It’s Tomato Season!

It’s Tomato season!

In this excerpt from Bead by Bead: The Ancient Way of Praying Made New Chapter 6, author Suzanne Henley, shares how the first tomato of the season is like a prayer. http://bit.ly/2ux2n3m

Jesus and Tomatoes Coming Soon

Unsolicited prayers often sneak up and startle me in mid-activity.

The summer we spent in North Carolina, Jim and I stopped at one of the ubiquitous fresh-produce buildings that line the stretch of two-lane Highway 64 we traveled daily between Hendersonville and Brevard. We asked the two proprietors, North Carolina versions of PBS’s Two Fat Ladies, for their best tomatoes. One of the women laughed as she pointed to a basketful of unappealingly warped and bruise- colored tomatoes. We looked back at her, querulous. “Yep,” she said, as she chose two of those scary-looking, over-heavy growths and plopped them into our hands. “They’re Cherokee Purples, Honey. Take ’em home and try ’em. You’ll be back.”

Fixing dinner that night, I washed the tomatoes and, feeling like Abraham approaching Isaac, raised the knife rather high. They looked tough. But as the richly deep-red slices slowly fell apart from the knife, I was swept in a sensual rush to more than sixty years earlier in my grandmother’s kitchen. I remembered the sun splashing through her kitchen window on the still life of tomatoes lined up fresh from the garden, the smell of the vine still clinging, the fierceness of the reds, the beads of salt releasing the musty scent of fecund earth. Eve, still naked, bit into that forbidden fruit, its burst of juice sliding down her chin and neck. I was nine years old again.

I was even aware of the phenomenon I think we’ve all experienced, of thinking in childhood that a grandparent’s home seemed large and grand and then, years later, realizing it was only a normal-sized house. In that moment, though, my grandmother’s kitchen was a palace of linoleum, and that parted tomato contained all the assumed magic of my childhood. I think I gasped a little, trying to stop time, understanding after several years David Craig’s poem “Pentecost”:

What is this Holy Spirit?
And what is it doing in the eggplant?

Jim and I made daily visits to the Fat Ladies. Each night for the next two weeks after dinner, I cleaned up while he hunkered in the cabin’s basement methodically scraping each tomato seed from our plates onto laid-out, yellowing newspaper. We were familiar, too, having heard her in concert the year before, with Kate Campbell’s ironically joyous song “Jesus and Tomatoes Coming Soon,” based on a sign she’d seen one day near Asheville. We sang its refrain every day on the way to or from the Fat Ladies.

I didn’t know that Jim had funneled all those dried seeds into a ziplock and carefully driven them home to his freezer, where they waited, silent and patient, or, two years later when we married, that he’d brought the ziplock of seeds from his old refrigerator to our new home. Because our own yard was torn up by construction and we had no garden, Jim presented my daughter with a handful of those seeds to plant without much expectation. She nurtured them for months like a firstborn. Her cut into that first tomato, which she presented to us with ceremony, was once again a moment of childhood magic. The Holy Spirit had been patient for three years.

And now I, and Abraham, and Eve, and my nine-year-old self wait each summer for that first Cherokee Purple from our garden, and I say, slicing into that first bite, Oh, thank you, Holy Spirit. Each year that first tomato is a prayer.

Poverty: Responding Like Jesus

Take a moment to take this quiz on poverty found in Chapter 9 of Poverty: Responding Like Jesus. http://bit.ly/2KdDS5f

Paraclete Press announces the launch of San Damiano Books

 

 

 

Paraclete Press announces the launch of San Damiano Books: a new series/imprint focused exclusively on Franciscan spirituality. It will publish books for children as well as adults, fiction and nonfiction, spirituality and practical theology, books by vowed Franciscans and laypeople/writers—all with a passion for the spirit of Saints Francis and Clare.

