One of my favorite themes is the vocation of the artist. In fact, I’ve been working on a book about how my life came to be ordered to art: part memoir, part invitation, part supplication to up-and-coming writers.

In a nutshell, my message is this: Figure out a way to earn a humane living, write about what moves you, and pay no attention to passing trends.

Near the end of 2009, for example, I felt that my work was not bearing fruit. I felt like all my efforts to “get my work out there” had come to naught.

One morning, with very little conscious thought, I simply sat down, went to, came up with a spur-of-the-moment title, for a header put up the photo of the Jesus statue from Elvis’ bedroom I’d snapped on my Motorola Razr a few years ago at Graceland, and started writing.

It was as if the 15 years of relative silence of my career had ripened in a way I had never remotely imagined.

Even though blogging is now considered passé and you’re supposed to call it a newsletter, or launch a Substack, I haven’t stopped whatever you want to call posting snippets of prose with an image or two.

Sometimes I write a 3,000-word essay. Sometimes I post a single quote from a writer, artist, or theologian.

I try to write about what I am for, not what I’m against. I write about what I love, what moves me, what intrigues me, what I can’t figure out.

I write about the books and music and films and people that have saved me. I’m fascinated by culture insofar as it reflects upon the human condition but I generally steer away from politics. I don’t much care about being relevant or topical. I care about mystery.

The whole effort is very time-consuming if I were to “count the cost,” so I don’t. I look upon it as a kind of scavenge. I cast my net, people from far and wide are dredged up in it, and after posting I then spend more time responding to comments and emails, and reflecting, and taking more pictures, and writing more posts.

Yet — enough money comes in (from writing a weekly column, books, speaking, workshops, retreats, and the occasional donor) to keep me going, and who cares how much time it takes when I love putting the stuff out there?

On the one hand, I get to do exactly as I “want,” and on the other, I’m a 24/7 servant.

On the one hand my burden is easy, and on the other I take up my cross daily.

On the one hand I am utterly focused, and on the other I have no recognizable “business plan.”

And that is the total, total fun of it!

I hear from monks, priests, housewives, people who can’t get sober, people whose husbands want to undergo transgender surgery, people whose daughters are selling themselves for drugs, people in wheelchairs, people who are pissed off at the Church (many of those), people who want to write memoirs about their struggles with anorexia, childhood incest, or being a drunken nun.

I once heard from a guy in Madison Lake, Minnesota, who said, “You misspelled ‘churches’ on your website” and I said, “Where?” and he said “I’ll check but right now I am going to a Twins game even though they’re losing” and then I never heard from him again. I love that guy! That guy is not the distraction or side note: that guy is the whole thing!

I get invitations to speak: in Sioux Falls, South Dakota; in Omaha, Nebraska; in Anaheim, California.

Just last week, a reader texted an offer to underwrite a trip to Venice, Italy, this fall so I can attend the Biennale.

If you were to examine my life from the outside you’d say: It cannot be.

It cannot be that in this resolutely secular culture, of which in one way I am squarely a member, you could write from a heart for Christ and still make a living.

It could not be that you could have no brand, no platform, no politics, no ax to grind, no message other than the invitation to “joyfully participate in the sorrows of the world” (Mother Teresa’s phrase), and still have people find you, and respond to your work, and ask you to come speak at their parish or novitiate or independent bookstore or abbey.

It could not be that you could write about your love of Christ and hear from atheists, bitterly lapsed Catholics, agnostics, Buddhists, and Jews who are seeking, who are questioning, who are finding their way as well, and who want to say Hey, or Good for you, or I disagree but I like that you’re reaching.

Truly, my life is a minute-by-minute demonstration of the miracle of the loaves and fishes. Truly, when Christ said, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and its righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” — he was telling the truth.

He was making a promise.