for young minds, bodies and spirits. We fashioned small forts and hideaways. We caught glimpses of feathered, furry or scaly creatures eager to elude our curiosity. We discovered arrowheads, “precious” stones, and sometimes mysterious scraps of paper or personal belongings (i.e., “junk”) for which we constructed elaborate narratives explaining how they came to be where they were. When we were especially high spirited, someone would spot the paw print of a panther or spy Bigfoot plodding through a clump of trees, sending us with a thrill sprinting and leaping back over the creek into the routine safety of our own backyards.

Our little excursions into “uncharted territory” were journeys of exploration and discovery. We peeked and poked through the world around us to unearth hidden treasures. Mostly, we found time to be free with one another and our imaginations. At that age, we had not heard of the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins, but we were experiencing, as he wrote, that “the world is charged with the grandeur of God.”[1]

As I grew older, those fields and woods also became a proving ground – an expanse to wander and sort out lonely, heartbroken thoughts; an environment to cool off after an argument; or a space to simply be still and hear God’s voice whispering beyond the wind.


So what does this fond childhood memory have to do with spiritual formation and journaling? I mention it by way of analogy because such an adventuresome, yet heartfelt, outlook is often lacking in our spiritual lives. Journaling, however, can open the landscape of our souls, and it invites us to discover the heavenly treasure hidden within our earthen vessels.[2] As Catholic teacher and author Christopher Pramuk has written, journaling can bend the ear of our hearts toward a “hidden wholeness” by teaching us how to pay attention, how to become creative, how to recognize grace and how to open ourselves to the universal.[3]

This inner journey is a necessary task, often acknowledged but rarely pursued without at least some resistance. Our own backyards are safe places, but they can also limit our vision if we never venture beyond them. Those who are committed to the spiritual life, those undergoing priestly or religious formation, and those who are engaged in lives of ministry and service to the Church – whether in the clerical or lay state – are perhaps more subject than anyone to the temptation of uninspired superficiality. Satan would like to make Pharisees of us all.

Even with the best of intentions, it is far too easy to merely scratch the surface of life. We often see without understanding, hear without listening and speak without communicating. We have difficulty recognizing the value (and necessity) of mystery, ambiguity and paradox. We seek to avoid embracing that inevitable moment in life when we will be called to joyfully give up everything we have to possess that treasure of inestimable value buried in the field of our souls.

None of this, of course, is consistent with either Scripture or our rich Christian tradition. However, all too often, we settle for less than the magnificent treasure offered by God, jeopardizing our spiritual welfare by sliding into the illusory comfort of a routine, unexamined life.

This treasure – the very love of Christ at work within us[4] – is a rich paradise of “uncharted territory” inviting exploration and discovery. But it is hidden beneath the surface of our lives. Finding it requires getting our hands dirty and digging a little. It involves risking a leap over nasty spiritual creeks – even if it means possibly falling into the goo. It means cultivating a faithful imagination to become our true selves in the image of God.

“If you want to know God, know yourself first,” said the fourth-century desert monk Evagrius Ponticus. Prayer, worship, Scripture, the Eucharist and other sacraments, spiritual direction and the life of the Church point the way in this regard, but the journey cannot end there. It also requires the rewarding, but grimy, work of daily discerning God’s presence in our lives and in the lives and circumstances that intersect with our own. It involves prayerfully seeking the things above, within and around us, here and now, and beyond all appearances.

It requires imagination to become our true selves, which is essential not only for our own sake, but for the benefit of those entrusted to us through our ministry and service. If we are called to make Christ present in the world through Word, sacrament and the example of a holy life, we must also learn how Christ is present and working in our own lives, and deep within our very souls.


Writing – specifically, journaling – is one way to do this. It is a discernment tool – to be used in conjunction with others – of self discovery and self-examination. The words we write for academic or pastoral purposes, or for other worthy projects, are typically the final product or the goal of expressing our thoughts on a particular subject. Journaling is different; the process matters more than results. Journaling is essentially an extension of prayer, and the words we express are really tools of exploration to lead us to self discovery.