Two books will be published in Fall 2018:

St. Francis and the Animals: A Mother Bird’s Story by Phil Gallery, illustrated by Sibyl MacKenzie

Format: 8.5 x 11, 32 pp., Hardcover with jacket
ISBN: 978-1-61261-973-6
Retail: $16.99
Ship Date: 8/14/2018
On-sale Date: 9/4/2018

 

 

Francis of Assisi In His Own Words: The Essential Writings, 2nd edition by Jon M. Sweeney

Format: 5 x 7.5, 160 pp., French flaps paperback
ISBN: 978-1-64060-019-5
Retail: $16.99
Ship Date: 10/2/18
On-sale Date: 10/23/18

 

Authors under contract for 2019 include two more books for children; Wendy Murray with a new biography of St. Clare; and multi-platinum recording artist John Michael Talbot reflecting on Francis of Assisi’s “Sermon on the Mount” by looking at one of the saint’s lesser-known writings called “The Admonitions.”

For more information contact Director of Marketing Laura McKendree at lauram@paracletepress.com.

 

Kentucky author Laurie Brock reveals how her love of horses led her to a deeper love of God

April 30, 2018 —Just in time for Derby Day, Episcopal priest Laurie Brock of Lexington, Kentucky releases Horses Speak of God: How Horses Can Teach Us to Listen and Be Transformed (Paraclete Press • ISBN 978-1-61261-929-3 • 146 pp • Trade paper • $16.99).

Horses Speak of God speaks to the struggles many people have today with the institutional church. An unusual message coming from a clergy-author, this book will likely appeal most to those who feel they have connected with God on a deep level outside of church, through everyday pastimes, or in emotional moments. For Brock, this happened through her experiences with horses.

With edgy honesty and humor, Brock invites all who have longed for a deeper encounter with God to join her in the saddle (and occasionally on the ground) to discover how horses’ ways of knowing can help humans discover God speaking to us.

“This is a beautifully written meditation on belief, the holy, and the healing power of horses. This profound book not only helped me to see the magic of animals in our everyday lives but also allowed me a better understanding of my own faith journey.”
Silas House, author of Southernmost

Laurie M. Brock, a former attorney, is an Episcopal priest serving St. Michael the Archangel in Lexington, Kentucky. She volunteers as a crisis chaplain with the Lexington Police Department, blogs at revlauriebrock.com, and frequently leads retreats for ecumenical and interfaith gatherings.

 

Billy Graham, “America’s Pastor,” to Be Honored in New Book by Lon Allison

For Immediate Release
February 21, 2018 

On April 4, 2018 Paraclete Press will release Billy Graham: An Ordinary Man and His Extraordinary God (ISBN 978-1640600874 / Hardcover / $21.99) by Lon Allison, with a foreword by Dr. Leighton Ford and Jean Graham Ford (Billy’s youngest sister).

“You have no idea how sick I get of the name Billy Graham, and how wonderful and thrilling the name Christ sounds to my ears,” Billy once said. So, why another book about him? Lon Allison, evangelist, pastor, and former director of The Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College, has learned much from Billy. Allison retells the highlights of a fascinating life, and in a way that resonates with Graham’s desire to always be sharing the Good News. Every stage of Graham’s life is included, even the rough spots, with appreciation and a desire to answer the question: What can we learn from the life and ministry of Billy Graham? What is his legacy? What was his message and how might it still be relevant for today?

Lon Allison has a gift for explaining how everyday people can connect personally with the God who loves them—Lon worked for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association for years, and served as Executive Director of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College before becoming pastor at Wheaton Bible Church in Illinois in 2013. Lon has taught masters and doctoral evangelism courses at North Park Theological Seminary, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and Northern Seminary, and is a visiting professor at Wheaton College Graduate School. He maintains an active speaking schedule at churches and conferences around the world, and is the author of Going Public with the Gospel and That the World May Believe. He and his wife, Marie, have three grown children and live in West Chicago, Illinois.

Originally planned for release in September, in anticipation of Graham’s 100th birthday, Paraclete is responding to Graham’s recent passing and the urgent need for Graham’s message of salvation for the nation and the world by moving publication up six months—to the first week of Easter. We believe Billy would be pleased with the timing!

