25+ quotes from The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell

Quotes from The Sparrow

Mary Doria Russell ·  431 pages

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“I do what I do without hope of reward or fear of punishment. I do not require Heaven or Hell to bribe or scare me into acting decently.”
― Mary Doria Russell, quote from The Sparrow


“There's an old Jewish story that says in the beginning God was everywhere and everything, a totality. But to make creation, God had to remove Himself from some part of the universe, so something besides Himself could exist. So He breathed in, and in the places where God withdrew, there creation exists."

So God just leaves?"

No. He watches. He rejoices. He weeps. He observes the moral drama of human life and gives meaning to it by caring passionately about us, and remembering."

Matthew ten, verse twenty-nine: Not one sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it."

But the sparrow still falls.”
― Mary Doria Russell, quote from The Sparrow


“The Jewish sages also tell us that God dances when His children defeat Him in argument, when they stand on their feet and use their minds. So questions like Anne's are worth asking. To ask them is a very fine kind of human behavior. If we keep demanding that God yield up His answers, perhaps some day we will understand them. And then we will be something more than clever apes, and we shall dance with God.”
― Mary Doria Russell, quote from The Sparrow


“we all make vows, Jimmy. And there is something very beautiful and touching and noble about wanting good impulses to be permanent and true forever," she said. "Most of us stand up and vow to love, honor and cherish someone. And we truly mean it, at the time. But two or twelve or twenty years down the road, the lawyers are negotiating the property settlement."
"You and George didn't go back on your promises."
She laughed. "Lemme tell ya something, sweetface. I have been married at least four times, to four different men." She watched him chew that over for a moment before continuing, "They've all been named George Edwards but, believe me, the man who is waiting for me down the hall is a whole lot different animal from the boy I married, back before there was dirt. Oh, there are continuities. He has always been fun and he has never been able to budget his time properly and - well, the rest is none of your business."
"But people change," he said quietly.
"Precisely. People change. Cultures change. Empires rise and fall. Shit. Geology changes! Every ten years or so, George and I have faced the fact that we have changed and we've had to decide if it makes sense to create a new marriage between these two new people." She flopped back against her chair. "Which is why vows are such a tricky business. Because nothing stays the same forever. Okay. Okay! I'm figuring something out now." She sat up straight, eyes focused somewhere outside the room, and Jimmy realized that even Anne didn't have all the answers and that was either the most comforting thing he'd learned in a long time or the most discouraging. "Maybe because so few of us would be able to give up something so fundamental for something so abstract, we protect ourselves from the nobility of a priest's vows by jeering at him when he can't live up to them, always and forever." She shivered and slumped suddenly, "But, Jimmy! What unnatural words. Always and forever! Those aren't human words, Jim. Not even stones are always and forever.”
― Mary Doria Russell, quote from The Sparrow


“Watching him with one eye, she wondered if men ever figured out that they were more appealing when they were pursuing their own work than when they were pursuing a woman.”
― Mary Doria Russell, quote from The Sparrow


“Faced with the Divine, people took refuge in the banal, as though answering a cosmic multiple-choice question: If you saw a burning bush, would you (a) call 911, (b) get the hot dogs, or (c) recognize God? A vanishingly small number of people would recognize God, Anne had decided years before, and most of them had simply missed a dose of Thorazine.”
― Mary Doria Russell, quote from The Sparrow


“Feelings are facts. Look straight at 'em and deal with 'em. Work it through, as honestly as you can. If God is anything like a middle-class white chick from the suburbs, which I admit is a long shot, it's what you do about what you feel that matters.”
― Mary Doria Russell, quote from The Sparrow


“...I begin with songs. They provide a sort of skeleton grammar for me to flesh out. Songs of longing for future tense, songs of regret for past tense, and songs of love for present tense.”
― Mary Doria Russell, quote from The Sparrow


“See that's where it falls apart for me!" Anne cried. "What sticks in my throat is that God gets the credit but never the blame. I just can't swallow that kind of theological candy. Either God's in charge or he's not...”
― Mary Doria Russell, quote from The Sparrow


“There are times...when we are in the midst of life-moments of confrontation with birth or death, or moments of beauty when nature or love is fully revealed, or moments of terrible loneliness-times when a holy and awesome awareness comes upon us. It may come as deep inner stillness or as a rush of overflowing emotion. It may seem to come from beyond us, without any provocation, or from within us, evoked by music or by a sleeping child. If we open our hearts at such moments, creation reveals itself to us in all it's unity and fullness. And when we return from such a moment of awareness, our hearts long to find some way to capture it in words forever, so that we can remain faithful to it's higher truth.