Author Annie Dillard describes this process quite vividly:

When you write, you lay out a line of words. The line of words is a miner’s pick, a woodcarver’s gouge, a surgeon’s probe. You wield it, and it digs a path you follow. Soon you find yourself deep in new territory. Is it a dead end, or have you located the real subject? You will know tomorrow, or this time next year. You make the path boldly and follow it fearfully. You go where the path leads. At the end of the path, you find a box canyon. You hammer out reports, dispatch bulletins.[5]

Going where the path leads is a novel concept for many. While I will not claim to have mastered it, this notion has already yielded for me enormous spiritual dividends during intense periods of discernment and formation. It has taught me to become more trustful of God’s providence furtively working within all inherently flawed, weak and even sinful human processes. As St. Paul says, “all things work for good for those who love God.”[6]

What Dillard suggests is difficult at first, but rewarding. Rather than directing the flow of words, this type of writing (particularly useful in journaling) calls for our words to direct us. It means giving up control and joyfully discovering a greater force at work within us – the art of faith.

“But I’m no artist,” some may object. Really? Is God an artist? Surely – look at all he has created. And we are created in his image to participate in the work of creation.[7] Author Flannery O’Connor, whose ostensibly grotesque stories startlingly (often violently) reveal a world literally charged with the presence of God’s grace, sought to fully participate in God’s work of creation as an artist of faith through her writing. “When people have told me that because I am Catholic, I cannot be an artist,” she noted, “I have had to reply, ruefully, that because I am a Catholic I cannot afford to be less than an artist.”[8]

It is interesting to note that O’Connor’s cleverly disguised theological allegories unfolded in ways that surprised even her. Speaking of writing as an organic process of discovery, she said that she sometimes did not know until 10 or 12 lines before the fact what a certain character was going to do.[9] That is going where the path leads, allowing oneself to be directed by the art of faith and participating in the work of creation.

While O’Connor wrote primarily fiction, she approached writing as a process of discovery – something that is available to us all. This is particularly true with journaling. Approached prayerfully, honestly and openly, journaling can lead us by paths unknown and reveal formerly unrecognizable heavenly treasure.

Author Helen Cepero compares the process to panning for gold in a stream:

If you are willing to dip your journal into the stream of your life, even though it may mean getting a bit wet and muddy, you will find the gold of your own life and God’s eternal presence. There is risk in writing, but that is also where the reward is found. Buried in the stuff of our lives, underneath the running current of daily activities, lies the treasure, if only we are willing to risk looking and seeking. …Like all spiritual practices, it begins with the trust that God is active at the heart of our lives and the life of the world.[10]


Trust of this sort requires imagination. The word carries with it the potential for misunderstanding – harmless fantasy on one end of the spectrum, and sheer lunacy on the other. Unfortunately, in today’s world, having imagination can often imply being removed from reality – making something up. However, there is a more authentically balanced interpretation. Imagination is the “ability to [faithfully] confront and deal with reality by using the creative power of the mind.”[11]

Dealing with reality with creative power is how we are using the term imagination here. In the context of faith, it means a participation in God’s creative work right here, right now. It totally collapses the widely held, but mistaken, view that God is “up there” and we are “down here.” It electrifies that sense that the world truly is charged with the grandeur of God.

This is a faithful imagination, which is useful and essential to the spiritual practice of journaling. To trust – as Cepero puts it – that God is active at the heart of our lives and the life of the world is to go beyond merely recording life’s events in a journal, on the one hand, or writing for the sake of posterity, on the other. It means honestly dealing with reality with creative power, writing to dig below the surface of life’s events to discover purpose, meaning, direction and God’s abiding presence in all things.

As Catholics, we profess and strive to live an incarnational spirituality. So, in the Catholic imagination, the world has a sacramental character. Every thing, every person and every circumstance somehow fit together in God’s universal plan of salvation–though some points may seem scattered and a few lines may appear crooked. Journaling assists in recognizing the movement of God’s grace present within and around us. As O’Connor would say, the writer “presents mystery through manners, grace through nature.”[12] Writing–journaling–with a Catholic imagination helps us connect the dots.