To interview Lon Allison or to receive an Advance Review Copy, please contact Director of Marketing Laura McKendree at 800-451-5006 ext 316 or lauram@paracletepress.com

Pastor Lon Allison at Wheaton Bible Church. | Jon Langham~for Wheaton Bible Church

 

“The Pope’s Cat” New Release Date Announced!

Paraclete Press announced Tuesday, January 23, that we are accelerating the publication date of The Pope’s Cat by Jon M. Sweeney, illustrated by Roy DeLeon. Originally announced to publish on March 13, the on-sale date is now March 1.

“We are seeing great demand for this book,” said Laura McKendree, Paraclete’s marketing director. “We have retailers, parishes, and schools anxious to receive copies, so we’re moving it up to make everyone happy.”

The Pope’s Cat,
ISBN 978-1612619354,
Fiction, for ages 6-12, $9.99.

Running Alongside a “Woman Catching Fire:” Angela Alaimo O’Donnell’s Still Pilgrim: Poems

This review for Still Pilgrim was published in  Adanna, Issue 7, 2017.
Maryanne Hannan

To a world where stillness is elusive, the notion of pilgrimage quaint, and paradox an intellectual stretch, Angela Alaimo O’Donnell serves up her latest collection, Still Pilgrim: Poems (Paraclete Press, 2017). In truth, I have been a fan of O’Donnell’s work for many years, her seven poetry collections, three non-fiction books, her numerous insightful reviews and essays. But I’d hazard a guess that Still Pilgrim will become a classic, one that readers will turn to for many years to come.

An author Afterword describes the genesis of the project, a visit to Herman Melville’s grave near her home. In the poem she wrote about that experience, she addressed him as “still pilgrim,” and was thereafter struck by the many ways it is conceivable and necessary to be both still and “simultaneously on pilgrimage toward one’s destiny” (Afterword, 70) in life and, in Melville’s case as a writer, after death. In this collection, O’Donnell takes up the challenge of probing the tensions and insights in the oxymoronic persona of a “still pilgrim,” using the stuff of her own life.

Despite the many particulars of time, space, event and personal proclivities, the book never seems autobiographical. Carefully constructed, yes; as described in the Afterword, it contains a prologue and an epilogue, four sections of poems, fourteen poems per section all of them (fourteen line) sonnets. The gloss on the book and its further suggestion that the sections correspond to seasons of the year and the seasons of life, as well as the liturgical calendar can be read as an added bonus, or as a belated surprise. The poems themselves, sonnets of great skill and diversity, speak for themselves, or in the words of the Still Pilgrim, “Every pilgrim is a truthteller. / Every pilgrim is a liar.” (“Prologue: To Be a Pilgrim, xiii) In this spirit, all is made new again.

Unlike the traditional Pilgrim’s Progress, O’Donnell’s contemporary pilgrim need not advance under the rubric of steady improvement, yet develops in her own way from one section to the next. Rather than negotiating a larger universality as the allegorical hero Christian does, this pilgrim, clothed in particulars, manages the same. Many of O’Donnell’s poems play off Catholic-Christian references, as well as familiarity with literary figures, Keats, Shakespeare, Wordsworth, Frost and, of course, Flannery. To enjoy the subtleties, the poignancy and even the humor of this book, readers need to share the pillars of O’Donnell’s spiritual-cultural-intellectual world, but not her dogma.

Each section offers a, shall we call it?, cosmologically chronological development: “The Still Pilgrim Invents Dawn,” “The Still Pilgrim Recreates Creation,” “The Still Pilgrim Considers a Hard Teaching,” and “The Still Pilgrim Recalls the Beatitudes.” Each section ends with an assessment of where the poet might be in her personal chronology: “The Still Pilgrim Runs,” “The Still Pilgrim Gives Herself Driving Directions,” “The Still Pilgrim Addresses Father Solstice,” and “The Still Pilgrim’s Refrain.” The poem titles themselves further the tensions and paradoxes of the central “still pilgrim” metaphor.

