Paraclete Signs Two Industry Veterans to Big Books for 2018

Paraclete Press
For Immediate Release
September 22, 2017

Paraclete Press has signed Bert Ghezzi, bestselling author, popular editor, and author of more than twenty books, to a new edition of a book first published a generation ago. The Angry Christian sold 60,000 copies in its original run twenty-five years ago, and is set to be reissued in April of next year, with a foreword by Brandon Vogt. 

Bert Ghezzi

Phrases such as “culture of anger” have come to describe much of our world today. Both Press and author suspect that Ghezzi’s book is much needed. Early endorsers for the new edition include Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap, Archbishop of Philadelphia; Dr. Ray Guarendi; and Fr. Dwight Longenecker, who writes, “In this practical and pastoral little book, Bert Ghezzi walks us through a guidebook on anger, showing how anger is God’s blessing not his curse. When the energy of anger is directed properly, God’s power to heal and transform ourselves and our world is unleashed.” Says Ghezzi, “I placed The Angry Christian with Paraclete because I knew that they would get it into the hands of many readers.”

Paraclete has also inked a deal with Henry L. Carrigan, Jr. for Fifteen Spirituals that Will Change Your Life. Carrigan has worked in publishing for more than twenty years, including at Publishers Weekly and Continuum, before his current work as a music journalist. As Carrigan says, “Music touches people’s hearts in deep and enduring ways that words often fail to do.” Paraclete saw in this title an antidote to the uncertainty and anxieties that many face today. The faith, hope, and love that these songs evoke will carry readers to a place beyond themselves where they connect with others and with God. Carrigan says, “I am excited to be working with Paraclete again: I am grateful for the vision they have of publishing thoughtful books.” Fifteen Spirituals will publish in September 2018.

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

The Good Fool

The St. Francis Holy Fool Prayer Book
Excerpted from the Introduction

The Good Fool
For those who try to live the Gospel, and by doing so, feel like fools

Here we are, fools for Christ’s sake, while you are the clever ones in Christ; we are weak, while you are strong; you are honored, while we are disgraced. To this day, we go short of food and drink and clothes, we are beaten up and we have no homes; we earn our living by laboring with our own hands; when we are cursed, we answer with a blessing; when we are hounded, we endure it passively; when we are insulted, we give a courteous answer (1 Cor. 4:10–13).

Otherwise known as holy fools.

This can be confusing and for good reasons. Even the Bible seems to contradict itself about fools. A fool for Christ’s sake is altogether different from the kind of person the psalmist describes when he or she begins, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good. The Lord looks down from heaven on all mankind to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. All have turned away, all have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one” (Ps. 14:1–3). That’s not a foolishness to emulate! Nevertheless, St. Paul’s foolishness is. The Bible speaks about both kinds of fools—good and bad—but for the most part, the good sort has been lost.

The foolishness praised by St. Paul is a way of living out Jesus’s teachings in the Beatitudes. “Beatitude” comes from a Latin word that means happiness. These are ways to true happiness, and of course they aren’t what you might expect. Who is blessed? The poor in spirit, the meek, the hungry and thirsty, people who are peacemakers—not the powerful. Even the “pure of heart”—and the phrase means pretty much what it implies, and that is, those who are simple or willingly naive—are singled out as blessed. Do you want to sign up for this sort of blessedness, happiness? Not many do. That’s why we call them fools. Holy fools.

A Christian can point to Jesus’s foolishness as the exemplar, just as Jesus sometimes pointed to the Hebrew prophets as his inspiration for defying others’ expectations. Like Jeremiah, Jesus dressed simply. Like Isaiah, Jesus often walked around barefoot, and he didn’t know where he was going to sleep at night. Contrary to what religious leaders thought appropriate, Jesus chose a strange mix of people as his followers and friends (women, the poor, despised tax collectors, the untouchable sick). Occasionally, he went against societal norms and theological expectations with an attitude of naiveté. No matter if someone thought he was “dumb.”

