Paraclete adds Megory Anderson’s “Sacred Dying Journal” to extensive list of pastoral care resources

For Immediate Release

This ecumenical book is being praised as a “tool to assist us in reflecting upon and expressing our wishes around dying,” by Sr. Maryann Lucy, OP, of the Sinsinawa Dominican Sisters of Wisconsin, and as “a gift that opens the heart to the deeper personal mysteries of death and dying,” by Barry R. Howe, retired Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of West Missouri.

Sacred Dying Journal by Megory Anderson, PhD, adds to the growing Paraclete Press list of pastoral care resources related to grief, bereavement, suicide, and addiction.

Specific questions and exercises help the reader to discover their wishes, desires, and spiritual needs for the final chapter of their lives. As the culture continues to discuss ethics of euthanasia and aspects of palliative care, this book highlights the spiritual needs of those approaching the end of life.

Marketing will include promotion through the author’s Sacred Dying Foundation, as well as outreach initiatives to hospices, funeral homes, and chaplains, and pastoral care programs in churches of many denominations.

The book launches the weekend of October 13–15, 2017 at the The Art of Dying Conference: Spiritual Scientific and Practical Approaches to Living and Dying at New York’s Open Center.

For more information, contact Sr. Antonia Cleverly,
srantonia@paracletepress.com
(508) 255-4685 x 329 .

What Are We Waiting For?

When I was a child I loved Advent. I loved lighting candles and watching the light grow even as the days became darker. I loved the familiar hymns. I loved opening the little doors on my calendar. I loved the smell of cookies in the oven and the big spruce tree that had to be watered every day but still dropped needles all over the carpet. I loved the way our spare bedroom became a place for secrets: mysterious bundles and rolls of wrapping paper. But as much as I loved Advent, I also found it a strange season.

Everyone said Advent was a time for getting ready—for waiting. But what were we waiting for? The birth of Jesus? How could we still be waiting for someone born so long ago? The usual reply was that we were waiting for Christ to come again. But what did that mean? And what did all our preparations—the cooking and wrapping and baking half a dozen varieties of cookies—really have to do with Jesus anyway?  

Unlike Lent, which has a coherent story built around following Jesus on the way to Jerusalem, Advent seems stitched together from bits and pieces: prophetic words of consolation; hints about one who is coming; glimpses of an imagined future. The only thing that holds it all together is the idea of waiting: waiting for a better future; waiting for an end to exile; waiting for a savior. But what are we waiting for?

When I had children of my own, I was eager to share with them many of the Advent traditions I had enjoyed. We also added new ones: a Jesse tree with ornaments lovingly crafted by hand; an Advent Spiral around which a wooden Mary and her donkey travelled on her journey inward; a library of seasonal picture books. But the question still lingered: What are we waiting for? What is the purpose of this sacred season? Where are we in this story? If all our rituals do not connect in some genuine way with who we are and what we are meant to be and do, then what is the point?

 

These questions simmered in the background until one Advent when a surprising image presented itself. I was blending sweet potatoes for my youngest child, helping my son cut out ginger cookies, and trying to keep my middle daughter out of the dough, when a passage from the letter to the Galatians popped into my head (an occupational hazard for a student of the New Testament). Paul, frustrated with the behavior of the community of Christians in Galatia, decides to lay on some guilt and compares himself to their mother who endured the pains of childbirth for them, but now—horror of horrors—finds himself in labor all over again because of their immaturity. In a fascinating double metaphor, Paul not only envisions himself as a woman in labor, but also warns the Galatians that his pangs will not go away “until Christ is formed in you.” In other words, they are pregnant too, struggling to bring Christ to birth.

Like the best metaphors, this one both startled and enthralled me. As I watched my children toddle around the kitchen, the idea of them being pregnant with Christ made me laugh. But at the same time, I knew there was some deep truth here. What is the point of Advent? Not more busyness at a time already overstuffed with commitments. Not sentimental traditions or empty rituals. Not an acting out of something that happened long ago and far away. Suddenly I could see more clearly the now of Advent.

Advent is a time to practise patience as something new is formed in us. Advent is a time to be particularly open to the Spirit. Advent is a time to watch for ways we can take part in transforming aworld which cries out for healing. Advent is a season for looking—searching for signs of Christ bursting into the world, and knowing that we are all invited to share in that holy work.