A prominent example in this regard is the writing of Thomas Merton. This prolific spiritual author and Trappist monk wrote many works for publication (and therefore posterity). However, he also wrote voluminous journals of his day-to-day life in the monastery, many of which were not published until long after his death in 1968. Commenting on Merton’s spiritual journey through his writing, Victor A. Kramer notes that the monk’s journaling helped him to see beyond visible life:

Everywhere [Merton] looked he saw evidence that the entire world was sacramental.… He is always looking carefully at what is right in front of him at that particular time. What he teaches us is that the sacramentality of our world is always there to be observed and honored in its immediacy.… Cumulatively, these journals are Merton’s record of his encounter with God’s world. It is through the appreciation of the everyday experiences that we begin to learn how to apprehend our harmony with all of creation. The journals are insights, fragments, prayers, notes, phrases which can lead us to see the divine plan, the completeness, the wholeness that is sometimes hidden.… They are the record of how one man saw beyond seeing by looking carefully.[13]

Merton himself spoke of employing the imagination as a “discovering faculty” through his writing: “The imagination is something which enables us to discover unique and present meaning in a given moment in our life.”[14] The late priest and spiritual author Henri Nouwen noted that, while the concept can be difficult for many to grasp, the very act of creative writing holds for us the promise of untold treasure waiting to be discovered (if we’re willing to loosen our hold on the process):

Most students of theology think that writing means writing down ideas, insights, or visions. They feel that they first must have something to say before they put it on paper. For them, writing is little more than recording a pre-existent thought. But with that approach, true writing is impossible. Writing is a process in which we discover what lives in us. The writing itself reveals to us what is alive in us. The deepest satisfaction of writing is precisely that it opens up new spaces within us of which we were not aware before we started to write. To write is to embark on a journey whose final destination we do not know. Thus, writing requires a real act of trust. Once we dare to “give away” on paper the few thoughts that come to us, we start discovering how much is hidden underneath these thoughts and gradually come in touch with our own riches.[15]

Likewise, numerous saints throughout the history of Christianity have left us written records of their personal journeys of discovery to “see beyond seeing by looking carefully.” Two of the most obvious examples are St. Augustine’s Confessions and St. Thérèse of Lisieux’s Story of a Soul. More recently, Blessed Pope John XXIII kept a journal from his early teens until his death at age 82, published posthumously under the title Journal of a Soul.

While obviously in a different category altogether, Holy Scripture also must be considered writing that engages the faithful imagination – both for the human authors and readers through the centuries. Scripture is the Word of God, but was not dictated to us from on high. Human participation in God’s creative work is involved, as the Church teaches us by comparing Scripture with the incarnation of Jesus, the Word of God.[16]

Put another way, the sacred words of Scripture, expressed in human words, are meant to reflect and feed the faithful imagination arising from the very mind of God, in whose image we were created. Though that image is distorted through the Fall, humanity’s share in this creative written work invites us to restoration and redemption. As Jesuit author and veteran spiritual director William A. Barry points out:

The Bible is not a theological textbook designed only to feed our minds and provide intellectual thought. Most of the Bible is imaginative literature meant to draw us into its world so that God can touch us. Even the historical books are written as stories to touch our imaginations. The biblical writers want to help us encounter God; ultimately, they want to move us to engage personally with God.[17]

Perhaps this seems like an unfair (or even dangerous!) comparison in the context of a discussion on journaling. However, my point is to illustrate that from the perspective of the Catholic imagination, we each have a story to tell – one that lies at least partially hidden from ourselves in the depths of our very being. And it is a sacred story because it begins and ends with God – whether or not we acknowledge it. A faithful imagination that is engaged through creative writing to unearth that story is anything but removed from reality. It is a lack of imagination that gets us into trouble! Lack of a faithful imagination is slavery to self-delusion and the fantasy of self-reformation.

