Praying with your eyes open: potential U.S. lay saints' somatic spirituality

Praying with your eyes open: potential U.S. lay saints' somatic spirituality



Joshua Wopata


This presentation was given live via Zoom at 1:00 p.m. (Eastern Time) on Wednesday, April 22.



This presentation will use modern lay causes for sainthood as sources of somatic spirituality. We will do this by looking through their eyes at the world in a way that is closer to seeing it as at least a sacrament, if not more in keeping with the more classical image of an organism or body. I will attempt to demonstrate how their experiences of particular icons of nature (e.g. trees, leaves) led to encounters with the sacred. These evocative events compliment and connect to their embrace of a more strictly Catholic and liturgical sacramental imagination. Lastly, we will examine how these lay witnesses very own bodies also function as sacramental sites of redemption that reflect a long standing Catholic and Incarnational spirituality, but in a new way and context. Phenomena like the stigmata, or in one even more extreme case- a rose allegedly growing out of the chest of one mystic, frustrate our modern sensibilities, but are suggestive about where the Sacred has come to rest in modern American Catholic Church: inscribed in the fragile bodies and bedrooms of laywomen who themselves become icons of the presence of God in a society that has attempted to quarantine the supernatural. Banished from our imagination to a non-corporeal transcendent reality God remains at a safe distance- entirely within the immanent frame. The Enlightenment metaphor that reimagined the created cosmos as a machine may have suffocated a legitimate Christian instinct finding God within creation. The overly enthusiastic Enlightenment division of the natural from the supernatural may have also limited our imagination about where we can find God. It is the goal of my research to allow these holy persons to assist us in rediscovering a somatic spirituality that can find the transcendent God here in our body and the body of the world.

Publication Date


Project Designation

Graduate Research

Primary Advisor

Dennis M. Doyle

Primary Advisor's Department

Religious Studies


Stander Symposium project, College of Arts and Sciences

Praying with your eyes open: potential U.S. lay saints' somatic spirituality