If, as O’Donnell suggests, the sections correspond to the seasons of life, then no surprise to discover poems of youth and childhood in the first section: “The Still Pilgrim Recollects Her Childhood,” “The Still Pilgrim Honors Her Mother,” “The Still Pilgrim Learns to Write,” to name a few. But, as a group, they are not typecast or expected. My favorite “The Still Pilgrim Tells a Fish Story” evoking Melville goes against the grain. From “Find the fish you need to kill and kill it,” the first line challenge, the poem concludes: “Did you really believe there’d come a day / when you would be the one that got away?” (13). A nice set-up for the last poem, mentioned above: “She ran like rage. She ran like desire. / She ran like a woman catching fire” (“The Still Pilgrim Runs,” 16).

The second section sees more gain than loss, the prime of life: “The Still Pilgrim Becomes a Mother,” “The Still Pilgrim Sings to Her Child,” “The Still Pilgrim Hears a Diagnosis,” “The Still Pilgrim Discovers Botero’s Adam & Eve.” Hovering over all is the realization: “Summer comes once and never stays” (“The Still Pilgrim’s Love Song to Lost Summer,” 31).

In the third section, (can it be autumn already?) are “The Still Pilgrim’s Displacement,” “The Still Pilgrim’s Insomnia,” “The Still Pilgrim Talks to Her Body,” “The Still Pilgrim Faces the Wall,” the final couplet of “The Still Pilgrim Considers the Eye:” “The truth the wise eye grieves and knows, / that one day it must close” (43). But a radical acceptance of mortality undergirds it all: “You sing with me even when / I sing the same old song again” (“The Still Pilgrim Talks to Her Body,” 42)

The fourth section opens with another dawn, slightly reminiscent of Eliot: “of how we bear the miracle / and find ourselves where we belong” (“The Still Pilgrim’s Thoughts Upon Rising,” 51). Other poems attest to a joyful resiliency, even a recognition that each season contains them every other one: “The Still Pilgrim Recounts Another Annunciation,” “The Still Pilgrim’s Easter Morning Song,” “The Still Pilgrim Imagines the Eucharist,” “The Still Pilgrim Welcomes Pentecost” and “The Still Pilgrim’s Penance.” Perhaps a time paradox underlies the space through which the still pilgrim traverses. Or to share the final couplet of “The Still Pilgrim Celebrates Spring:” “All that leaves returns. It’s fact. / The light we thought we lost comes back” (60).

Angela O’Donnell’s Still Pilgrim: Poems can be enjoyed as a whole and in parts, not once, but many times over. I highly recommend this book to all readers interested in a woman’s journey, expressed in the context of her faith, and also to those no longer excited by the sonnet form. They will be surprised.

Between Faith & Doubt

Jennifer Wallace’s Almost Entirely was featured in ImageUpdate. Click here for the full roundup.

Referring to her new poetry collection, Jennifer Wallace remarks, “I like the sense of ‘entirely’ modified by ‘almost’…That’s my sense of life in this world.” These short poems limn the course of a mature artistic life and its struggle between faith and doubt, the incarnate and the unseen, love and loss. Almost EntirelyWallace’s seventh bookexamines the search for wholeness, including re-exploration of Wallace’s Christian roots. In the opening section, “The Wind of God” is evoked as it “…moved over the face of the waters.” Yet often, the writer notes, “God has turned my head in the right direction/ yet I haven’t seen the gesture for what it is.” Vision necessitates discernment. Recalling Kierkegaard’s observation that “Christianity is not a consolation/ but a demand,” Wallace observes, “Call me crazy, hardship appeals/…. now the problem of attending it begins.” But attention can be difficult. Of a friend’s murder, the poet writes: “How to feel his death? On the street. / The shots. My friend’s scream.” Even the faith that allows one to bear a “wing giving way” brings “meanings that will shatter me more than this.” Nothing is sentimentalized here. As “I Don’t Like People; Animals, Too, Are an Imposition” relates, our lives daily encompass ordinary trials, like “a mean as a chainsaw bad neighbor.” It is ours to get on with things; the poet “has chores to do: chop wood, fix the wall in my yard.” But luckily, there is also grace’s blinding flash, that occasional release to something else, almost entirely: “resting on its surface with sail or paddle/I am brought beyond my landedness/not until diving under can I know/ its pillowed, dull moss-light…a body is seen at last for what it is:/awash in the eye of God.”