Now there is a worthwhile invitation. So what are we waiting for?

***************

Look! A Child’s Guide to Advent and Christmas presents Advent as special time for waiting and watching—paying attention—to the ways God comes to us.

Told from the point of a view of a child, the story weaves together familiar Advent traditions like the Jesse tree and the Advent wreath, biblical stories and characters, and reflections on what these stories call us to do and be.

This book reassures children of the presence of God in all times and places and invites them to become part of the holy work of making Christ present in the world.

Surprised by Grief

by Roger Hutchison

It has been said that we are currently in a place of perpetual trauma.

I feel it.

I feel it from my head to my heart to my toes.

I feel it in the interactions I have with those around me.

There is a weariness in my human brothers and sisters.

A palpable grief in the way their bodies move.

Shoulders and hearts burdened by so much pain and sadness.

I weep for the murdered children of Sandy Hook.

I weep for the millions of people impacted by the wrath and destruction of recent hurricanes.

I weep for the division, anger, and injustice that is sweeping through this country.

…and I weep for those impacted by the senseless and brutal massacre in Las Vegas.

The grief is simply too much to bear—and for many of us, there is a numbness.

Twenty-five years ago, I took a pottery class at Warren Wilson College in Swannanoa, NC and created several items, most of them not very memorable.

Today I rediscovered one of the vases, took it in my hands, and much to my surprise, I began to weep.

Grief washed over me like a waterfall. I cried with my entire being and I cradled the vase close to me as if to protect it from breaking.

Until recently, most of my pottery was with my mom and dad. You know…the place where artwork you create as a child ends up.

It either clutters the surface of the refrigerator, ends up in a box under a bed somewhere, or like this vase, it sits on the shelf in a guest room and collects dust.

This vase now sits on a bookshelf in our home and today I gave it a name.

The vase is a bit portly—like its creator. It is not spectacular, but it is mine.

I remember the sensation of the wet clay in my hands. I remember the sound of the potter’s wheel as it hummed below me. I remember the feeling of the spinning lump of earth in my hands.

I remember watching with awe (and some disappointment) as it began to look like an ashtray…then a bowl…and finally a “vase.” I use the word “vase” in the most generous sense.

I removed it from the wheel and waited for it to dry.

Days passed. Once it was dry, I applied the glaze.

The glaze is a bit uninspiring before it is fired—dull and thick. I had no idea what it would ultimately look like. It certainly wasn’t beautiful in its current form!

Once the glaze dried, we dug a hole in the ground and filled it with sawdust, paper, and leaves. We buried the pot in those same combustibles and set it on fire.

After a full day of being exposed to intense heat, we covered the pottery and burning material with sand. This last step gives the finished pieces more color and variation

Surprised by grief.

This is the name of my vase.

This clay vessel, created by human hands was returned to earth from where it came.

It was transformed by fire and carries scars and burn marks on its surface.

Wounds that heal but never go away.

The dull glaze now sparkles in the sunlight—a cobalt blue “drip” spills over from the top edge.

Blue…like the grief that overflows from our eyes and our souls.

Tiny cracks dance across its surface.

Surprised by grief…and the color blue.

All of humanity weeps right now, and the fires are burning.

There is much pain in our world. And we will never be the same because of it.

But the vessel will hold and our colors will shine brighter than before.

And we must carry this color and light out into the world.

 

Roger Hutchison is the author of My Favorite Color is Blue. Sometimes. — available next month.

Christmas Book for Children on Race, Ethnicity, and Faith

After reading this book…”you and your children will never look at a crèche the same way again. That Baby in the Manger is a wonderful starting point for family discussions on race, ethnicity and faith. ” —  Paul Canavese and Ann Naffziger, co directors of GrowingUpCatholic.com

This week at Paraclete we caught up with Anne E. Neuberger the author of a new children’s book for Christmas that is a powerful conversation starter!  This is a timely book as parishes, congregations, and communities become more and more diverse, and national conversation about race and ethnicity increases.
Anne, can you give us a synopsis of the book?