...When my people search for a name to give to the truth we feel at those moments, we call it God, and when we capture that understanding in timeless poetry, we call it praying.”
― Mary Doria Russell, quote from The Sparrow


“You know what's the most terrifying thing about admitting that you're in love? You are just naked. You put yourself in harm's way and you lay down all your defenses. No clothes, no weapons. Nowhere to hide. Completely vulnerable. The only thing that makes it tolerable is to believe that the other person loves you back...”
― Mary Doria Russell, quote from The Sparrow


“Tradition was safety; change was danger.”
― Mary Doria Russell, quote from The Sparrow


“The mission, he thought, probably failed because of a series of logical, reasonable, carefully considered decisions, each of which seemed like a good idea at the time. Like most colossal disasters.”
― Mary Doria Russell, quote from The Sparrow


“The poor you will always have with you,' Jesus said. A warning, Emilio wondered, or an indictment?”
― Mary Doria Russell, quote from The Sparrow


“In our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.”
― Mary Doria Russell, quote from The Sparrow


“Have you ever thought about a Twelve Step program for people who talk too much? You could call it On and On Anon.”
― Mary Doria Russell, quote from The Sparrow


“Until you get the measure of your own soul, Jim, don't be quick to condemn a priest, or anyone else for that matter. I'm not scolding you, sweetheart," she said hurriedly. "It's just that, until you've been there, you can't know what it's like to hold yourself to promises you made in good faith a long time ago. Do you hang in there, or cut your losses? Soldier on, or admit defeat and try to make the best of things?" She'd looked a little sheepish then and admitted, "You know, I used to be a real hardass about stuff like this. No retreat, no surrender! But now? Jimmy, I honestly don't know if the world would be better or worse if we all held ourselves to the vows of our youth.”
― Mary Doria Russell, quote from The Sparrow


“It’s not easy to be obedient if you suspect your superiors are asses.”
― Mary Doria Russell, quote from The Sparrow


“On December 7, 2059, Emilio Sandoz was released from the isolation ward of Salvator Mundi Hospital in the middle of the night and transported in a bread van to the Jesuit residence at Number 5 Borgo Santo Spirito, a few minutes' walk across St. Peter's Square from the Vatican.”
― Mary Doria Russell, quote from The Sparrow


“She had challenged him on this point one night at Anne and George's, inhibitions weakened by Ronrico: "Explain this Mass to me!"

There was a silence as he sat still, apparently looking at the dinner plates and chicken bones. "Consider the Star of David," he said quietly. "Two triangles, one pointing down, one pointing up. I find this a powerful image—the Divine reaching down, humanity reaching upward. And in the center, an intersection, where the Divine and human meet. The Mass takes place in that space." His eyes lifted and met hers: a look of lucid candor. "I understand it as a place where the Divine and the human are one. And as a promise, perhaps. That God will reach toward us if we reach toward Him, that we and our most ordinary human acts—like eating bread and drinking wine—can be transformed and made sacred.”
― Mary Doria Russell, quote from The Sparrow


“It is the human condition to ask questions like Anne’s last night and to receive no plain answers," he said. "Perhaps this is because we can’t understand the answers, because we are incapable of knowing God’s ways and God’s thoughts. We are, after all, only very clever tailless primates, doing the best we can, but limited. Perhaps we must all own up to being agnostic, unable to know the unknowable.”
― Mary Doria Russell, quote from The Sparrow


“[John] watched the flames for a while. "I would have to say that I find God in serving His children. 'When I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me to drink, I was a stanger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, sick and you cared for me, imprisoned and you came to me.'"
The words lingered in the air as the fire popped and hissed softly. Sondoz had stopped pacing and stood motionless in a far corner of the room, his face in shadows, firelight glittering on the metallic exoskeleton of his hands. "Don't hope for more than that, John," he said. "God will break your heart.”
― Mary Doria Russell, quote from The Sparrow


“Later that summer, as rain fell, such a moment shimmered and paused on the brink, and then began the ancient dance of numbers: two, four, eight, sixteen, thirty-two, and a new life took root and began to grow. And thus the generations past were joined to the unknowable future.”
― Mary Doria Russell, quote from The Sparrow


“Wide is the gate and broad is the path that leads to destruction and many go that way”
― Mary Doria Russell, quote from The Sparrow


“The single craziest thing about being a priest, he’d found, was that celibacy was simultaneously the most private and most public aspect of his life. One of his linguistics professors, a man named Samuel Goldstein, had helped him understand the consequences of that simple fact. Sam was Korean by birth, so if you knew his name, you knew he was adopted. "What got me when I was a kid was that people knew something fundamental about me and my family just by looking at us. I felt like I had a big neon sign over my head flashing ADOPTEE," Sam told him. "It’s not that I was ashamed of being adopted. I just wished that I had the option of revealing it myself.”
― Mary Doria Russell, quote from The Sparrow


About the author

Mary Doria Russell
Born place: in The United States
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