Christina Bieber Lake, in her 2005 book The Incarnational Art of Flannery O’Connor, makes the case that our culture is becoming “posthuman” – striving for made-to-order lives, even made-to order bodies. We are seeking to perfect ourselves without God, “to become like gods,” as in the downfall of Adam and Eve. Lake notes that we are moving away from “a healthy view of the self – the conviction that we are created beings, made in the image of God, but limited and dependent – toward an unhealthy belief that we are cosmic accidents whose only hope is to remake ourselves into whatever image fits our fancy.”[18]

A faithful imagination is our defense against this. It acknowledges God as the beginning and end of the equation and invites Him into everything in between. Imagination is freedom from self. It is trusting in the revelation that our limited human nature is redeemed through incarnated grace.

As Pramuk points out, journaling is a means of paying attention to the hand of God’s incarnated grace in our lives, of exorcising those demons that strive to imprison us within the fantasy of becoming like gods.[19] Journaling – or any writing – with a faithful imagination is bearing the imprint of Christ in our very being – human beings borne from God’s imagination. It is, as Pramuk points out, a means of participating in our own salvation.[20]

This is the treasure we seek: With, in and through Christ, we are both characters and co-authors in God’s story of human creation, incarnation and redemption. As author Madeleine L’Engle notes, “If our lives are truly ‘hid with Christ in God,’ the astounding thing is that this hiddenness is revealed in all that we do and say and write.”[21]

By grace, we are instruments of divine providence, gardeners in the field of God’s creation. Imagine that!


Fanned by the winds of the Holy Spirit, journaling becomes a means to restore order, purpose and beauty to the murky chaos swirling beneath the surface of our lives. A journal is not a diary. It involves more than merely recording the day’s events. Rather, journaling is about reflecting on the meaning of those events.

In my own experience, journaling has been a helpful tool in preparing for spiritual direction, for putting words to my innermost prayer, for examining the motives of my actions, or why I feel or think a certain way about something or someone. Writing in this way with a faithful imagination has peeled back and revealed layers of myself I never knew existed. Some of it is not very pretty, but I am grateful for the grace that has revealed and identified these parts of my disordered self so that they can be transformed into my true self in Christ.

As a habit, journaling can develop:

  • an enlarged awareness of God’s grace working in  the soul.
  • an increased sense of gratitude.
  • a greater degree of openness to the challenges God  may be offering,
  • along with the opportunity to overcome trials and  temptations.
  • a deeper appreciation of the simple but mysterious  beauty of our faith so that we’re drawn into it more fully.

In her thorough and practical book Journaling as a Spiritual Practice, Cepero explains that journaling helps us to stop and notice what we might otherwise miss or dismiss. “Everything in our lives tends to be hectic,” she writes. “What is subversive about a journaling practice is that it calls us to stop. It is when we stop, when we let our look linger, that a deeper movement can be discerned.”[22]

Discernment, Cepero notes, comes from the Latin discerne – to separate, distinguish or sort out. Christian discernment, she says, is about “sorting out the voice of God speaking into our own lives from the cacophony of many voices that we hear, and then choosing to follow that voice.”[23]

The key to discernment in the context of journaling, she writes, is to enter into an open and honest dialogue with God so that we can sort out our desires and dig below their surface:

Such honesty about what we truly want opens us up to new discoveries and change.… We may recognize that without forgiving someone, we will never be free of bitterness and resentment. We may find that we do not want to let go of anger that makes us feel strong and righteous. We may find that an addiction is a comfort we are unwilling to release. At those times, it is especially important to pray for the grace that we desire, knowing that the power of God is greater than we are and greater than the power in the world around us.[24]

This is precisely where journaling intersects with spiritual direction. Both are invaluable tools in the spiritual life, and when they are used in conjunction with one another, they become a powerful means of identifying and rooting out hidden faults and failings. What’s more, they open up the possibility for reconciliation.

