This week’s arts and culture column reflects on a wonderful new memoir.
Here’s how the piece begins:
Pope Francis has observed: “The Church is a field hospital. Heal the wounded, heal the wounded, heal the wounded.”
Jessica Mesman Griffith and Jonathan Ryan head up an online community called Sick Pilgrim that takes the command seriously. Their Patheos blog and Wonder podcast explore “the edge of faith, reason and doubt,” and have attracted legions of followers who might otherwise feel themselves on the outskirts of the Church.
The Sick Pilgrim Facebook page lists interests such as, “Catholicism, art, publishing, media, culture, music, saints, sinners, pilgrims.”
Jessica is the author of four books, a nationwide speaker on faith and the arts and a stupendously gifted writer, both literary and Catholic in the widest sense of the word: deeply human, deeply funny. I first came across her work in “Love and Salt” (Loyola Press, 2013), a book of letters exchanged with a friend when they were both pregnant in prose that has been called “raw and intimate, humorous and poetic.”
A native of New Orleans whose mother died young of cancer, Jessica felt shunned by the people of her parish as a teenager, as if tragedy had tainted her. She and her sister tried to commune with their mother’s spirit through Ouija boards, call-in psychics and mirror divination.
Jessica dyed her hair purple, got a nose ring and listened to Pearl Jam in her bedroom, weeping and praying that Eddie Vedder would save her. She suffered panic attacks at parties. Her “holy roller” father tried to commit her to a mental institution.