Even Jesus’s own family thought he was a fool at times—and not the good kind. Just after he appointed his twelve disciples, the Gospel of Mark says: “He went home again, and once more such a crowd collected that they could not even have a meal. When his relations heard of this, they set out to take charge of him; they said, ‘He is out of his mind’” (Mk. 3:21). In twenty-first-century language, that sounds like they staged an intervention! They wanted to set him straight. Perhaps he was embarrassing the family.

Later, when Jesus was teaching Torah—good rabbi that he was—he invariably shocked his listeners, ratcheting up the expectations of God on those who seek to truly follow him. He said, for example: “You have heard how it was said, You shall not commit adultery. But I say this to you, if a man looks at a woman lustfully, he has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matt. 5:27–8). Seriously?! What was once a law of Moses, easy to track in one’s life, just got a whole lot tougher. Who would even know if one was observing a law such as this? The religious leaders of the day thought he was nuts.

Jesus was a holy fool in his not worrying about the outcome or result of his teaching. Most important of all, he was a holy fool for allowing himself to be misunderstood, and later, mocked. He didn’t defend himself when the meaning and purpose of his life was questioned by Pontius Pilate. He was willing to stand physically humiliated before crowds. In these ways alone, without any other agenda, there have been saints throughout history who have sought to imitate our foolish Lord.

I give you the end of a golden string; Only wind it into a ball, It will lead you in at Heaven’s gate, Built in Jerusalem’s wall. —William Blake, from Jerusalem: The Emanation of the Giant Albion

There is a perfect line, an uncut thread, “a golden string” throughout history that connects the foolishness of Christ with holy fools who have lived in every generation since his death and resurrection. They all have understood how being reviled can be a sign of blessedness or holiness, a true mark of God’s Spirit alive inside of someone. When people witnessed this foolishness in Francis of Assisi eight hundred years ago, they called him pazzo. That’s Italian for “crazy”—so, I guess, we can’t avoid the term! The adjective, however, made Francis happy, in the sense that he knew: if they call you crazy or a fool, you must be doing something right!

The first instances of the crazy foolishness in Francis were outpourings of the Spirit in him. In other words, they are difficult to explain if you use only rational or pragmatic ways of understanding: Like when he stripped naked in front of a crowd in order to give everything back to his father that was rightfully his. Or when he began preaching to birds after people didn’t seem to pay much heed to his words. Or when he scolded some of those birds for not listening carefully enough and chirping too loudly during Mass. Or when he joined a friend and disciple in deliberately humiliating himself—Francis had punished his friend by holy obedience (he was, by then, the friend’s religious superior) for refusing to preach the Good News. The punishment was: go and preach, then, in your underwear. But a few minutes later, Francis chastised himself for being too severe— and decided to repent by stripping down to his breeches himself and joining the friend in the pulpit.

Why would someone do these things? They don’t exactly make sense, do they? And yet, somehow, they did, and do.

Here’s another bit of context: At the time that Francis and Brother Juniper, one of his closest friends and first followers, were becoming fools for Christ, there were professional fools—hired in noble and royal courts, as well as traveling from town to town—acting as entertainers but also as truth-tellers. They were often regarded as possessing a strange sort of wisdom that comes from being detached from the normal ways of the world. They never stopped reminding their audiences that the world will lie to you, deceive you with false appearances; that it may seem rational but actually it is mad. You see such a troupe in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, for instance (act 5, scene 1). They are the grave diggers who appear after Ophelia’s suicide, bantering about death, love, and the meaning of life.

Remembering Mother Teresa

Paraclete Press
September 8, 2017

Twenty years after the death of Mother Teresa, I Loved Jesus in the Night: Teresa of Calcutta, A Secret Revealed (Paraclete Press) has broken 20,000 copies in sales and was excerpted this past week on the Fox News website (Opinion) with a very personal account by author Fr. Paul Murray, OP of meeting Mother Teresa: “What struck me at once was something which has been remarked on many times over the years by those fortunate enough to meet Mother Teresa, and that is the radiant joy which shone in her face, a joy which, from moment to moment, seemed to illumine her every expression.”