In his sixth-century Rule, St. Benedict encourages his monks: “As soon as wrongful thoughts come into your heart, dash them against Christ and disclose them to your spiritual father.”[25] Such thoughts – passions, desires, motives and impulses – have much less power over us when they are released (or expelled, as it were) and exposed to the light of truth. This is especially true in the arena of spiritual direction, where the Holy Spirit is at work. However, journaling with a faithful imagination can also be a source of revelation in this regard. L’Engle provides an excellent example:

If I can write things out, I can see them, and they are not trapped within my own subjectivity.… Not long ago someone I love said something which wounded me grievously, and I was desolate that this person could possibly have made such a comment to me. So, in great pain, I crawled to my journal and wrote it all out in a great burst of self-pity. And when I had set it down, when I had it before me, I saw that something I myself had said had called forth the words which had hurt me so. It had, in fact, been my own fault. But I would never have seen it if I had not written it out.[26]

Merton, too, recognized the power of journaling to unearth the radiant treasure of Christ buried in the field of his soul. His writing was a means of freedom, he says:

I have become convinced that the very contradictions in my life are in some ways signs of God’s mercy to me; if only because someone so complicated and so prone to confusion and self defeat could hardly survive for long without special mercy. I have tried to learn in my writing a monastic lesson I could probably not have learned otherwise: to let go of my idea of myself, to take myself with more than one grain of salt.…[27]

Some voices – including those within the journal writer’s own mind and heart – will claim that journaling is an outlet for narcissism. Honestly engaged with a faithful imagination, however, it achieves just the opposite. Paradoxically, journaling helps strip away selfishness and self-absorption, as Kramer notes in Merton’s case:

A careful reading of Merton’s writing reveals the fact that he learned to give up a consciousness of himself through the exercise of writing. Of course, Merton’s writing is often an analysis of self, but such analysis (paradoxically) leads to an awareness of the unimportance of self and to an awareness of one’s relationship to others, and to the mystery of the universe as a whole.… His journals were, of course, his working ground, a testing place and foundation for his ideas and spiritual development. In a paradoxical way, therefore, it seems to have been necessary for Merton to write so that he could become more quiet.[28]

The gentle touch of Christ is not restricted, however, to correcting faults. It can also be a source of reassurance, which we all need from time to time. Journaling can allow this light to shine through and illuminate the darkness. Following is an excerpt from one of my own journal entries during a particularly trying period in my life. General enough to share without breaching any sense of one’s “inner forum,” it illustrates one method of journaling with a faithful imagination.[29] Here, I imagine the voice of Christ speaking directly to me while meditating on Philippians 1:6[30] for lectio:

My friend, look at all I have done for you. Think back to where you were and where you are now. Can there be any doubt of my unending love for you?

Stop considering where your next step will be. I have placed you here and I will guide you, just as I have told you. You have nothing to fear.

Trust in me. I am the Truth, the doorway through which you come to the Father. Nothing is on your own because your sight is limited, too narrow. Speak with me as I speak to you now, as a friend. Put aside your former ways, your doubts, and anxieties – even your old way of praying.

I have much to share with you and with others through you if you will simply rest in my tremendous love for you. It is a love so vast that it is incomprehensible, nothing you can aspire toward or earn. It is freely given. Receive my love, for you cannot share a gift until you are willing to fully accept it.

All I have told you, shown you, and revealed to you is nothing compared with what is to come. Have no fear. Your purpose, your being, reside in my Truth, not within your own sense of it.

Rest in my love. Remember what I have told you – you belong to me! What belongs to me, I present to the Father. I have taken you to myself, and have shaped you, although you are not finished and cannot comprehend it.

I will complete the work I have begun in you. You knew this once. Recall it now and take hold of it, as I have you. Your life is not your own. It rests in my hands, and my hands rest on you.

My delight is your surrendered will, and I am pleased you have offered it to me as I asked. All that is left for you to do is be confident in my love for you. Trust me and in all I have said. Put aside all else and live in my love.

This sort of dialogue may seem silly to some. However, no claim is made here of any sort of holy dictation, privileged revelation or knowledge of the mind of God. On the other hand, there is no discounting the movement of God’s grace; “the wind blows where it wills.”[31] When the faithful imagination is honestly engaged, authenticity cannot be doubted. This caution is raised for those who may embark on such a quest in their journaling, only to dismiss the words that pour forth from their pen (or keyboard) as echoes of their own wishful thinking. One can never be too sure!

