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Posted October 2, 2014

Book: Mortal Blessings
Author: Angela Alaimo O'Connell
Ave Maria Press. Notre Dame, IN. 2014. Pp. 133

An Excerpt from the Jacket:

In this lyrical adieu to her mother, renowned Catholic essayist, poet, and teacher Angela Alaimo O'Connell narrates the events that followed her mother's fall and the broken hip that led to surgery. As O'Donnell and her sisters cared for their mother's failing body during the last days of her life, they unconsciously observed rituals that began to take on a deeper importance. Bathing her each morning was a kind of baptism, the nightly feeding of pie took on a Eucharistic significance, trimming and polishing her nails became a kind of anointing. Beyond the seven there are the myriad sacraments they made up: the sacrament of community via cell phone, the sacrament of wheelchair pilgrimage around the nursing home, and the sacrament of humor and laughter. This deeply human portrait of loss is balanced by the surprising grace found in letting go; it will resonate with any spiritual reader but especially caregivers and those currently in grief.

An Excerpt from the Book:

My won discovery of poetry as a sacramental endeavor has unfolded gradually over the years. As my siblings would attest, I was a talker from an early age and loved the sound of words. When I learned to read and write, I also discovered that I had facility with the written word in addition to the spoken, and it wasn't long before I figured out that through the use of rhythm and rhyme, as well as assonance, consonance, and alliteration, I could make words sing. I began composiong poems in the first grade, carrying a portfolio of poems (really a manila folder) around with me wherever I went. (How strange --- yet somehow comforting --- it is to pause here and acknowledge that I am still doing this decades later.)

Writing was not so much a choice as a compulsion. I loved doing it, so I did it. Like any other sort of spontaneous play, writing poetry needed no end beyond itself. Poetry seemed to be something I could manage on my own. All I needed was a pen, some paper, and a ritual. And so I would make music with words.

Years later, as an adult pursuing the twin vocations of poetry and scholarship, I began to discover the long and hallowed tradition associating the creation of art with sacramental activity. Many writers have assisted me in making this connection.

Table of Contents:

1. The sacrament of speech

2. The sacrament of distance

3. The sacrament of beauty

4. The sacrament of humor

5. The sacrament of the cell phone

6. The sacrament of witness

7. The sacrament of honor

8. The sacrament of memory