Father Dominic Lenk Interview

Father Dominic Lenk Interview

Mr. Woodcock

“A prayer of imagination”

Father Dominic Lenk has just published a book called Voices from the Upper Room. While the Upper Room is best known as the place where the Last Supper took place, it is also said to be the place where Jesus’s followers — a circle much larger than the 12 disciples — holed up once they heard about his death, trying to work out what was next after his crucifixion but before they knew of his resurrection. In Father Dominic’s book, each of the 23 chapters is told from the point of view of a different person mentioned in the Bible.  

Firstly, congratulations on the book. Is this the first book you have had published? 

In a way, yes. We self-published a book couple of years ago. It was a memoir of my vocation journey called A Witness in Verse. We self-published it and it’s no longer in print. This, you could say, is my first professionally published book.

When I spoke to Father Cassian about his book, he said it would not have happened, or certainly would not have happened on the same timeline, without COVID. Was that also true for you?

Definitely. Being in lockdown, not going anywhere, really allowed me the space to do the writing. That was a big help in a strange way.

Which of the Biblical figures in the book did feel you got to know best by writing about him or her?

The two or three individuals that gave me the impetus to this were the Rich Young Man, and then Joanna and her husband Chuza. Imagine this old married couple, doing their thing, and how she follows Jesus and gets Chuza involved. I felt close to them imagining that.

As I went through picking out people to include in the book, some others resonated. There’s Simon of Cyrene, who helped carry the cross, and one gospel names his two sons. I tried to imagine what brought them from Cyrene to Jerusalem. That really got me thinking about this as a prayer of imagination. In the initial draft, that story seemed to flow very easily. In a way, I could hear his voice in my head as I was writing. 

I was struck by how each section starts with the same wording, “As the sound of his voice faded, there was a moment of silence. A moment of profound silence… ” How did the idea for handling it that way come about?

The initial story begins when the Blessed Mother invites the landlord to tell a story. Then I had to ask, how am I going to go from story to story? I had the idea of the Upper Room in mourning, and it is very quiet. Let’s use that to tie the pieces together. I really see this book as more toward spiritual reading as opposed to a novel to read for entertainment.

Did you have any models that you were working with or imitating when you wrote it?

Maybe in the background, I had in my head Games of Thrones. What I liked about what George R. R. Martin did with that is that each chapter is told from the viewpoint of a different person. [In my book] the people tell the same story but from different perspectives.

As you wrote this, did you envision the Upper Room as a literal room in which all these people were gathered? Or is it more a metaphor for people being drawn to Jesus and trying to work out what was next during this moment of darkness?

I took it as the literal Upper Room. To justify this, I used the passage from the Acts of the Apostles where it says that there were 120 people up there in the Upper Room in prayer – and this is when they were going to select a replacement for Judas. Well, if you have 120 people in the Upper Room at that time, surely there would have been several up there during the time between the crucifixion and resurrection.

I took a literal interpretation but I see, though, how someone could take a metaphorical/symbolic interpretation.

The Upper Room is where the Last Supper took place. Who else was there? Surely other people came knocking on the door and said, “Do you need something?” As one of my confrères [Abbot Gregory] said, “This is Jesus’s wake. People gather for a wake and tell stories.”

Now you have this under your belt, do you have other writing projects you are working on?


I am exploring the questions that Jesus asks in the gospels. Jesus asks about 70-80 questions. The very first question is, “Why were you looking for me?” [when he was in the temple as a child]. So how do I as a believer, as a searcher, answer that question that he is asking me? I don’t know what is going to come of it. That’s what I am toying with right now. We will see what happens.


If any of your students were to pick up your book, what would you hope they would get out of it?

I would hope that they would find a way to think how Jesus has touched their lives — and how are they going to repay that. In this book, you have people whose lives have been touched in all their weaknesses and come to the realization that “I need to be here in this moment” and “I need to give back.” How do I respond? What do I give back?


Thank you. That seems like a perfect note to end it on.