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.

 

My Soul Waits: Praying with the Psalms through Advent, Christmas & Epiphany

My Soul Waits is a devotional for Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany. Combining the words of the Psalms and meditations from the Church Fathers, it guides the reader through the various twists and turns on the journey to our Lord’s Nativity. 

Aaron and the Levitical priesthood were instructed to bless the people of Israel with these words: “The Lord bless you and keep you: The Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you: The Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace” (Num. 6:24–26). Psalm 67 is a prayer of blessing that comes out of the same tradition. It sees the blessing of God as the very source of life and health, without which there is no hope for prosperity or peace.

A rich tone of thanksgiving is prevalent throughout the psalm, and this probably explains why it was used at the great autumn Feast of Sukkot, or Tabernacles. The feast is significant for two reasons. First, according to Exodus 34:22, it celebrates the “ingathering” of the harvest, the annual sign of God’s blessing in the fruitfulness of the fields. “The earth has yielded its increase,” declares the psalmist (Ps. 67:6), and in that plenty is seen the face of God. Second, the feast is a reminder of the Israelites’ sojourn in the wilderness (Lev. 23:39–43), during which God “made the 7 people of Israel dwell in booths,” or Sukkot, temporary huts built of branches and leafy boughs, as they made their way from one camp to another on their trek from Egypt to the Promised Land.

Together with a spirit of celebration, therefore, the brief verses of Psalm 67 confess a sense of utter dependence of the people of Israel—of all the nations, indeed of all the earth—on the favorable presence of God. As the psalmist says elsewhere about all created life, “When you give it to them they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are satisfied with good things. When you hide your face, they are terrified; when you take away their breath, they die and return to the dust” (Ps. 104:28–29, NIV).

In his rule for the monastic community, Saint Benedict prescribed Psalm 67 to be sung every morning at daybreak, the rising sun being an apt image for the radiant and life-giving face of God. Morning after morning, the day is prayerfully greeted by monks with this simple acknowledgment and petition: “Like the rising sun, O Lord, may your face shine upon us this new day, and bring us life. Bless us with the warmth of your presence and we, in turn, will reflect that blessing to others and we will praise your name forever.” A prayer for God’s blessing is never contingent upon dire circumstances, illness, or misfortune. It is appropriate to every day of our lives, for every day of life given to us is an act of God’s mercy and favor.

This Child of Faith: “Read this one and weep.”

How do you help a child have faith—real faith that they own—in the challenging world we live in today?

“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


Tain Gregory was present in his third-grade classroom on the morning of the Sandy Hook shootings. As part of the healing process for the community after the tragedy Tain was asked, “What’s the most important thing in the world to you?” His mother expected an answer about a video game or Pokémon trading card. Tain thinks for a moment then answers with one word. “God.” Until that moment, his mother had no idea how close to the surface his faith existed.

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?

“In this unblinkingly honest and tender work, Sophfronia Scott and her son, Tain, share their journey of faith…. Sophfronia gently models how to nurture the innate spirituality and faith of a child. In doing so, her own faith grows and deepens as well…. This Child of Faith doesn’t claim to know all the answers, but it serves as a moving testimony to the power of faith when a family embarks upon the journey together.”

Rev. Andrea Raynor, author of Incognito: Lost and Found at Harvard Divinity School

 

A Gentle Guide Through Grief and Loss

For those of any age who have suffered loss, here is a journey of brilliant color to bring you peace.

Beloved author and artist Roger Hutchison has created a picture book to guide readers through different emotions and reactions related to grieving. The gentle text and illustrations of this lushly colored picture book explore feelings of shock, tears, anger, and hope, using the powerful language and experience of color. My Favorite Color is Blue. Sometimes. is a welcome companion to people of all ages as they journey through loss and grief.

Following the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, Roger had the privilege of painting with children and adults who were touched by this tragic event. The experience affected him at a cellular level and convinced him of a vocation to serve those who grieve using his writing and art.

Preview the book

Read a recent guest blog post by Roger Hutchison about grief: 

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.

