by Kevin Bezner

 

Following the Light: New and Selected Poems

Kevin Bezner’s work is clear, meditative, honest, refreshing, his voice humble before the world. His poem “Birds” in only ten lines helps to remind us why we had the desire to take up a pen in the first place—to treat the earth right, to find its beauty and terror in words accurate and true.

Walter Pavlich, author of The Spirit of Blue Ink, Ongoing Portraits, and Running Near the End of the World

 

Following the Light is a valuable meditation on God’s creation, forgiveness, and second chances. This collection beautifully illustrates a deep connection between nature and spiritual healing, and echoes the words of Pope St. John Paul II: “Our very contact with nature has a deep restorative power; contemplation of its magnificence imparts peace and serenity.” Kevin Bezner’s writing and experiences with the world around him give the reader hope and restoration.

Christopher Lux, correspondent for the Catholic News Herald, the official publication of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Charlotte, N.C.

 

Kevin Bezner is a true pilgrim, and Following the Light records his journey with heartening lucidity. Along with him, we can feel "the nothingness / we call self, / which is air, but isn't air." These are devotional poems with which nonbelivers like myself can sympathize, because devotion to nature is good no matter where you stand. When toward the end of his pilgrimage Bezner writes, "My heart is bleeding, but today it bleeds prayer," we understand he has arrived where he started, but knows it anew.

David Mason, Poet Laureate of Colorado and author of Arrivals, poetry; Ludlow, a verse novel; Two Minds of a Western Poet, a collection of essays; and News from the Village, a memoir

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, GA. – Oct. 15, 2014 

 

Kaufmann Publishing announces new book from Kevin Bezner

Conversion story in poetry tells how nature led to Christ 

 

Kevin Bezner lost his faith in the desert of secularism on a slow journey away from the Catholic Church that started when he was in the eighth grade. By the end of high school and twelve years of Catholic schooling, he had abandoned the faith. Later, he put on the cloaks of agnosticism and then atheism as a newspaper reporter and college professor. He was drowning in sin before he was filled with the light of the Holy Spirit during a conversion experience in the mountains of North Carolina in 1998. 

 

Bezner returned to the Catholic Church after nearly thirty years of wandering in the desert of secularism. Part of his journey into the light of Jesus Christ is recorded in his seventh collection of poetry, Following the Light: New and Collected Poems, just released by Kaufmann Publishing. 

 

The result of reflection that at first resembled and then later became a form of meditation and prayer, the poems collected in Following the Light emerge out of Bezner’s relationship with those places where we often encounter God, and where God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit was waiting for him – in the beauty of the natural world and in daily life. 

 

“God is always with us; we're not always with God,” Bezner said in an interview. “God was always reaching out to me. It took a while, but I finally accepted his grace and returned to Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church. Following the Light is a conversion story in poetry that tells how the beauty of God’s creation led me to the light of Jesus Christ.”

The Advantage of Having No Pews

by Deacon Kevin Bezner as it appeared in The Christian Review,     May 2, 2015 

When visitors arrive at St. Basil the Great Ukrainian Catholic Mission in Charlotte, North Carolina, they often seem perplexed to see that we have no pews. They stop for a moment, look around, and then immediately make their way to one of the chairs that line the two long walls on each side of the nave.

Once liturgy begins, they once again are surprised to find themselves spending roughly the next two hours on their feet and sitting, unless they tire from standing that long, only during the homily and for prayers at the end of the liturgy.

St. Basil the Great (329-379).

St. Basil the Great (329-379).

Visitors also seem surprised by the movement during our liturgy. Worshipers walk up to the iconostasis to light candles and pray before the icons of Our Lord or the Holy Theotokos.

Children are not sent off to catechism classes or partitioned behind glass in a cry room. With open space the children, like all participants, are liberated from the confinement of a pew and are free to move about during liturgy.

For some children, the movement may simply be the result of their inability to sit still. For most, like the adults, movement is either the result of inspiration and personal devotion or part of the liturgy itself. While parents and siblings can be seen correcting children when they become rambunctious during liturgy, teaching them how to be reverent, you generally won’t see a scowl or a disapproving look from other participants.

Worship without pews.

Worship without pews.

Since its beginning, St. Basil’s has had no pews, although at its inception it did have more chairs. The mission, just shy of ten years old, held its first liturgies in the chapel at Charlotte Catholic High School in South Charlotte. The chapel at the high school is like a small auditorium, with comfortable padded chairs arranged in a semi-circle, and the chairs were sometimes an impediment to our liturgy.

Three years ago, the mission was offered the use of the chapel at St. Thomas Aquinas in North Charlotte and given permission to transform the space into a Byzantine rite chapel. Rather than keep the chapel’s rows of chairs lined up in imitation of pews, the mission chose to remove them to make the chapel more open like a traditional Byzantine church.

The openness of the chapel gives clergy the ability to offer a more traditional liturgy and participants the opportunity to practice devotions that are part of our liturgy. The deacon can more easily make incensations, the clergy and altar servers can more easily process before the Gospel reading and Holy Communion, carrying the Gospel book and the holy gifts into the midst of the people.

Participants in the liturgy can more easily venerate the Gospel book, come forward to surround the deacon when he chants the Gospel, make bows or prostrations at the appropriate times in the liturgy, light candles at the iconostasis, and venerate icons or the priest’s hand cross at the end of liturgy. Despite their initial confusion, the most reverent of visitors often are attracted back to our mission because of these very practices.

Not everyone, however, likes the idea of having no pews.

Occasionally visitors and Ukrainian Catholics, who have become accustomed to the practices of the Roman Catholic Church that have crept into the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in recent centuries, miss having pews. But they are in the minority.

Standing to worship.

Standing to worship.

Those who ask why we have no pews generally are surprised to learn that this has long been the practice in Eastern churches, a tradition in Ukraine, and that Roman Catholic churches had no seating until stone benches were introduced in England in the thirteenth century and the wooden pew in the fourteenth.

Many who visit St. Basil comment on how friendly the mission is to families with young children, particularly parents and grandparents. This, I am convinced, is one of the greatest benefits of our having no pews.

You can truly see this when the participants in the liturgy move toward the front of the chapel to stand together at the chanting of the gospel, children among them and often right at the feet of the deacon who is chanting.

In this moment, when we are all are gathered together as one to hear the Word of God, we seem to be answering the very call of Our Lord himself: “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” I can think of no better way of showing children the way to the kingdom.