From the Introduction of “Eye of the Beholder” by Luci N. Shaw


With feet in two worlds—the earth-bound reality and the unseen but utterly real transcendent sphere—Biblical prophets were specially chosen individuals. As commandeered by a divine call, they spoke to the people from God, and to God from the people, inhabiting the tricky threshold between heaven and earth. Their calling was to hear divine words, see divine visions, and then speak the prophetic message to their listeners, linking the transcendent and immanent. As a poet I have felt drawn to a somewhat similar task. Having ideas that seem to come from beyond me, and writing about them, seeing “pictures in my head,” images and words to describe them, have haunted me from early childhood, encouraged by my writer father. As an adult I pray and dream that the words and ideas given me might say something true and meaningful to a reader, a listener.

Presented with visions, permitted to see what others could not, prophets in Scripture were called to proclaim in human language what was “un-seeable” to their audience. Some of the most lasting and vivid poetry in Scripture came from the mouths of these prophets. Throughout biblical history there were many of them, nearly always sent by God to speak words of correction, warning or foretelling.

Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Daniel, and Isaiah were known as the Major Prophets because of the length, complexity, and duration of their prophecies, containing as they did image after image of blazing intensity. The so-called Minor Prophets also had this gift of perception, these glimpses of unseen reality, to be conveyed in words and actions. Habakkuk’s vision was called “a burden,” something so heavy with portent that expressing it, living it out, was a divine message on which the welfare of God’s people depended. Being called as a prophet was not an easy assignment. It set the seer apart from and often against those he was required to challenge. Presented in the language of the people, using earthy metaphors to express divine realities, many visions were written in the form of Hebraic poetry, with brilliant imagery reflecting their own settings and cultures.

The young boy Samuel, with his responsive spirit, woken from sleep three times by God, was the one chosen to call out the high priest Eli, who had grown old and tired and had forgotten to listen and obey, to the detriment of the people he was meant to lead. The proverb says it: “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” Through Samuel, the vision came alive and real in the lives of the people.

Perhaps this is where I find myself, like young Samuel responding as best I can to the voice, listening for messages clear enough to transmit, recording them in their primitive forms in a notebook, then in my computer where they call for revision, revision, revision. I read them aloud to catch the rhythms I hear in my head. I have done this all my life. It is my greatest joy, for which I give glory to the Great Poet who created me as part of his universe, a shard of his seventh day.

These biblical prophecies bristle with colorful imagery reflecting the settings and cultures of the hearers. Much of it follows the forms of Hebraic poetry in couplets that reiterate or contrast. Take Isaiah, whose words describe what he saw of the Mighty One: “I saw the Lord. He was high and lifted up and his throne filled the temple.” The exalted vision that follows is pure poetry. (Somehow it reaches me most powerfully when expressed in the King James Version with its grand sonorities.) Many of the prophecies were more earthbound than Isaiah’s. Think of Jeremiah’s dream of a basket of rotten figs, inedible like the people whom he was castigating. Think of Ezekiel, who literally lived his metaphor, required by God to lie, bound with cords for months, to illustrate the bondage of the people of Judah. The prophetic vision was often heavy, a prediction of imminent destruction and calamity. In Jeremiah’s time, his message of doom so angered the people that they put him in a deep, muddy pit to think it over.

At Saul’s conversion on the Damascus Road, God flung him from his horse and claimed him in unmistakable terms. The vision was blinding and unspeakable, the lifechange of the man who became the apostle Paul dramatic.

In the Revelation John the Divine, exiled on Patmos, saw the blazing image of “One like the Son of Man” who transmitted to him prophetic messages for the Christian believers in seven communities of the early church. He was told, “Write what you see.” “Listen to the windwords,” is how a contemporary translation puts it. With its brilliant and mystical metaphors, John’s vision continues

with some of the most arresting and high-flown language and imagery in the Bible. It is both daunting and beatific.

In our own day, in a mechanistic society trammeled with political conflicts and a waning consciousness of the sublime, I believe poets—and particularly poets of faith— have a similar mandate. I suggest that writers who cultivate the gift of perception and awareness will make connections with what they see in imagination and how they write about it. It is a kind of translation in the hope that something of what they see and hear will open a fresh understanding, will somehow illuminate their readers. It’s like taking someone by the arm and saying, “Hey. Look this way! Have you noticed . . . ? Can you see what I am seeing?” It doesn’t have to be earth-shaking or exalted or profound, but it must speak into another human mind, building a bridge from writer to reader. It’s as if a poem hasn’t fulfilled its purpose until it makes a connection in someone else’s imagination, and enlarges, by increments, that companion mind.

We earth-bound mortals, with a cultivated consciousness, may have access to possibilities, or invisible realities. We have a connection with the seen and unseen by way of spiritual insight and our words suggest that, like John the Revelator, we “write what we see.” As we live in a creative world of beauty and terror, delight and disruption, we are called to notice the contrasts and linkages that fascinate and compel us into truth-telling and metaphorical language. As it was for Habakkuk, burdened with a prophetic vision (or a compelling image for a poem), our insights and language may burden us with something not to be gainsaid.

Not everyone in Scripture was called to be a prophet, not even the righteous. Not every human being will see reality through the eyes of imagination and vision. Yet in our own time we may also have access to the transcendent as our imaginations receive “pictures in our heads.” Rhythms and phrases take hold of us. Individual words and phrases will call to us from the pages of contemporary novels and journals, demanding to be written into poems. Ideas take shape and color and meaning. Rhythmic phrases hum in our minds waiting to be expressed in rhyme and meter. Or not.