A daily reader of simple and direct Advent reflections

Your Light Gives Us Hope: 24 Daily Practices for Advent
Anselm Grun, 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 translator’s Foreword:

Fr. Anselm Grün needs little introduction in Germany. He is well-known as a best-selling author of books on Christian faith and spirituality, which together have sold more than 14 million copies, and regularly gives talks and workshops across the country as well as appearing frequently on television. He does all this while living out his vow of “stability of place” at the Benedictine abbey of Münsterschwarzach, not far from the city of Würzburg in Lower Franconia. There, he joins his brothers in what St. Benedict described in his Rule as “a school for the Lord’s service,” which in this case is a large community of monks with a strong local ministry and a global vision of mission.

Within this community, which he joined as a nineteen-year-old in the early 1960s, Fr. Grün joins his brothers in the commitment to “work and pray,” as the motto of the Benedictine order puts it. For more than thirty years, he held the important position St. Benedict called the “cellarer,” the monk charged with managing the provisions of the monastery and thus responsible, as the Rule puts it, “for everything”—a kind of CFO for the abbey’s business operations. In this role, he had oversight of a workforce employing more than three hundred people in some twenty departments, hardly what we think of when we imagine a monk observing the rule of silence.

Yet while his work as cellarer surely grounded him in the often stressful realities of modern business, the wisdom he brings in his writings has more to do with St. Benedict’s daring conviction that “the divine presence is everywhere”—in our work and in our prayer, in the monastery as in “the world.” Readers will come to recognize the impact of this belief throughout the pages that follow.

All this suggests why, in reading Fr. Grün, one does not encounter the voice of a reclusive monk. His God is not hiding somewhere in the monastery, out of reach of ordinary folks. On the contrary, and in keeping with the Advent tidings, he discovers God in the scriptural promises that point to the One who comes among us, the incarnate Lord in Jesus of Nazareth. At the heart of this season, we come face-to-face—quite literally—with the God who takes up human life and lives as one with us. This is the Messiah announced in Advent as Emmanuel, the God-with-us who was born in a simple manger in Bethlehem. And it is this God who seeks to be present “everywhere” among us in our lives today.

This day-by-day devotional guide to Advent appeared in the original German edition in 2015 and quickly became a well-loved companion for thousands of readers: Roman Catholic and Protestant, doubters and seekers. They found here what they have come to expect from Fr. Grün’s wide-ranging writings: namely, nourishment for their spiritual hunger and illumination for their path in life. It is a privilege to bring this devotional gem to English readers.

What you will find in these pages, meant to be read and pondered day by day during the weeks leading up to Christmas, is a message shaped by a dialogue between theology and psychology, faith and spirituality, divine revelation and human experience. Throughout the short chapters here, Fr. Grün meets us in our longing for wholeness, the desire that marks Advent as the “overture” to the larger symphony of the church’s year. These daily readings offer a centering path through these often hectic weeks, reminding us, as the opening words of the Rule put it, to learn to “listen . . . with the ears of [our] heart.”

 Mark S. Burrows Bochum, Germany

The Angry Christian

 At a time when anger runs at a high pitch in our society, Bert Ghezzi offers biblically based advice on how to use it wisely. Invite him to speak to your church or group.

Phrases such as “culture of anger” have come to describe much of our world today. Bert Ghezzi corrects the mistaken view that anger is always bad and sinful. Bert says it is a normalpart of our human nature. Anger is good if we engage it to help us do the right thing and if we don’t let it escalate out of hand. But it spawns evil if it gets out of control or if we use it for selfish, wrong-headed purposes. Bert explains that under the power of the Holy Spirit, we can transform our anger into occasions of grace. We can replace it with behaviors like patience, endurance, and determination to do the right thing. So anger used well can help us overcome obstacles that block our twofold mission of becoming saints and advancing and applying the Gospel.

Bert’s unique approach to this issue is much needed today. Endorsers of the book include Charles J. Chaput, OFM 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.” — Bert is available to speak to groups or churches. If you are interested, please contact the author directly at bertghezzi@gmail.com

Sr. Antonia Cleverly
Director of Marketing