Paraclete initially published a hardcover edition of I Loved Jesus in the Night in 2009 and subsequently published a paperback edition in 2016. Sales of the hardcover and paperback combined now exceed 20,000 copies. Last year the press also added a sideline product of a wristband with the tagline Doing Something Beautiful for God (over 45,000 sold) which was marketed primarily to Catholic Church Religious Educators. For this ecumenical press, it is a privilege to publish and distribute products about Mother Teresa, one of the spiritual giants of the last century whose life inspires people of all faiths.

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

The St. Francis Holy Fool Prayer Book

Excerpted from the Introduction

HOW IT IS GOOD TO BE A FOOL
For those who try to live the Gospel, and by doing so, feel like fools

I will always remember the day I decided to introduce my preschool-age daughter to one of my favorite movies, Singing in the Rain, starring Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor, and Debbie Reynolds. We sat and watched it together on the couch. She didn’t wiggle much and laughed at the right places. I knew she was enjoying it.

But then we got to the title song and dance number. There was Gene Kelly, blissfully enjoying a rainstorm. You probably remember how he runs back and forth across a city street at nighttime in the pouring rain, singing at the top of his lungs, tap-dancing by stomping in puddles, grinning at a cop on patrol, becoming completely drenched in his business clothes. He is wearing a suit—and even gives away his umbrella!

As my daughter and I watched, I laughed out loud and was grinning ear to ear. That’s what I always do when I watch that scene. She watched carefully, and was smiling, but to my surprise, she then turned to me in the middle of the scene and said, “That’s kind of stupid, Dad.”

She was only four at the time, but I was sort of offended. I don’t know for certain why. Forget that she said the word “stupid” for a moment; we’ll deal with that another day. Why was I bothered by her reaction? It isn’t as if the movie has anything intimately or immediately to do with me, but I wanted her to like it as I did. “Why?” I implored. Then I suddenly realized that I probably knew what she meant by what she said. So I revised. “Do you mean . . . because he’s getting all wet?”

“Yeah,” she replied, still smiling, looking at the screen. The puddle-stomping continued even as we talked, and she was still trying to figure out the meaning of the scene. “But he’s being kind of stupid,” she added, yet again.

How do I answer this? I thought. How do I get her to understand what this means?

Adults easily understand that what Gene Kelly is doing is anything but stupid. But can his spirit be communicated in words? I at least gave it another try. “Not stupid, honey,” I said. “Maybe he’s just being . . . foolish.”

Maybe.

A child can’t really appreciate what “foolish” means, nor how being a fool can be a virtue, a really good thing. Nor can she appreciate how foolishness might be a healthy sign that something good is happening, or able to happen, in your life. After all, how could someone who is still innocently carefree most of the time—without real responsibilities or stress—understand the absolute delight that can come when we allow ourselves to “let loose” others’ expectations? That’s what Gene Kelly is doing by singing and dancing in the rain: allowing his joy to overcome his decorum. We adults know this, and that’s why we love watching him do it. Probably, we are wishing, deep down, that we could do that too.

  1. K. Chesterton wrote in Orthodoxy, “Angels can fly because they can take themselves lightly.” We’d all like to fly like angels—or at least like Gene Kelly.

I might have communicated better with my daughter that day as we watched the movie together if I’d said that Gene Kelly was being “crazy.” She sometimes likes to be “crazy” with her friends. They seem to know and appreciate that word for its sense of nonconformity and playfulness. But as an adult, “crazy” is a word that doesn’t seem appropriate. I know how it means a lot of things, some clinical, and how sometimes it might be perceived as an insult, or at least out of place. That’s why I quickly decided it wasn’t the way to go when I was trying to explain why singing in the rain isn’t necessarily “dumb.”