—Ann Conway, Image Update

Love through Locked Doors

An Excerpt From Bruised and Wounded by Ronald Rolheiser

Some years ago, some other friends of mine lost a daughter to suicide. She was in her early twenties and had a history of clinical depression. An initial attempt at suicide failed. The family then rushed round her, brought her to the best doctors and psychiatrists, and generally tried in every way to love and coax her out of her depression. Nothing worked. Eventually she died by suicide. Looking at their efforts and the incapacity of their love to break through and save her life, we see how helpless human love can be at a point. Sometimes all our best efforts, patience, and affection can’t break through to a frightened, depressed person. In spite of everything, that person remains locked inside of herself, huddled in fear, inaccessible, bent upon self-destruction. All love, it seems, is powerless to penetrate.

Fortunately, we are not without hope. The redeeming love of God can do what we can’t. God’s love is not stymied in the same way as is ours. Unlike our own, it can go through locked doors and enter closed, frightened, bruised, lonely places and breathe out peace, freedom, and new life there. Our belief in this is expressed in one of the articles of the creed: He descended into hell.

What is meant by that? God descended into hell? Generally, we take this to mean that, between his death and resurrection, Jesus descended into some kind of hell or limbo wherein lived the souls of all the good persons who had died since the time of Adam. Once there, Jesus took them all with him to heaven. More recently, some theologians have taken this article of faith to mean that, in his death, Jesus experienced alienation from his Father and thus experienced in some real sense the pain of hell. There is merit to these interpretations, but this doctrine also means something more. To say that Christ descended into hell is to, first and foremost, say something about God’s love for us and how that love will go to any length, descend to any depth, and go through any barrier in order to embrace a wounded, huddled, frightened, and bruised soul. By dying as he did, Jesus showed that he loves us in such a way that his love can penetrate even our private hells, going right through the barriers of hurt, anger, fear, and hopelessness.

READ: Into Safe Hands: A Meditation On Dying for Advent and Christmas by Ronald Rolheiser

We see this expressed in an image in John’s Gospel where, twice, Jesus goes right through locked doors, stands in the middle of a huddled circle of fear, and breathes out peace. That image of Jesus going through locked doors is surely the most consoling thought within the entire Christian faith (and is unrivalled in any other world religion). Simply put, it means that God can help us even when we can’t help ourselves. God can empower us even when we are too hurt, frightened, sick, and weak to even, minimally, help ourselves.

I remember a haunting, holy picture that I was given as a child. It showed a man, huddled in depression, in a dark room, behind a closed door. Outside stood Jesus, with a lantern, knocking softly on the door. The door only had a knob on its inside. Everything about the picture said: “Only you can open that door.” Ultimately what is said in that picture is untrue. Christ doesn’t need a doorknob. He can, and does, enter through locked doors. He can enter a heart that is locked up in fear and wound. What the picture says is true about human love. It can only knock and remain outside when it meets a heart that is huddled in fear and loneliness.
But that is not the case with God’s love, as John 20 and our doctrine about the descent into hell make clear. God’s love can, and does, descend into hell. It does not require that a wounded, emotionally-paralyzed person first finds the strength to open herself to love. There is no private hell, no depression, no sickness, no fear, and even no bitterness so deep or so enclosed that God’s love cannot descend into it. There are no locked doors through which Christ cannot go.

I am sure that when that young woman, whose suicide I mentioned earlier, awoke on the other side, Jesus stood inside of her huddled fear and spoke to her, softly and gently, those same words he spoke to his disciples on that first Easter day when he went through the locked doors behind which they were huddled and said: “Peace be with you! Again, I say it, Peace be with you!”