Madeleine L’Engle’s Memorial Service

Today is Madeleine L’Engle’s birthday. Because of that, yesterday a memorial service was held for her at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine here in New York City. It was quite extraordinary for me as I’ve not attended too many high church services. It was really moving in so many ways. She was very important to the children’s literature community, the Church’s, and the wider Episcopal Church community as well (two of my colleagues came because they’d known her through that world not the children’s literature one). Many moving words about her were said and some wonderful excerpts from one of her adult books were read. As I wrote before, her books were very important to me when young so I am happy I had a chance to pay my respects at this extraordinary event.

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4 responses to “Madeleine L’Engle’s Memorial Service

  1. sara

    Oh. Madeleine L’Engle saved my heart when I was a child. Time and again, I would pick up her books to pull me through the winter. When I went to college in New York, I went right to the cathedral, because she had made me love it so much in The Young Unicorns. I became an Episcopalian because of her books. I am awfully sad to think that I never asked for an introduction to her when I was teaching Sunday school at the cathedral. Maybe when she’s bored with talking with Beethoven and Einstein, she’ll have tea with me on the other side of the river….

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  2. concretegodmother

    Oh, how I wish I could have attended. The distance (other side of the country) prohibited that. I’m so hoping that you and others will blog more about her service. My heart was there though my body wasn’t, and dying to lap up the details.

    And I’m with you on _And Both Were Young_. In junior high, I think I must have read it as often as I brushed my teeth.

    I love what sara had to say about Madeleine conversing with Beethoven and Einstein. (Don’t forget Bach!) I’ve been imagining those conversations in my mind. I, too, was galvanized when I converted to Anglicanism — her books made even more sense and grabbed my heart more strongly, a phenomenon I had thought impossible.

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  3. Dianne

    Here is a response I wrote after attending Madeleine L’Engle’s memorial service on Wednesday, November 28, 2007. I attempted to send via the response link on Madeleine’s webpage where I first wrote upon learning of her death back in September…unfortunately it came back undeliverable, so I will share it with you. I am struck by the depth of connection similar to my own which others have also experienced from her….she was truly herself, one reason we loved her so much….

    Dear Friends,
    I wish to thank you for your kind acknowledgment of my written response to Madeleine’s death. I never expected a reply, assuming there would be a deluge of similar responses. What touched me most was the invitation to attend the memorial service in New York. I found myself wanting very much to attend, crazy as that seemed. I let the idea percolate for awhile and then decided I must go…not in the sense of being a “groupy”, but rather in the sense of honoring the deep heart connection with Madeleine’s writing of which I wrote in my initial response.

    And so, I journeyed by myself cross country to New York…a pilgrimage for me in many ways. It was about returning and forgiveness, mourning and letting go, courage and moving forward, embracing life….I found myself at Ground Zero, peering through a peep hole in the construction fence at that
    gaping hole, tears flowing, while trying to come to grips with that tragedy face to face….a quiet inner moment while jackhammers pounded…rebuilding. Later I spent time at St Paul’s Chapel across the street pondering and praying, participating in a litany for peace. I toured the Tenement Museum on the lower East Side and gained a new
    perspective on perseverance and survival, crowded with others in the tour into tiny rooms that served as both home and business…no running water, little light or air. I stood before a Jewish Temple, scheduled to be re-opened tomorrow, lovingly and painstakingly restored to preserve a community and a heritage, and to lift spirit, soul, and body.

    I found myself at the Museum of Biblical Art experiencing works on the Prodigal Son, mostly from the collection of Jerry Evenrud, a Lutheran professor and musician. And I listened closely when the theme of returning and coming home was woven into Madeleine’s service. As I sat in that cavernous space of St John the Divine…I who grew up in a white wood frame steepled small town Lutheran parish…I was moved to ponder
    how much greater is our God who moves effortlessly within and without and who “does not dwell in temples (or cathedrals or white framed church buildings) made with hands”. I was much “out of my element”, and yet I felt so much at home….how will it be in heaven?

    The familiar words of Scripture and the Eucharist grounded me as did Madeleine’s own words read so fittingly….the music soared and bound us together….that is my first heart language, music. As breath and tone and text flowed out I experienced strength flowing in as I sang “Abide with Me”, “Tallis Canon”, “Holy, Holy, Holy”, “For All the Saints”….my words are inadequate.

    Enveloped in a Kairos moment, I knew in the depths of my being I was where I should be on this day. At a cross roads in my life, I have need to re-gather courage and press on. Once again I have been encouraged and affirmed by Madeleine’s voice which will continue to speak and inspire with grace and eloquence through her writing. Thank you for inviting me and for the gift of this marvelous service…..if any memorial service can be said to be “marvelous”. I would not have known
    about it and never would have thought to come if you had not sent that reply and invitation.

    Thank you. Bless you.

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  4. Jan Schad

    Right after I learned of Madeleine L’Engle’s death, I activated Google Alert to notify me about any new items regarding Madeleine L’Engle. Reading through the postings is like going to an Internet version of a big Irish wake. Everyone has their story to tell about how Medeleine’s books affected them, when they discovered her works, and what characters really spoke to them.

    What struck me is that so many of us only knew Madeleine through her books. So even though Madeleine is dead, I still have her books, which is as much as I ever had of her, not having the privilege of knowing her personally.

    So anytime I want to bring Madeleine back into my life, I can go to my bookshelf and decide whether I want to visit with Vicki, Camilla, Polly or Katherine. I can choose to resurrect any portion of my friend Madeleine. What a legacy she has left us.

    And wouldn’t it be wonderful if I could have such a record of each friend who has died?

    Madeleine L’Engle will be long remembered by many of us, her friends through her written word.

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