Once on a Rainy Day I Wrote a Novel…

Cheryl Anne Tuggle is a librarian, a freelance writer and a novelist, the author of Unexpected Joy: A Novel (Anaphora Press, 2011). She is a member of the Good Seed Writers Society and a featured writer on the blog Orthodox in the Ozarks. Today’s post is written by Cheryl Anne about how she came to write her latest novel “Lights on the Mountain.”


It’s a thing people ask when you’ve authored a novel: how and why it came to be written. Answering the question, though, is a bit like trying to relate the dream you had last night. You know how it went, but just try and tell it that way.

Usually I say it started with a scene I saw through my car windshield one morning in late October. It was a cold day and raining and I was parked behind the library, waiting for my daughter to finish a vocal audition at the high school next door. As I sat watching the rain coming down, I had a sort of waking dream in which the car’s windshield changed into a farmhouse window and I was peering through it into a large kitchen. Inside the kitchen, sitting across from one another at a table were a husband and wife. No doubt because of the rain and the chill in the real air and the dark sky above my car, I sensed the air in the day-dream room was thick with tension and the atmosphere, melancholy. I needed to know, of course, what was going on in that kitchen and knew there was only one way to find out. I would have to write my way inside it.

So that’s what I say, that Lights on the Mountain began with this scene I saw through the rain. But just like the person telling that dream, as soon as I’ve said the thing, I begin to doubt it. There is after all, my own memory, confirmed by a photo my brother sent me, of a bleak, wintry-looking day on the farm of my childhood.

And there are the memories I’ve kept of the multi-colored splendor of the Pennsylvania hills in autumn and the people, with their various accents and religious faiths and their rich-tasting foods, that lived within them. Looking at the photo, pondering my recollections of the Western Pennsylvania landscape and its people, there is a question of how I knew, as I began to set the story down, to put the couple on that farm (or something like it) and in those hills. I begin to wonder which came first, my memories of the photo and the hills, or the couple and the scene. The chicken or the egg.

Also like a dream recounted is the way I realize, while trying to explain how it happened, that it’s entirely possible to lie about it without being dishonest. All I can really say is that after two drafts in which my farmer’s problem was unsatisfactorily (to me) written, I was working on a third and happened to spot Walker Percy’s Moviegoer on my bookshelf. That book, if you haven’t read it, is about a worldly man who lives in what some people say is the real sin city, New Orleans. In the midst of his everyday, city-dwelling life, Binx Bolling embarks on an somewhat loosely organized, but definitely existential, quest, what Percy has his character call “the search”. Suddenly I had my “what if”? What if I took a natural man, a quiet-natured farmer who loves his land and his work and his wife, and instead of the stereotypical salt-of-the-earth simplicity, gave him a deep, yearning heart and a wondering mind. Oh, and an otherworldly experience. And once that was done and I had given him a past and put some challenging characters in his path, I set him to working out the world’s oldest mystery, the great, divine Who-done-it. What if I did that? I asked myself. And then I did it. And that’s the somewhat true story of how this particular novel came to be written.

Come November 13, 2018, you can read the story for yourself. Feel free to share your thoughts on it here, or on Amazon and Goodreads. I look forward to reading them!


From the Foreword… Wounded in Spirit: Advent Art and Meditations

When I find myself with a free day in a major city, I often look for an art museum. I wander the galleries, lingering mainly among the Impressionists and European Masters. Many museums offer listening devices that give background details on the important paintings, but I have little patience with the headsets or with the clumps of visitors that block the view of the paintings themselves. So, I move from painting to painting, reading the one-paragraph placard by each one, and leave the museum feeling nourished in some subliminal wayyet hardly enlightened.

I suspect that I am not alone in my naive approach to the visual arts. One of G. K. Chesterton’s witticisms sums up an all-too-common bias: “In the MiddleAges we have art for God’s sake, in the Renaissance we have art for man’s sake, in the nineteenth century we have art for art’s sake, and in the twentieth century we have no art for God’s sake.” A trained artist himself, Chesterton was stereotyping for effect, but in truth Christians have shown an ambivalence toward art of all kinds.

Unrivaled as a patron, and responsible for many of the finest creations, the church has at times undergone spasms of counter-reaction: whitewashing images during the iconoclasm controversy, banning and burning books, and destroying church organs. Though we moderns tend to demonstrate more tolerance, artists themselves often feel unappreciated and even estranged from the church.

Daily, art nourishes my own faith. As I write, classical music plays in the background, and I feast on books in my library. And as I’ve mentioned, I feel a strange gravitational tug toward art museums. What draws me? Beauty, of courseyet I sense something more. The journalist Malcolm Muggeridge put it this way: “Only mystics, clowns and artists, in my experience, speak the truth, which, as Blake was always insisting, is perceptible to the imagination rather than the mind.” Artists communicate with a different, and often more penetrating, style than preachers and theologians.