I used the word “fool” instead, but then again, “fool” is also an insult to many. The word was even used that way—as a kind of insult—in the Hebrew Scriptures, as we will see in a second. But to many Christians throughout history, foolishness has been a goal, a spiritual occupation, even a badge of honor. They have gone out of their way to earn the name fool, even when they knew that those who were saying it never intended it as a compliment. They have been “fools for Christ’s sake,” to quote St. Paul, who says it like this:

Here we are, fools for Christ’s sake, while you are the clever ones in Christ; we are weak, while you are strong; you are honored, while we are disgraced. To this day, we go short of food and drink and clothes, we are beaten up and we have no homes; we earn our living by laboring with our own hands; when we are cursed, we answer with a blessing; when we are hounded, we endure it passively; when we are insulted, we give a courteous answer (1 Cor. 4:10–13).

Otherwise known as holy fools.

This can be confusing and for good reasons. Even the Bible seems to contradict itself about fools. A fool for Christ’s sake is altogether different from the kind of person the psalmist describes when he or she begins, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good. The Lord looks down from heaven on all mankind to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. All have turned away, all have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one” (Ps. 14:1–3). That’s not a foolishness to emulate! Nevertheless, St. Paul’s foolishness is. The Bible speaks about both kinds of fools—good and bad—but for the most part, the good sort has been lost.

Poetry: the New Adult Coloring Book?

“Is Poetry the New Adult Coloring Book?”

If Publisher’s Weekly’s recent musings on market trends become a reality, Paraclete Press is prepared with a deep backlist in this category. With two new releases in poetry every season, the focus on this genre for a religious publisher is unusual.

Publisher Jon M. Sweeney credits the house’s longstanding friendship with the late Phyllis Tickle (1934-2015) as the inspiration for a commitment to poetry that has been a core charism for the house for many years. As she said, “Paraclete is a house firmly rooted in presenting and curating religious poetry that has deep resonance and potent significance for the shaping of the surrounding culture itself. It means the on-going giving away and sharing of God with humility through mystery.”

Video trailers and social media buzz have taken a more significant role in launching poetry books in the past year, and Paraclete plans an even greater emphasis on reaching new readers through these platforms in the coming months.

Poetry Editor Mark Burrows’s introduction to the recently published Paraclete Poetry Anthology articulates why poetry is becoming increasingly important in our culture: “Poems awaken to us the sense of wonder by which we discover again and again traces of the beauty that saturates our world.”

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

My Favorite Color is Blue. Sometimes.

In just over a month we will publish the beautiful title My Favorite Color is Blue. Sometimes. by author Roger Hutchison. Roger is from the Houston area and his home is right in the path of Hurricane Harvey. He, along with so many others, has evacuated his home and our prayers go out to him. In the midst of all of this Roger is approving the final edits of his book! He graciously sent us this post about the experience that inspired him in his vocation as an artist, and to write this book.

I am an artist. I paint at my Grandmother’s table, a table I once played under as a child and on which I enjoyed vibrant and delicious meals. The table became a Eucharistic symbol for me. It is the place where I go to paint, pray, and remember. It has become such an important place for me, that I knew I had to invite others to the table.

On Friday, May 3, at the invitation of Trinity Episcopal Church, I traveled to Sandy Hook and Newtown, CT.

I was invited to facilitate a painting session with the children of Trinity, Newton, their families, and their Sunday school teachers.

The undercroft of the church was set up with round tables. On each table we had canvas paper, paints, baby wipes, toothpicks, cotton swabs, pencils, writing paper, and scraps of cardboard. Everyone gathered at the tables…mothers with their children, friend with friend, and neighbor with neighbor. We lit a candle, I gave a few instructions, and the painting began.

It was a powerful evening that changed me at a cellular level.

I saw one mother comforting another mother as they both grieved for their friend who lost a child. I had a conversation with a 3rd grade girl who told me she had had a really bad day. Her painting was dark and frantic. I listened to her for a little while—then encouraged her to paint another one. The second painting was a bit more colorful. She took her two paintings and smashed them together. When she pulled them apart, the darkness had lifted. I could see light and love…and a beautiful smile.