In each of the cases cited above, the mystery of God’s grace is evident through the practice of journaling. In these instances and so many others, the faithful Catholic imagination has become the means to restore order to the chaos churning beneath the surface life. Grace has built on nature. By the art of faith, the Word redeems through the word.


While a thorough look at journaling from a practical perspective is available elsewhere (such as in Cepero’s book), I will offer a few brief suggestions (without claiming to have mastered any of them myself):

  • Be intentional. Journaling, as with any practice employed as a means to an end, requires discipline. One has to be regular about it, sincerely commit to it and make time for it each day – even if nothing seems to be happening, just like prayer. The fruit will be revealed, tasted and shared over time.
  • Be honest. Only you and God are at work. No one else will see it (unless you choose otherwise later).  Formality is neither required – nor desired. Truth, however, is absolutely necessary.
  • Permit imperfection. Trust in the process of writing as a tool of discovery. A journal is not a theological or philosophical treatise. Allow it to be an imperfect progression.
  • Go with the flow. Write without regard to sentence structure, grammar, spelling, vocabulary or even logic. Resist the urge to revise as you write. As O’Connor has remarked, “The more you write, the more you will realize that the form is organic, that it is something that grows out of the material.”[32] Once what is within has been unearthed and laid bare, you can come back and tidy it up if you like.
  • Ignore – as Cepero puts it – the “Censor” and the “Inner Critic.” They don’t want you to discover anything that leads you to God. If they become too loud, turn the tables and journal about what nasty killjoys they are.
  • Do not be afraid. The closer we move toward God, the more fearful the old self will become. Don’t turn away! It is at the heart of those fears that God wants to meet you so that your new self in Christ may emerge.
  • Unplug the social network. Journaling is not the same as blogging. By its public nature, blogging obviously cannot (or should not) deal with one’s inner forum. More importantly, once you become aware of writing for an audience – any audience – you’re not journaling anymore. With all that said, however, blogging can be a means (if you wish) of sharing the fruit of one’s journaling. If you blog, you may later discover that a particular journal entry can be developed further to have broader appeal and possibly make an impact on other people’s lives. A word of caution: Such an aim can never be an honest starting point for a journal entry.
  • Use your faithful imagination. My own journal entries often take the form of prayers, reflections or lectio meditations. But not always. Write a poem, paraphrase a Psalm, write a letter to God, dialogue with Jesus: whatever works. Later, you can go back and highlight patterns or moments of insight, and then bring them forward as well. Freely explore the landscape of your soul.


Ultimately, our goal as Christians is to transcend ourselves, paradoxically by discovering and embracing our true selves with, in and through Christ – in whom we live and move and have our being.[33] Through the practice of journaling, we are invited to explore the open landscape of our souls, go where the path leads and deal with reality with creative power, so that with Christ, order is restored from chaos. Therein dwells the buried treasure revealing the transforming presence of the Holy Trinity. As Cepero notes:

The more authentically we travel into our own lives and our own stories, the more we will lay claim to God’s image deep within us. This is both the beginning point and the destination. The more deeply we immerse ourselves in the story of God, the more our lives are filled with the love of Christ.… And the more available we are to God, the more available we are to truly love ourselves, one another and the world.[34]

True self-discovery with a faithful imagination leads to self giving, to an awareness beyond self that inspires others to seek this very same treasure buried within themselves. Whether or not journaling is the precise means we employ, we must have a faithful imagination to arrive at our true selves and help others to do the same. All of us engaged in lives of ministry and service to the Church – whether in the clerical or lay state – must be willing to dig below the surface of our lives and become artists of faith, participating in the work of our Creator, who created us in his image.