It is just a few days before Christmas and the first graders have gathered around the nativity scene in the front of their church.  The manger, however, is empty, as the Christ Child statue will not be placed in it until Christmas morning.  The statue’s absence causes a discussion amongst this multi-cultural group, and it becomes clear that they are bothered by the statue they remember (with blonde curls). Each child wants to identify with Jesus, but he doesn’t look like any of them!  An inspired solution comes just in time for Christmas, and shows how Jesus and his love came down for all of us. 

What  makes this book unique?

Christmas stories for children are not uncommon and fall into three basic categories. Some are religious and focus on the events in the nativity story in scripture.  Some use this story and add new characters children will appreciate, such as a child shepherd or a  mouse that is a resident of the stable. Many books are secular, portraying fun holiday preparations and gift giving.  

 THAT BABY IN THE MANGER is clearly reflecting the scripture story but its theme is very contemporary: how can children of a variety of ethnicities in an urban, 21st century setting, identify with the child-God who came to earth  into a very different a culture, centuries ago?

 We are raising our children in a secular society. It is a tremendous challenge to help them become aware of the spirituality in life. Our world is more commercial than any earlier generation.  How can we do this?

 One way is through the use of stories. This ancient and very reliable method of passing on wisdom and heritage is still available to us.  Story has the power to let us slip into someone else’s life and emotions. Through stories we can experience another time and place. Add THAT BABY IN THE MANGER to a reading of a more traditional Christmas books. It can either open up a discussion about who Jesus is and how we experience  Him , or help make the time we call Advent about Jesus and not about gift getting.

 This book may encourage families to get or create their own nativity scene. Download a discussion and study guide, suitable for ages Pre-K-4th grade. 

Anne has also created an online activity and discussion guide to assist churches and families to discuss the themes of the book even further.

Click here to read the book, or to place an order.  

 

The Canticle of the Creatures for Saint Francis of Assisi

Luigi Santucci. The Canticle of the Creatures for Saint Francis of Assisi,
Translated by Demetrio Yocum,  Illustrustrated by Martin Erspamer

Brewster MA: Paraclete Press, 2017.

While there are many appropriate and equally laudatory adjectives that come to mind when reviewing this little gem of a publication, the one that rises to the surface most immediately for me is “Franciscan” … authentically “Franciscan.”

Franciscan spirituality, as I have grown to love it, is a uniquely holistic spiritual tradition. It is true that such could be said of many other traditions—Christian and otherwise. But what both endlessly inspires and baffles me about this wisdom school is its powerful juxtaposition of enduring insight and art, poetry and sagacity, simplicity and profundity, accessibility and unfathomability. It is what makes the Franciscan school of wisdom a resource that I can daily revisit without ever depleting its richness.

This enchanting publication—The Canticle of the Creatures for Saint Francis of Assisi—not only communicates this Franciscan spirituality, it richly embodies it. Designed as a kind of livre de poche (literally a “book that fits in your pocket”), this diminutive publication actually does fit into your pocket. Yet the quality of the paper, the charm of its design, and the elegance of its translation will caution you to put it into your very best pocket!

Born in the fertile mind of Italian poet and litteratus Luigi Santucci (d. 1999), the work revolves around the imaginative yet engaging reflections by some of God’s noble creatures who inhabited the life of Francis of Assisi. Multiple medieval sources recount Francis’ encounters with a wolf, nightingales, fish, bees, cicada and many others. The unexpected freshness that Santucci breathes into the remembrance of Francis’ encounter with this holy menagerie, however, springs from his provocative yet lucid crafting of reflections by these very creatures themselves, who muse on their distinctive encounters with the poor man of Assisi.
These endearing reflections are punctuated with magical illustrations by Martin Erspamer. Happily the quality of the paper and printing, design and production, allow these graphics to more than hold their own as vibrant counterpoints to the text without overwhelming that text. Such is important, since both the original writing and the quite deft translation by Demetrio Yocum contribute immeasurably to sustaining this mesmerizing counterpoint of text, visuals, language and spirituality.

This enchanting livre de poche, in the spirit of Il Poverello, illustrates that depth spirituality need not be gargantuan, boisterous or intimidating to be authentic. Rather, it is everyday; something you can slip into your pocket. Such everyday pocket-slipping will be enhanced if this lovely livre de poche finds its way into one of your pockets.

Edward Foley, Capuchin
Duns Scotus Professor of Spirituality,
Catholic Theological Union