- by Mount Saint Mary College
Mary Ann B. Miller, professor of English at Caldwell University, presented “Celebrating Beauty in the Catholic Intellectual Tradition” at Mount Saint Mary College on Tuesday, February 20.

Mary Ann B. Miller, a distinguished professor of English at Caldwell University, recently presented “Celebrating Beauty in the Catholic Intellectual Tradition” at Mount Saint Mary College.

The event, part of the Blessed Fra Angelico Lecture series, was sponsored by the Mount’s Catholic and Dominican Institute (CDI).

Miller achieved editorial success with her role as guest editor for the women’s literary journal Adanna’s “Women and Spirituality” issue. Later, she was appointed founding editor of Presence: A Journal of Catholic Poetry, where she is currently working on the journal’s eighth issue.

Miller read and examined a selection of poems from the first seven issues of Presence: A Journal of Catholic Poetry, through the lens of a sacramental view of art. She first described the process of selecting the poems for the publication, with the most important criteria being whether a submitted poem has literary merit.

Simply stated, it needs to be “a good poem,” said Miller. “We don’t define a Catholic poem in terms of explicitly Catholic subject matter or in terms of the writer’s creed…but as you can imagine, we do have a lot of poems that do have a lot of explicit references to Catholicism as well.”

The poems Miller read to the audience touched on a variety of topics. They explored the intersection of matter and spirit, depicted the struggle between belief and doubt, questioned faith, took joy in it, and even found humor in it.

Some poems focused on parenthood. For example, “Santa Caterina” by Brian Doyle likened Jesus to a father figure, noting his sacrifice on the cross and saying, “You’d do the same for your kids.”

Another poem, “A Late Regret” by Maryann Corbett, lamented the author becoming “as bad a Catholic as [her] father” while still cherishing some aspects of her faith. It was her father, ironically, whose sins tarnished her view of the religion.

A Ph.D. holder from the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., Miller is well known for editing St. Peter’s B-list Contemporary Poem Inspired by the Saints. In the fall of 2019, America magazine’s The Catholic Book Club recognized this compilation, which includes more than 100 poems by 70 American poets.

Miller is married to Robert Miller, associate professor of Theology and Religious Studies at the Mount. He is a Senior Fellow of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology and a board member for the Ecumenical Society of the Blessed Virgin Mary, USA.

CDI is directed by Charles Zola, Assistant to the President for Mission Integration, Director of the Catholic and Dominican Institute, and Associate Professor of Philosophy. The CDI not only upholds the Dominican heritage at the Mount, but also fosters dialogue between Catholic and Jewish communities and embodies the study and service charism of the Dominicans, providing a forum for discussing current ethical issues.


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