The key to leading others to this treasure is mentioned in Matthew 13:44: When a person finds the treasure of Christ buried in the field of his soul, “out of joy [he] goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” This joy, this gratitude, this love of Christ that overpowers all else, will radiate out and attract others to the buried treasure within. Now to God, who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to Him be glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.[35]

  1. “God’s Grandeur,” in The Harper Anthology of Poetry, ed. John Frederick Nims. New York: Harper & Row, 1981), 445.
  2. Cf. 2 Corinthians 4:7.
  3. “The Song of Faith,” America (April 8, 2002), accessed at: www.americamagazine.org.
  4. Cf. Colossians 3:1-3; Ephesians 3:19-20.
  5. The Writing Life (New York: Harper & Row, 1989), 549.
  6. Cf. Romans 8:28.
  7. Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 2427, 2501.
  8. “The Church and the Fiction Writer,” in Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose, ed. Sally and Robert Fitzgerald. (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1970), 146.
  9. “Writing Short Stories,” Ibid., 100.
  10. Journaling as a Spiritual Practice: Encountering God through Attentive Writing. (Downers Grove, Illinois, 2008), 11-12, 20. An excellent practical resource on the subject from a Christian perspective. Highly recommended.
  11. The American Heritage Dictionary, Second College Edition. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1982). The second definition listed within the entry for the word imagination. Here, it means resourcefulness. I have inserted the word faithfully, and the emphasis is added.
  12. “The Church and the Fiction Writer,” 153.
  13. “Merton’s Published Journals: The Paradox of Writing as a Step Toward Contemplation,” in The Message of Thomas Merton, ed. Br. Patrick Hart, O.C.S.O. (Kalamazoo, Michigan: Cistercian Publications, 1981), 39, 40, 41.
  14. Contemplation in a World of Action. (New York: Image Books, 1973), 357.
  15. “Reflections on Theological Education,” in Seeds of Hope: A Henri Nouwen Reader, ed. Robert Durback. (New York: Image Books, 1997), 79-80. Emphasis added.
  16. Dei Verbum No. 13: “The words of God, expressed in the words of men, are in every way like human language, just as the Word of the eternal Father, when he took on himself the flesh of human weakness, became like men.”
  17. A Friendship Like No Other: Experiencing God’s Amazing Embrace. (Chicago: Loyola Press, 2008), 167. Emphasis added.
  18. The Incarnational Art of Flannery O’Connor. (Macon, Georgia: Mercer University Press, 2005), 240. “Incarnational art,” Lake says, “insists on the broken and limited human body as its starting point – the acknowledgment of which is the only means to spiritual growth” (12). She notes that, for O’Connor, redemption begins with human limitation and ends with the Imago Dei. This theme is most colorfully illustrated (pun intended) in O’Connor’s short story, “Parker’s Back” (207).
  19. “The Song of Faith,” America.
  20. Ibid.
  21. Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art. (New York: North Point Press, 1995), 122.
  22. Journaling as a Spiritual Practice: Encountering God through Attentive Writing. 33. 23 Ibid., 79.
  23. Ibid., 79.
  24. Ibid., 84-85.
  25. The Rule of St. Benedict in Latin and English with Notes, “The Tools for Good Works,” Ch. 4:50, ed. Timothy Fry, O.S.B. (Collegeville, Minnesota: Liturgical Press, 1981), 185. Emphasis added.
  26. Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art, 137.
  27. A Thomas Merton Reader, ed. Thomas P. McDonnell. (New York: Doubleday, 1974), 16-17.
  28. “Merton’s Published Journals: The Paradox of Writing as a Step Toward Contemplation,” 24.
  29. In the interest of full disclosure, this journal entry also represents one of the very few times in my life where I have surrendered to the organic process of writing, allowing it to direct my thoughts rather than vice-versa.
  30. “I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus,” New American Bible.
  31. John 3:8.
  32. “Writing Short Stories,” in Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose, 102.
  33. Cf. Acts 17:28.
  34. Journaling as a Spiritual Practice: Encountering God through Attentive Writing, 9.
  35. Cf. Ephesians 3:20-21.


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Catholic Imagination by Br. Francis de Sales Wagner, OSB is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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