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!”

 

A message of hope — Paraclete releases “This Child of Faith” by mother and son writing team on 5th anniversary of Sandy Hook

Today as the world remembers the tragedy at Sandy Hook in Newtown, Connecticut, Paraclete Press is privileged to release The Child of Faith: Raising a Spiritual Child in a Secular World by mother and son writing team, Sophfronia Scott and Tain Gregory.

“This book we feel is a message of hope,” says author Sophfronia Scott. “By sharing our story we hope other families will see it is possible to help their children have spiritual lives in this very secular day and age. And that spirituality really can help in dark times.”

Taking the events of that tragic day, but also the years preceding it, and the days of recovery and healing that followed, Sophfronia and Tain share stories, experiences and ideas to help parents get to the heart of the question: How do you help a child have faith—real faith that they own—in the challenging world we live in today?

Read more from Sophfronia about This Child of Faith and her family’s journey of faith today in TimeFox News online, and Religion News Service.


This Child of Faith: Raising a Spiritual Child in a Secular World
Releases today, December 14, 2017
Trade paper, $16.99, ISBN 987-1-61261-925-5
Read more

Sophfronia Scott is a novel and essay writer who spent a large part of her early career as a writer and editor for Time and People magazines. She holds a BA in English from Harvard and an MFA in creative writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts.

Tain Gregory is in the eighth grade at Newtown Middle School. He enjoys riding his bike, playing video games with his friends, acting in musicals, and playing piano. He’s also a Boy Scout in Newtown’s Troop 770 and appeared in the documentary Midsummer in Newtown.

 

 

 

 

Photo credit: George Duncan

In this beautiful and timely memoir, mother and son share insights from a family’s spiritual awakening, a journey that led to a deep experience of God and a new way of life in the world. Not only do they offer practical advice on faith formation, but they tackle a difficult question: How does faith prepare us not only life’s joys but for its most shocking tragedies? The answer is deceptively simple: by paying attention to the Spirit and trusting one another. Read this one and weep. And discover the hope of a child. Diana Butler Bass, Author, Grounded: Finding God in the World, A Spiritual Revolution

For more information contact Laura McKendree
lauram@paracletepress.com, (800) 451-5006 x 316

Rilke, Advent and “the Slowing”

My life is not this steep hour
in which You see me hurrying so.”

Many of us know could claim these lines, taken from one of Rainer Maria Rilke’s poems, as a true confession, particularly in Advent.  For while we always seem to be leading hurried lives, rarely is this as true as it is in these often frantic weeks of December leading to Christmas.

But for this very reason Advent is a needed countercultural force, calling us to risk turning aside from this hurried pace in anticipation of the mystery that waits to find us. Of course, we know that this is rarely easy, even when we know it is the truth we most need to follow. Perhaps we’ve even heard someone quote the line from one of Rilke’s poems, “You must change your life,” but we sense how hard this is to do and how unlikely, given the stress in our lives.  

Rilke has become, for me, one of the trustworthy guides into what the late Gerald May simply called “the Slowing,” a theme that is at the heart of Advent. For we need to slow down to savor what this season is about, opening ourselves to the lure of its mystery. In one of Rilke’s letters, he suggests what this might entail in our lives: “To let every impression and every seed of a feeling realize itself on its own, in the dark, in the unconveyable, the unconscious, beyond the reach of your understanding, and to await with deep humility and patience the hour when a new clarity is born:  this alone is to live artistically, in understanding as in creation.” This is what we are made for, as the themes of Advent remind us.

May this call of “the slowing” guide us in this Advent, helping us create space in our lives to live more patiently, more generously, more attentively. To wait in the dark we face until a “new clarity” is born in our lives.

Poems of this sort remind us to seek to center ourselves, refusing to be “consumed” by the hurry of these weeks. They remind us, as Rilke went on to write in this letter to “a young poet,” to ‘let [our] judgments follow their quiet, undisturbed evolution, for this, like all progress, must come from deep within and cannot be pressured or hurried in any way.” Advent is a time for just this kind of slowing; of attending to what matters most; and, yes, of turning from our hurry and relinquishing our worry, at least a little, as we live into the mystery of mercy.

Mark S. Burrows

  1. Rainer Maria Rilke, Prayers of a Young Poet, translated by Mark S. Burrows (Paraclete Press, 2016), 28.

In Celebration Rilke’s Birthday

Each year it strikes me that the birthdate of the Prague-born poet, Rainer Maria Rilke, December 4 (1875), falls near the beginning of Advent. It is an auspicious coincidence. To mark this day, here are two lines from an unpublished stanza he wrote in 1913, intended as part of what would become The Duino Elegies:

Unknowing, I am caught in wonder at
the heaven of my life.

Unknowing. The birth of wonder depends on it, and in a sense it is what matters most in our lives. We might sense “the treasure [we carry] in earthen vessels,” as the apostle Paul once put it, but a knowledge of this lies beyond us.

Wonder, though, is the path into the mystery that is the heart of our lives—the “heaven” within us, as Rilke put it. What the poet meant by this penetrates our mind little by little as we attend to it. It is a wisdom that penetrates slowly, beyond explanation. It longs to be discovered within the veil of the ordinary, which is where Advent hope always waits to find us.

