First Advisor

Michael McGregor

Date of Publication

Winter 3-7-2013

Document Type

Closed Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.) in Creative Writing






Human behavior, Sacraments -- Catholic Church, Recollection (Psychology)



Physical Description

1 online resource (iii, 104 pages)


On my good days, I find that I am often generous with my species. I let the driver in the Hummer merge into my lane with a wave, pick up litter, open doors for stragglers, and give loose change to beggars. On my bad days, I too easily curse (quietly) at the rude and the clueless, keep my hands in my pockets, my head down, and my shoulders hunched. My gait becomes slightly simian. That I can swing with graceful agility from one orientation to the other (often without anyone actually knowing) used to disturb me. I suppose I grew up believing I had to be one kind of person or the other. Not anymore. Perhaps I'm finally reconciled to the fact that I am human; that is, a creature with a consciousness, a being of sometimes-exhausting contradictions, a repository of living memories, an almost-virtuous and curious animal. I've landed, finally, in gray territory, which is where, as it turns out, I always hoped I would. The personal essays in this thesis explore this fluid nature of my (our) creatureliness. As a Catholic priest and a writer, my intention was to use the sacraments of the Catholic Church (Baptism, Eucharist, Confession, Confirmation, Holy Matrimony, Holy Orders, and Anointing of the Sick) as points of departure, and to allow each sacrament to provide me a lens and a perch through which (and from which) I might see our species anew. Aware that these seven sacraments mark the life--from birth to death--of a Catholic, I saw them as a useful and invisible thread that would give these essays thematic cohesion. Recognizing that this exploration was going to be more spelunking than mountain climbing, this sacramental thread became a rope with which I could jump down into some fascinating dark places without getting lost or stranded. In the end, these seven essays attempt to get at a few questions that have haunted me for years: Why have I not given up on my species yet? Why do I still believe in the innate goodness of human creatures? From where do I draw the strength to go spelunking into the darkest warrens of the human heart? These essays eschew the easy answers. They rather delight instead in dark places, illuminated, for a second, by one shaky candle.


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This thesis is only available to students, faculty and staff at PSU.

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