In Still Point: Loss, Longing and Our Search for God Franciscan University professor, popular speaker, and prolific author Regis Martin tells how the deaths of his mother and brother pushed him to revisit all he knew and felt about God and his own deepest desires—and how he came to reconcile the theology he teaches with the lived experience of faith.
Drawing on insights from Christian writers like Lewis, Hopkins, Chesterton, and Eliot, Martin explores the questions at the heart of all human longing: What does it mean to really be lost? What if God doesn’t want us after all? What does Christ’s cry from the cross say about human suffering? Why is it never hopeless to hope?
The state of being lost—what does it mean? We all want to go home: J. Cheever vignette. The fear of death and the dread of what may come after. M. Unamuno and the tragic sense of life. Finding the still point, and thus God, in the midst of desolation and death. Introducing the theme of hope and the argument of the book.
A mother’s death . . . an unread book . . . the Holocaust of the Jews . . . the strangled cry from the Cross . . . the Mystery of Holy Saturday. What do these have in common? Establishing the truth that God is love: “the strongest argument of all” (JPII). God’s radical solidarity in a world too often resistant to his Suffering Servant.
How to cross an infinite sea on a finite bridge: C. S. Lewis and A Grief Observed. What if God does not want us after all? The bastion of hope and those who assault it: J. Didion and The Year of Magical Thinking. Aquinas, Eros, and the human longing to see the beloved. The horror of an everlasting nonfulfillment.
Going in search of the lost: the lesson of Orpheus and Eurydice. What do we really want? The ground of desire and the anguish of never getting it. The answer is eschatology. Canvassing the mystery of the End and the need for hope. Peguy’s “tiny girl,” who gets up each morning. “Everything is grace” (St. Thérèse).
The fate of those untouched by tremors of an ultimate bliss. How different the stand of the Christian in relation to the End! Nihilism and Richard Rorty. The “terrible sonnets” of Gerard Manley Hopkins. And what if God himself were not to be found on the other side? The witness of Alfred Delp. Introducing the subjunctive.
Once more, the sheer thrust of human longing. Richard Wilbur’s “The House.” Why is it never hopeless to hope? The analysis of Lewis; the judgment of Aquinas. Weighting the hydraulics of hope: G. Marcel and “the ontological mystery.” Love augments hope: “Thou shalt not die!” Seeing prayer as its voice.
Lost and found: the experience of little Luigi (Giussani). Life understood as search. Finding the formula for the journey. Dante and Tom Hanks: the sense of being a castaway. The true protagonist of history—the beggar. The knight’s quest at the heart of The Seventh Seal. To be rescued by Christ: “I did not know my longing, till I encountered You.”
The high school years I never remembered, save for a single event I have never forgotten. An image of death linking two extraordinary lives and what it means. Seeing the skull beneath the skin in the face of a dead relative. Images in Webster and Shakespeare. Death and hell: the two supreme evils, from which Christ has freed us. Hopkins’s masterful poem as concluding illustration of the point.
Assessing the cynic’s dismissal: how can a mere mood vanquish death? Examples of life’s seeming triumph: Camus, Alice Walker, and Bishop Henry King. The refusal of stoic resignation: Edna St. Vincent Millay’s quiet gesture of protest. The world of pagan pessimism and why “No hay remedio” is not an option. Father Murray’s Problem of God and why the God hypothesis alone satisfies.
My brother’s illness and death. The Church that would not turn her back on him. A single imperishable memory and how the meaning of it changed my life. Arrested by Rilke’s “Autumn.” A final resolution to the tensions of gravity and grace, death and life. Thanks be to Christ—who “plays in ten thousand places”—we know the story’s outcome, and it is good.
Dr. Regis Martin is a longtime Professor of Systematic Theology at the Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio. A graduate of the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome, Professor Martin holds both a licentiate and a doctorate in Sacred Theology. He is the author of more than a half-dozen books including The Suffering of Love: Christ's Descent into the Hell of Human Hopelessness (Ignatius Press, 2007). Professor Martin also writes for a variety of publications including The National Review, and is currently featured on EWTN along with Fr. Michael Scanlon and Dr. Scott Hahn in a popular, long-running series called Franciscan University Presents.