Poets and prophets may not always be at the center of a social structure. Rather they are on “the edge of inside,” as Richard Rohr has said. We stand on a kind of threshold looking out, and in, and then, using the magic of language, we may open a window, point at a landscape and ask: “Can you see what I’m seeing?”—an introduction to enter our vision, an invitation to make a connection.

Luci Shaw

Paraclete Press and Elements Theatre Company join the worldwide celebration of All Saints Day with Battered and Bright: Celebrating the Saints

November 2 & 3, 2018 — Paraclete Press and Elements Theatre Company have a lot in common, including a passion to spread the Gospel through the written and spoken word, and offer encouragement to those of us ordinary folks hoping to get one step closer to heaven every day. This All Saints Day, Paraclete and Elements join in our mutual love of sacred literature, to present an ecumenical celebration of the Saints portrayed through the lens of theatre.

Elements Theatre Company (Orleans, MA) and Paraclete Press (Brewster, MA) present Battered and Bright: Celebrating the Saints: November 2, 7:30 pm, November 3, 3 pm & 7:30 pm, at the Church of the Transfiguration, Rock Harbor, Orleans. For tickets call 508-240-2400, visit, or purchase at the door. $35 General; $30 Senior; Free for Students and Youth 18 & under; Group rates available for 10 or more.

Meet revered Saints—Peter, Paul, Priscilla and Aquila, Patrick, Catherine of Siena, and Francis of Assisi—whose stories will come to life through narratives and live music. Fire-lit basins, background projections, and a large book set the stage, allowing the audience to step into the radical world of the Saints through the ages.

Jon Sweeney, Paraclete Press’s Editor-in-Chief, will moderate post-performance discussions with Artistic Director Danielle Dwyer, CJ, and Dramaturg Brad Lussier. Guest speakers include Paraclete Press authors Bert Ghezzi (The Angry Christian), Susan L. Miller (Communion of Saints: Poems), and Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle (Feeding Your Family’s Soul); St. Peter’s Lutheran Church pastor Christian Holleck (Harwich, MA); and others. Click here to meet the Casts & Panelists.


“As actors, we must take on the whole person of the character we are playing. As we charted the Saints’ journeys of spirit, walked through their lives, explored their vibrancy of faith and commitment, we found hope. There is no shame in being human—once we accept this gift, there is actual peace.”—Sr. Danielle Dwyer

Saint Francis comes to life for a new generation in stunning new title from Phil Gallery and Sibyl MacKenzie

October 4, The Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi — As the world celebrates its favorite and most unifying saint, Francis of Assisi, Paraclete Press announces the release of the first title in its new San Damiano Books imprint, St. Francis and the Animals: A Mother Bird’s Story (October 4, 2019 • ISBN 978-1-61261-973-6 • $17.99 • Hardcover).

 Watch a video trailer about the book here! 

Phil Gallery’s inspired words from the perspective of Mother Bird, paired with Sibyl MacKenzie’s vibrant, beautiful illustrations, give readers young and old an entirely new angle on Brother Francis – the boy who grew up in Assisi, ventured out as a brave knight, turned aside when he heard God’s call, and became the gentle monk who loved the Creator and all of creation with his whole heart. The familiar stories take on an even more profound meaning when told from the perspective of Francis’s brothers and sisters, the birds – and one little bird in particular who takes flight for the first time thanks to the kindness of Brother Francis – showing how all the parts of God’s creation are connected.

Praise for St. Francis and the Animals: A Mother Bird’s Story
“This is an enchanting tale of St. Francis’ love of all creatures that shows how religious tales, in engaging prose and elegant illustrations, can guide us in the most important project of our lives: connecting with God, the Maker of all good things. This will become one of the favorite books of childhood!” –Fr. David B. Couturier, OFM Cap., Director of the Franciscan Institute, St. Bonaventure University

“This book is great! It is a wonderful depiction of the story of the life of Saint Francis as told with amazing drawings.”
Bob O’Connor, Author of A House Divided Against Itself

“These stunning illustrations and the engaging text describe how Francis related to a great variety of animals. This book is sure to spark valuable conversations.”
-Fr. Pat McCloskey, OFM, Franciscan Editor, St. Anthony Messenger

“Simply stunning! This is guaranteed to stir your heart with a rousing love for God, His Saints, His Creation, and all creatures—great and small. This tender story is magnificently illustrated and a very engaging expression of the life of the beloved Saint of Assisi. I highly recommend it for children and adults alike!”

Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle, award-winning author of many books including Angels for Kids and My Confirmation Book

Phil Gallery is the author of four books in the award-winning “Can You Find” series that sold more than 140,000 copies. He lives in the hills of eastern West Virginia, where he and his wife Shari raised their four children.

Sibyl MacKenzie graduated from Columbia University with a degree in German Literature and has exhibited in galleries all over the US.

St. Francis and the Animals: A Mother Bird’s Story is the first book in Paraclete’s new San Damiano Books imprint for Franciscan spirituality. San Damiano Books will publish for children as well as adults, fiction and nonfiction, spirituality and practical theology, books by vowed Franciscans and laypeople/writers—all with a passion for the spirit of Saints Francis and Clare.

For interviews with author Phil Gallery or for review copies, please contact Director of Marketing Laura McKendree: email, phone 800-451-5006 ext 316.