As we mourn the loss of Vince Flynn, I started to reflect on a few of the Catholic writers we have in Minnesota. Whether it is fiction, nonfiction, historical or other genres; is there something about our faith and something about Minnesota that helps to feed this talent? Immediately I can think of a few Minnesota Catholic authors. F Scott Fitzgerald and Ralph McInerny come to mind, but others like Timothy Drake, Elizabeth Kelly and my very own dear cousin Fr. Marvin O’Connell are those I know personally. And then there are aspiring novelists like Kathy Schneeman who, along with raising her nine kids and wrote so eloquently of Vince Flynn’s passing in her blog, is also working on her first novel. I know if I were to search, there are many more Minnesota Catholic authors. (If you have a favorite Minnesota Catholic author, share who it is and why in the comments below.) Some followed their faith more closely than others, some are better or lesser known but they share two things, Minnesota heritage and the Catholic faith.
Is it the Minnesota long winters that turn us to storytelling? Is it hearty Irish or other ethnic back grounds that causes us to tell tales? Is it a rich heritage of folklore that causes us to think in terms of fantasy? Is it a love of the outdoors that causes us to notice details in the changes of the seasons and the rhythm of the earth that bring forward observations and hone our writing skills?
Or is it the gift of our faith that feeds the talent?
In the introduction to The Catholic Imagination, Fr. Andrew Greeley writes: “Catholics live in an enchanted world, a world of statues and holy water, stained glass and votive candles, saints and religious medals, rosary beads and holy pictures. But these Catholic paraphernalia are mere hints of a deeper and more pervasive religious sensibility which inclines Catholics to see the Holy lurking in creation.”
I wonder often about that, about how Catholics see the world. We believe that there is something more than what we see and in a deep prayer and meditative life God uses our imagination to draw us closer to him. Try saying the Rosary, it becomes and exercise in imagining the life of Christ while repeating the prayers we know by heart and it somehow brings us closer to Christ.
There is always something happening beyond what we see.
Fr. Robert Barron uses this sacramental sensibility in many of his talks, books and through the use of the Catholocism series. It takes our imagination to even enter into thinking about how our sacraments work. I once asked my spiritual director about a certain experience I felt in prayer, I asked if it was just my imagination. Her response caused me to reflect even deeper, saying “Don’t you think God uses everything to draw you closer to Him, even our imagination.” It is true, God made us the way we are and we are creatures uniquely made to worship Him.
It might not then be unusual that Catholics may have a jump start on imagination, storytelling and the world that can’t be seen.
On a couple of occasions I joined a group of Catholic writers. The group called itself The Minnklings — a Minnesotan take-off on C.S. Lewis’ and J.R.R. Tolkien’s writer’s group The Inklings. The group would meet at O’Gara’s bar in St. Paul to share work and offer encouragement. Tim Drake, then Senior Writer of the National Catholic Register led the group. I think it was a special place to explore the unique way in which Catholics aproach the world and aproach writing. I don’t believe the group has met in recent years but I have been running into aspiring Catholic writers and I am hoping we can revive the concept again.
If you are a Catholic Writer, whether you are writing overtly on Catholic themes or if your faith guides your writing in less overt ways, contact me and maybe we can get revival of the Minnklings started.