I had a conversation with a young mother who told me that she feels guilty sometimes that she still has her children. She shared with me what it was like to take her children home on that tragic day—passing house after house with state patrol cars in the driveways.

And the mother who told me how her first-grader, a big boy for his age, had climbed up into her lap and sobbed when he learned that his friend was not going to be there when he returned to school.

I believe that within the grief that exists in tragedies such as the one that happened in Newtown or in our own personal losses, there is much hope, healing, and possibility.

While there is grief, sadness, and loss, there is also hope. There is an opportunity for celebration as we gather together, break bread, talk, and are welcomed. Whether it is through cooking, painting, or Eucharist, we come together to remember.

The text and illustrations of My Favorite Color is Blue. Sometimes. are designed to guide the reader through different emotions and reactions related to grieving, including shock, tears, anger, and hope. This book encourages and explores the rhythms of grief and healing using color, few words, honesty, and hope. Something I believe we all need.

Paraclete Launches New Fiction Line

Paraclete Press
For Immediate Release
August 25, 2017

With the publication of Can You See Anything Now? by Katherine James (October 10, 2017 / ISBN 978-1612619316 / Trade Paperback) Paraclete Press returns to publishing novels and launches a new series, Paraclete Fiction. “Our intention is to reach the unchurched, de-churched, and ‘nones,’” explains Publisher Jon M. Sweeney, “who would probably never look for something new to read in the ‘Christian Fiction’ section.”

For a faith-based press with traditional leanings, the Paraclete Fiction line represents not just a new direction, but a risk. “Can You See Anything Now? is a novel about real people living real lives,” Sweeney explains, by which he means that expletives and themes of addiction and self-injury in the book may be unsettling to some while appealing to others.

Can You See Anything Now? explores grace in the midst of tragedy, and in the lives of unforgettable, utterly ruined characters. The novel follows a year in the small town of Trinity, and the lives of the suicidal painter, Margie, who has been teaching her evangelical neighbor, Etta,

how to paint nudes; her husband, the town therapist who suspects his work helps no one; and their college-aged daughter, Noel, whose roommate, Pixie, joins them at home for a winter holiday, only to fall into Trinity’s freezing river.

Themes of small-town life and the juxtaposition of tragedy and redemption should resonate with readers of Marilynne Robinson, Richard Russo, and Elizabeth Strout. Early endorsers include Leslie Leyland Fields, Suzanne Wolfe, and Scott Cairns.

About the Author: Katherine James has an MFA in fiction from Columbia University in New York City, where she received the Felipe P. De Alba Fellowship. She has been on staff with CRU, a ministry to college students, for over twenty-five years. She is a member of Redbud Writers Guild, and is senior editor for CruPress. Her memoir, Notes on Orion, about the opioid epidemic in the suburbs of Philadelphia and the ways that it affected her family, will be published by Paraclete in the second half of 2018.

“Katherine James just might be a genius. If you’re a redemption chaser, you’ll love this book. If you hate redemption stories, you’re going to love this book.” —Leslie Leyland Fields

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

Paradox at the Heart of Poetry—In Review

August 4, 2017)

Paradox colors the world, especially when seen through the eyes of faith, and paradox is at the heart of these poems. Consider the collection’s title: Still Pilgrim. How can a pilgrim, who is a traveler by definition, be characterized as still? “This world was never made for rest,” says “The Still Pilgrim Ponders a Paradox,” the poem serving as the book’s epilogue. “And still you stay as still can be / unmoved by your velocity.”

In these poems, the Still Pilgrim—seemingly the poet’s alter ego—reflects on longing and the world’s impermanence, the fleetingness of time and vivid memories, piercing joy and piercing grief.

