For quite a few years, I wrote a Christmas story as the Season approached and sent copies to family and friends. Once the number of stories had grown, I collected the ones I thought were particularly effective and published them in a volume called Born in the Darkest Time of Year: Stories for the Season of the Christ Child.” The Christmas season is offered as a time of hope in the midst of darkness. The hope is fragile, or at least seems so to human eyes. After all, God the Word had been born as a baby needing care from others to survive. Today, Christmas seems to be threatened at times even as Herod threatened the Christ Child. So it is that many of my stories deal with threats to Christmas through human folly, weakness, commercialism, or just plain malice. I know it is early for Christmas but some people will be thinking ahead already to their Christmas shopping. I invite you to read the opening story that I have just posted: Silent Night: How John Beaconsfield Saved Christmas.” John is a devoted chorister traumatized when all Christmas music mysteriously disappears just a few days before Christmas day.
A Benedictine monk in the Episcopal Church who writes fantasy fiction? How did that happen? The short answer is: God knows. As for myself, all I can say that the fantastical has always fascinated me and matters of faith have always been a consuming interest. The first two books to have my name written in them were that tales of Hans Christian Andersen and Grimm’s fairy tales. I started writing fantasy stories as a child and I haven’t stopped since. My religious journey took many twists and turns during my youth, including detours in Hinduism and Buddhism, although I consistently believed that religion dealt with the most important things in life. This journey led me back to the Episcopal Church in which I was raised and then to St. Gregory’s Abbey in Three Rivers, Michigan.
Another interest that caught me and has never let me go is music. Singing in a high quality church choir as a boy introduced me to great choral masterpieces and music has been woven with my religious interests ever since. These days, I sing plainsong in the monastic church and listen to music of all kinds in my spare time. Along with my religious convictions, music is a major strand in many of my stories.
Another swirl running through all of these major interests is a concern for peace and for alternatives to violence. In my stories and other writings, seeking peace within oneself and, more important, within social relationships, has become one of the major themes I deal with. Tools for Peace engages in a dialogue between the Rule of St. Benedict and the thought inspired by René Girard, a thinker preoccupied with the social dimensions of violence while my stories take the reader through enchanted but sometimes troubling pathways in search of visions of peace.
I suppose I could sum up my outlook in life as: Saint Benedict in Fairyland. In their various ways, St. Benedict and fairy tales combine an earnest moral and spiritual drive with a delight in God’s goodness. For me, monastic discipline and the freedom of the fantastical imagination reinforce each other. Both my religious writings and my stories witness to my conviction that, contrary to the violence humans perpetrate, God has created a friendly universe grounded in God’s love for all of us.