The Light of Faith: An Interview with Author Grace Bourget
I am excited to share with you the following interview with Catholic author and artist Grace Bourget. I recently reviewed a book, Cross of Secrets, for which Grace drew the beautiful artwork. Grace herself has also published some books, one of which is Light of Faith, a collection of Catholic poems and plays. I had the opportunity to chat with Grace about this book, and our conversation (as well as some of her beautiful artwork) is below. Enjoy!
~ Poems ~
C. L.: What inspired you to write “The Donkey”?
G. B.: It was in part inspired by G.K. Chesterton’s poem, The Donkey, which we studied in Seton Homeschool, as well as the legend of how the donkey came to bear the mark of the Cross on its back. There’s a story that St. Francis, upon seeing a donkey, was inspired with the knowledge that the donkey, like man, spent many years suffering after the Fall, waiting for Christ to come, and by carrying Mary to Bethlehem, atoned for the mocking it gave the creation of man. I also remember that when I originally began to write this poem, I’d just read the Ballad of the White Horse, and reading poetry helps me to automatically think in rhyme and meter for a time. My version of The Donkey was one of the results.
C. L.: What inspired “Starlight Carol”? Did you write this poem with any particular melody in mind?
G. B.: When I was younger, I wanted to write my own Christmas carol, that would mean more directly how I felt, so I could sing it to the Christ Child. I currently imagine it to the melody of “The Darkest Midnight in December,” just slightly modified, but in the future I’d like to set it to an alternate original melody.
C. L.: What inspired “Mary’s Little Lamb”? Did you write this poem to be the Catholic counterpart to Sarah Josepha Hale’s famous nursery rhyme?
G. B.: Yes, one day I was hit by the fact that the original actually made sense as being the Lamb of God and Our Lady, so I began to reflect on that throughout the course of their lives. Christ and Mary truly never leave each other, even when they were separated by Christ’s death - spiritually, His Mother stayed with Him.
C. L.: What inspired you to write “Hellebore”? What does the term “hellebore” mean?
G. B.: Hellebore is a type of flower, two species of which are commonly known as the Lenten Rose and the Christmas Rose. They aren’t related to roses, and the name refers to the fact that it’s quite toxic. Their bloom seasons match with the seasons of Lent and the true Christmas season, lending themselves as symbols of each.
C. L.: Speaking of roses, what inspired your poem “A Rose-Colored World”? Is there a particular message of hope that you wished to convey to your readers through this poem?
G. B.: Sometimes poems are purely a sudden thought. It started writing itself while I was listening to music, so I wrote it down, hence its odd, and perhaps lack of, rhyme and meter. I hope that it encourages hopefulness about heaven, instead of any sense of dread, as I used to have. It seems more and more to me as a haven of rest, relief from sin and our faults, and the things which mattered so much on earth will no longer take our energy away. I often think of the Chronicles of Narnia, when Aslan ends Narnia’s existence, and instead of the characters realizing that they’ve passed, they find that behind the door is an even more beautiful land, which grows more lovely the farther they enter.
C. L.: What inspired the last two poems in the book, “Song of the Bleeding Heart” and “Passion of Love”?
G. B.: [“Song of the Bleeding Heart”:] I read somewhere once, to ask to console the Sacred Heart, by accepting its love, mercy, and grace, and to be bound there. I started to realize the fruit of this whenever I’d experience sadness or some level of heartbreak - that it was an answer, and by it I was unnaturally able to have joy in that pain. There are many types of heartbreak and let-downs, of course, but I chose to write mine as a song for, and to, a soul, which is perhaps the most important. I ask to know His love better, and since, I’ve begun to better understand that He is happier to have me present with Him than I would be to have even my favorite person in the world; and that in the opposite event, He’s equally sadder than I am, when I’m not with Him.
[“Passion of Love”:] The Veil of Manoppello, which is a little less known than the Shroud of Turin. It bears the image of the Face of the Resurrected Christ, and while it may not be what I would have expected to see, after my initial disappointment at the image I fell in love with it. I’ve always been fond of the Golden Arrow prayer, given to Sister Mary of St. Peter, a French Carmelite who received many revelations on the devotion to the Holy Face. It’s one of the most beautiful devotions of reparation, and is a way to give back to the One Who has given us everything.
~ Plays ~
C. L.: What was the inspiration behind the titular play, “The Light of Faith”?
G. B.: In 2018, I was a part of a small Catholic play-writing group in Ocala. The Light of Faith was the first play I wrote. I decided to write on St. Lucy, as I have some Swedish ancestry and had discovered the traditions of her feast day years before, while reading one of the old American Girl stories on a Swedish immigrant. I also wanted to include novenas, since they’re an ancient tradition of the Church, despite the fact that I usually end up forgetting and winding up with three or more days to pray in one day. . .
C. L.: Has “The Light of Faith” ever been performed live?
G. B.: We performed the play twice in December of 2018, once at my parish, Queen of Peace, and once at Our Lady of the Springs, which is across town.
C. L.: Is the Santa Lucia song based on the Scandinavian song in honour of St. Lucy?
G. B.: The song included in the play is my translation of the original Swedish song for St. Lucy’s day. There weren’t any English translations that were clearly in public domain, so I translated it with the help of the web and had some inspiration for rewriting the verses. Here is the Swedish version of the song.
C. L.: What inspired you to write “St. Francis and the Tradition of the Creche”? Has this play ever been performed live?
G. B.: We performed this play twice as well, after The Light of Faith and a third play written by a friend. Since we would be performing the plays for Christmas, we were looking for something that would be fitting. I studied St. Francis and St. Clare in high school, and had read several travel books on Assisi, which showed the Grotto where he’d begun the tradition of the Creche. We included a recreation, perhaps not accurate since some versions of the story disagreed, of the original Nativity scene, performed entirely by the young children of our cast.
C. L.: Could you please explain a bit of the Catholic tradition behind novenas and the Nativity scene?
G. B.: The first novena was prayed by Our Lady and the Apostles, over the nine days of waiting between Christ’s Ascension and the descent of the Holy Spirit. They spent those days in prayer for His coming, preparing themselves to receive His grace, and acknowledge their need for it. It has become a powerful Catholic devotion, used to pray for the intercession of any saint for any need. Even if the grace asked for isn’t received, the faithful act of praying, or at least attempting to pray, every day, often brings other spiritual benefits. I remember that after the play was performed, there were several children who left, telling their grandmother that they wanted to begin praying novenas. Someone else told me they hadn’t realized how powerful novenas were, and that they’d begin praying them more often.
Before St. Francis created the first Nativity scene, there had been other Christmas celebrations, such as various biblical and religious plays, which had become more of an occasion of irreverence than devotion. After being moved by his visit to Bethlehem and wishing to recreate those graces for those who could not make the journey, Francis had to obtain permission from Pope Honorius III, who had previously forbidden all such demonstrations. It proved so popular and spiritually beneficial, that it’s remained a Christmas tradition since. Sadly, there are many irreverent Nativity scenes or additions these days, and it makes one think of its beginning.
A very special thank you to Grace for answering these questions and allowing us to dive deeper into her beautiful plays and poems!