The key to Rilke’s wisdom lies in the opening word, unknowing. It is an Advent word, to be sure, a deep note of truth against what seems capable of overwhelming us in this season: the frenzy of social obligations, stores and malls glittering with lights and crowded with weary shoppers, and a legion of Santa Clauses listening to children tell them of the things they want. In all this, the Advent tidings go unnoticed, but for that very reason we do well to begin, again, with a glad unknowing, one that reminds us to open ourselves in this season to what we cannot understand: that the Word became flesh and lived among us, heaven “touching earth,” as it were, in the form of a newborn, grace manifest in the vulnerability of this world. And, yes, heaven waiting to be disclosed in our own lives, in the midst of all that is ordinary and human, broken and depleted, within us.

Advent is a time of pausing, of learning to hope for what we cannot know. It is a season to practice the kind of unknowing that enables us to unburden ourselves from our too hasty certainties. Advent calls us to open our hearts, in wonder, at what is coming to pass in our midst—and, yes, within us: God among us, Immanuel. In this holy season, as the flickering candlelight of the first Advent candle begins to dance in our eyes, let us learn to be carried beyond the boundaries of what we know, and in unknowing stand in wonder at the “heaven of our lives.”

 

Mark S. Burrows, translator of Rainer Maria Rilke, Prayers of a Young Poet (Paraclete Poetry, 2016).

Your Light Gives Us Hope, part 2

Your Light Gives Us Hope: 24 Daily Practices for Advent
Anselm Grün, OSB

Drawing on his experience as a spiritual director, he offers practices for personal devotion or for family prayer for each day of Advent, approaching the festive season consciously, making it a blessed time for ourselves and our families.

From the Introduction

Advent, the Season of Arrival Advent is the quiet season when we wait for Jesus’s coming. For the word Advent simply means “arrival.” We wait for Jesus’s arrival in our heart. But we also wait for his coming at the end of the ages. Over the ages Christians have celebrated this season as a special time of preparation leading to the celebration of Christmas, one marked by many family observances. It is a season when we draw on traditions and rituals that usher us into the mystery of Christmas, not simply in the church but in our daily lives. In such ways, we come to discover the theological truth of this season in intimate ways that stir our hearts.

In this book, I hope to introduce the most important message of Advent through brief, daily meditations that explore some particular aspect of this message, together with a practice inviting you to deepen your experience of its meaning in your daily life.

You will also find here short chapters introducing the message central to each of the four Advent Sundays. The first of these Sundays focuses on apocalyptic passages from the Scriptures that tell of the end times and warn us to be watchful. The second and third Sundays place John the Baptist at the center of the story, the voice “crying in the wilderness,” calling us to repent and await the coming Messiah. The fourth and final Sunday focuses on Mary, who is to give birth to the promised Savior. She embodies the true meaning of Advent, directing us toward Christ, who is coming to us and also desires to be born in us. For this reason, I have included a meditation for each of these Sundays, alongside one for each of the days in December leading up to Christmas. My intention throughout is to offer these reflections in order that the mystery of Advent might illumine our daily lives as well as those of our families and church communities.

It has long been customary in Germany, as in the United States, to hang up an Advent calendar at home during this season, with windows for each of the twenty-four days preceding Christmas. In earlier times, each concealed an Advent symbol, image, or Bible verse; today, though, these calendars seem intended mostly for children, with each window holding a piece of candy, chocolate, or a small toy. In this book, each day will offer a short reflection together with a simple practice designed to be used either singly or with one’s family or friends. For example, on the Saturday evening before the start of each new week during Advent, one might read the short biblical text that precedes each of these meditations, using this theme to shape one’s path through the coming week. Alongside these four entries is one for each of the days leading up to Christmas, offering a meditation on a particular theme and related practice to shape the day ahead. When we choose to give shape to Advent in such deliberate ways, we will find this season to be a time of blessing for us and for our families. In so doing, we learn to welcome this season as a time when we await Christ’s coming in our lives, thereby coming to experience Advent in a new way.

Today, the season of Advent has become a premature celebration of Christmas. As with the Christmas markets found in cities and towns all across Germany, department stores begin broadcasting Christmas carols in early November, weeks before Advent has even begun. This pushing forward of Christmas prevents us from experiencing the mystery of Advent as it should be celebrated. One of my intentions here is to recover the original meaning of this season as a time of stillness, waiting, and watching in order to experience more intentionally its saving power in our lives.

Yours, Fr. Anselm Grün, OSB

As “The Man Who Invented Christmas” opens, Paraclete Press prepares digital and social media tie-ins for “A Christmas Carol” with original engravings

Paraclete Press
Orleans, Massachusetts
November 21, 2017

For Immediate Release

As the latest Hollywood hit, “The Man Who Invented Christmas,” opens this weekend, Paraclete Press is preparing digital and social media tie-ins for a new illustrated edition of A Christmas Carol that includes engravings from the original 1843 book.

“Dickens is one of the most enduring classic authors, and this is Dickens’s most memorable work. We wanted to create a memorable edition of what is already a Christmas treasure,” says Jon M. Sweeney, Paraclete’s

Who can resist the story of the bad-tempered Ebenezer Scrooge’s transformation into a kinder and more loving version of himself? Then there are the visiting ghosts of past, present, and future, the deeply good Bob Cratchit, and his iconic son Tiny Tim. With period illustrations in a beautiful book package, this new edition of A Christmas Carol will help create or revive family traditions with Christmas.

“We even imagine—and hope—that families will once again begin to read books like this aloud,” concludes Sweeney.