 Even the most intense joys in these poems—as in the real world—never fully break free from the shadow of defeat and sorrow. The reader gets the sense that the Still Pilgrim is making a one-step-forward, two-steps-back kind of progress, which brings to mind C. S. Lewis’s description of fallen human life before God in The Problem of Pain: “Thus . . . all the days of our life, we are sliding, slipping, falling away—as if God were . . . a smooth inclined plane on which there is no resting.”
Companionability is a poetic virtue of special importance in our time and place, and it is abundantly present in O’Donnell’s poems. The Still Pilgrim says of her (by no means affluent) childhood home: “You’d never know we were among the least. / Bread was our mercy. Wine was our cure.” There is a generosity of spirit here, an unself-absorbed openness about the triumphs and vulnerabilities of our common experience of life. O’Donnell’s poems assume—even as they’re reaching toward it—a deep connection, a kind of communion with readers. How countercultural. How necessary here and now.

“We are living in an anti-art age. The world is now a brutal place and obsessed with speed and wealth.” So said singer and songwriter Paul Simon in a 2015 interview, and one could understandably fear, in such an age as ours, that poetry has finally become irrelevant. But I would like to think, and Angela O’Donnell’s engaging and deeply humane poems in Still Pilgrim encourage me in doing so, that poems will go on functioning as diverse mercies we can keep with us—at home or away—for the pleasure of their company and as a means of remembering who we are.

Read the full review from The Christian Century

Angela Alaimo-O’Donnell on how Stil Pilgrim came to be…

 

Feeding Your Family’s Soul

Paraclete Press
Orleans, Massachusetts
August 11, 2017

For Immediate Release

Since its publication one year ago Feeding Your Family’s Soul by bestselling author Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle has been steadily gaining momentum. Written specifically for a Catholic audience, this book answers questions that face all parents of faith: How to keep the family meal time intact, and how to teach children important messages of faith in the midst of a busy and often chaotic life?

Now in its fourth printing, with over 14,000 copies sold, the book has been enthusiastically received by families and religious educators in parishes and schools.

Creative and specific, with lessons, activities, and recipes, this book has launched a brand that also includes laminated prayer cards for families (8,000 sold) and the release of an accompanying DVD. Author Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle also has launched a branded TV series, Feeding Your Family’s Soul, that can be seen on EWTN’s network At Home with Jim and Judy show.

Legatus, the magazine for Catholic businessmen, now includes a monthly column, Feeding the Foodie. Donna-Marie shares monthly on the topic of nourishing both the body and the soul! Click here for her post on enjoying the fruits of labor and blessing, and a great recipe for Summer Double Berry Cobbler.

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

First Children’s Book on Thomas Merton Published to Acclaim!

Paraclete Press
Orleans, Massachusetts
August 4, 2017

For Immediate Release

On his visit to the USA, Pope Francis hailed Thomas Merton as one of four citizens who have shaped American values.

Until now, there have been no books for young children on the life of this important figure in our faith and spiritual culture. Published at a time when children’s book publishing is experiencing growth, this book teaches about Merton, monasticism, and the Christian life in a simple A – Z format.

The book launched mid-June at the International Thomas Merton Society 15th General Meeting at St. Bonaventure University and has received rave reviews from Patrick O’Connell, co-author of The Thomas Merton Encyclopedia, Fr. Dan Horan, author of The Franciscan Heart of Thomas Merton, Fr. Laurence

Freeman of the World Community for Christian Meditation, Midwest Book Review, as well as Thomas Merton regional chapter coordinators nationwide.

Unique and thoroughly ‘kid friendly’ in tone, organization, and presentation, The ABCs of Thomas Merton: A Monk at the Heart of the World is as informative as it is entertaining and certain to be a popular addition to elementary school collections.”  — Midwest Book Review

“We now know for sure that children have an innate contemplative gift. It is so important that they are introduced to the church’s contemplative tradition early in life and Greg Ryan’s book for them on Merton will help them grow in this wisdom. Greg has perfect pitch in understanding the child’s mind and he has produced an invaluable asset for their early steps on life’s spiritual journey.” — Fr. Laurence Freeman, World Community for Christian Meditation

For more information, contact Sr. Antonia Cleverly, srantonia@paracletepress.com(505) 255-4685 x 329.