(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

Murray Bodo’s Song of the Sparrow is a meditative journal of poetry and prose that documents the writer’s progress through three seasons—autumn to spring—when nature metaphorically seems to die and then be reborn. Bodo writes of his own efforts to grow spiritually through increased recognition of one’s need to pray more sincerely, to trust in and listen to God, and to serve others.

The journal begins in autumn, when Bodo finds that changes in nature are provoking spiritual musings. To Bodo, autumn is “thought-time,” when falling leaves remind him of mortality and his thoughts are directed heavenward, as prefigured by the deep blue sky above. As the sky becomes more visible, Bodo finds himself more cognizant of birds flying through it, especially sparrows. The writer’s sudden awareness that he has overlooked something quiet, yet ever present—something as common as sparrows—provokes similar awareness of his need to deepen his awareness of the presence of God in his life. “Like the sparrows that have always been in my life, God is so present that I take him for granted.”

Epiphanies like this one are characteristic of much of Bodo’s journal; his short musings and poems on seasons, birds, beaches, and so forth are offered to provoke similar moments of spiritual perception on the part of the reader. As Bodo observes:The God within me reveals his presence, fleetingly, and all the rest of my days are changed permanently. Something happens that I did not merit and that I cannot explain or communicate. But it is more real than any communicable experience, and I cannot formulate it or capture it in words.

In the autumn section of Bodo’s work, these perceptions usually involve such human failings as pride, callousness, lack of charity, and selfishness. His meditations urge his readers to forgive others and themselves and to trust in God. To reach these goals, Bodo suggests that we reenvision and reinvigorate our...

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(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

Sources for Further Study

Berger, Rose Marie. “Necessary Words.” Review of The Earth Moves at Midnight by Murray Bodo. Sojourners Magazine 33, no. 2 (February 4, 2004): 46. This review of Bodo’s collection of poems about his growing up finds them simple and elegant.

Bodo, Murray. The Place We Call Home: Spiritual Pilgrimage as a Path to God. Brewster, Mass.: Paraclete Press, 2004. The Franciscan priest writes of pilgrimage and describes several of his own.

Bodo, Murray. Poetry as Prayer: Denise Levertov. Boston: Pauline Books and Media, 2001. In this biography of another poet, one who was his friend, Bodo offers insights into how he views poetry as a means of enriching and strengthening one’s prayers.

Chase, Elise. Review of The Way of Saint Francis: The Challenge of Franciscan Spirituality for Everyone by Murray Bodo. Library Journal 109, no. 1 (January 1, 1984) 102. A collection of meditations on topics inspired by Saint Francis, including one on the dynamics of psychic death and rebirth.