Married and living in Steubenville, he is the father of ten children and has five grandchildren.
Regis Martin is a sage for our time. Here he offers us wisdom for confronting the greatest mystery of life, which is suffering and death. Yet he does so with real grace and poetic wit. Divine truth joined to the practical challenges of human life, thats what we all need, and what Martin offers in abundance. Along with profound insights, you will find encouragement and hope, coming from the God of mercy through the cross of Christ.
- Scott Hahn, Author of The Lamb’s Supper
Regis Martin leads the reader to confront some of the great mysteries of our existence, reflecting on life and death, hope, and despair as well as the anxieties and the perplexity we feel about the unknowns to come and the unknowns with which we engage regularly. He shares concrete examples, many from his own life, but also those from great minds who explore questions which both they and we must face. All of this is done in a context of our faith.
- Most Reverend John J. Myers, Archbishop of Newark
Regis Martin has a campus-wide reputation for a remarkable vocabulary, punctuating lectures with apt quotes from poets, theologians, and the occasional rock star, and unflinchingly exploring the real problems of suffering, evil, and death. This lovely book shows his reputation is well deserved as he wrestles with deep human longings and offers us the hope of Christ: ‘O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’
- Rev. Terrence Henry, T.O.R., President Franciscan University of Steubenville
With the eloquence and poignancy of a poet, Regis Martin gets to the heart of life’s most urgent questions, forging a link between our ‘desperate desires’ and our homesickness for God in this profound and beautiful book.
- Rev. Peter John Cameron, O.P., Editor-in-Chief Magnificat
Regis Martin is one of Catholicisms trustworthy guides to the spiritual life in all its dimensions—including, as he demonstrates here, its hard and challenging dimensions.
- George Weigel, Distinguished Senior Fellow, Ethics and Public Policy Center
Regis Martin’s moving reflection on our death-haunted and restless search for God is both beautiful and bracing. Drawing on the profound imaginings of our poets and our theologians, Martin’s meditation takes place on the lip of the abyss as he shows us Who it is our hearts so restlessly long for.
- Gregory Erlandson, President, Our Sunday Visitor Publishing
This book beautifully proclaims the Gospel in a unique and deeply poetic manner. Drawing on poetry, philosophy, theology and the depths of human experience, Regis Martin lyrically connects the deepest longings and hopes of the human heart with their overwhelmingly generous fulfillment in Christ. This book can only increase our own desperate desire for eternal love and fulfillment and deepen our hope in its certain coming to pass.
- Ralph Martin, Director Graduate Theology Programs in the New Evangelization Sacred Heart Major Seminary
Regis Martin is a masterful writer who, with wit and charm, draws the reader into a dialogue with some of the greatest thinkers and writers of human history—to ask the questions that lie deep within each person’s heart. This is a breathtakingly beautiful book that will stir within any reader a longing to deepen their personal relationship with the Person of Jesus Christ.
- Mike Sullivan, President Catholics United for the Faith
I have been blessed with many great teachers in life. Regis Martin not only knows and loves the truth, he expounds it beautifully. Still Point is a captivating look at the most perplexing and unavoidable aspects of life’s voyage. Overwhelmed by desperate desires, which appear to go unnoticed, and then unsatisfied, we are led to see that in the end, love will find a way.
- Curtis Martin, President and Founder Fellowship of Catholic University Students
Regis Martin probes the deepest wounds we suffer—loss and longing—and presents us with our hope for healing. While we ache, we are alive with longing. This book is as haunting and hypnotic as the poetry on which it depends. Martin applies the poetry of the transcendent as a balm, the first dose in the course of a cure. You will not forget the stories he tells you. His reading of familiar biblical passages will not fail to move you and shake you.
- Mike Aquilina, Author of Why Me? When Bad Things Happen