The Bible itself demonstrates this principle, for God’s acts get the bulk of attention, given far more weight than the dogma that later emerged. The apostle Paul’s left-brain exegetical passages are the exception, not the rule, easily overwhelmed by passages devoted to narrative, poetry, wisdom literature, parables, prophetic visions, and, yes, the Pentateuch’s meticulous descriptions of the visual arts.

If I hope to enrich my faith through the visual arts, I need a guide. When I enter museum galleries devoted to religious art, the paintings testify to a different era, with different principles of aesthetics at work. In this book, David Bannon’s explorations show by example what makes art worth our effort and what it can do for the person of faith.

First, art offers an unexpected vantage point. For example, one does not expect a book of Advent meditations to bear the title Wounded in Spirit. As the season approaches, upbeat Christmas carols blare from speakers in the shopping malls, and the store clerks may offer a “Merry Christmas!” greeting. From where comes this melancholy counterpoint about wounded spirits?

From the Gospel of Luke, to be precise. The old man Simeon, assured he would live to see the Messiah, and having grown gray and frail waiting for the consolation of Israel, seasons his congratulations to Mary with these words: “And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” Somehow, in the midst of joyous celebration, he foresees the shadow looming over the Incarnation: the slaughter of the innocents, the flight to Egypt, the tragic ending on an executioner’s cross. Decades later, Paul would interpret these events for the Philippians through a theological lens: a member of the Godhead stripping away the prerogatives of divinity to become a human being, and not only that but one who came in the form of a slave, even one subject to death, yes, even that most ignoble death on a cross. Christmas Day was only the first of many humiliations that Jesus would undergo.

Depression and suicides spike at Christmas, as loneliness and the memories of lost loved ones invade the background cheer. My own father died in mid-December, before his twenty-fourth birthday, an untimely death that forever cast a pall over our family’s Christmases. We know, all of us, the dissonance of which Simeon spoke to Mary: of love splattered with blood, of consolation that proves diffused and fleeting. Art brings that dissonance to the foreground, with a poignancy that wounds the spirit like a sword.

Second, art renders something unique to the artist’s own experience of that dissonance. I know the author of this book: his own griefs, mistakes for which he has paid dearly, his inconsolable loss. It surprises me not at all that David Bannon would write an Advent book with such a title. I did not, however, know before reading these pages the personal trials of Tissot or Murillo or many of the artists discussed here.

Wounded in Spirit has become my guide, revealing what no one-paragraph summary in a museum could possibly make plain: the creator’s internality that gets projected on a canvas for the rest of us to contemplate. For the artist, bringing hidden wounds into the light may become a move toward healingalthough, paradoxically, complete healing might also dry up the font of creativity.

A depressed Rainer Maria Rilke once wrote, “Art is superfluous. . . . Can art heal wounds, can it take the bitterness away from death? It does not quiet despair, it does not feed the hungry, it does not clothe the freezing.” Yes, art has its limits, but I would answer his rhetorical questions more positively. Art does at least contribute to the healing of wounds, by awakening a sense of companionship in those who receive it: I am not alone. More, art may present the needs of others in such a way as to arouse the very compassionate response that Rilke doubts: think of van Gogh’s portrayals of peasants and coal miners, or the AIDS quilt that toured the nation, or photographs of refugees fleeing famine and war.

Great art operates on us at a deeper level than the rational. It conveys truth rather than arguing for it, and presents reality implicitly rather than explicitly. After seeing Hans Holbein’s realistic painting of Christ’s tortured body, Dostoevsky was haunted by it, and included the scene in his novel The Idiot. Thomas Merton, a self-indulgent dandy, became captivated by Byzantine mosaics on a visit to Rome; from them, he later said, he first learned the mystery of a God of infinite power, wisdom and love who had yet become man. Reciting the poem “Love” by George Herbert led to Simone Weil’s conversion: having committed it to memory, she repeated it almost as a mantra during violent headaches until somehow, without her willing it, the poem became a prayer. “It was during one of these recitations,” she writes, “that Christ himself came down and took possession of me.”

Finally, art forms a bridge between the artist’s soul and our own. Every artist, regardless of the medium, wants someone to see or hear or read or otherwise receive the result that emerges from creative labor. The literary critic Cleanth Brooks observes, “In making us see our world for what it is, the artist also makes us see ourselves for what we are.” In the process, art invites a form of meditation.

David Bannon widens the bridge of connection for me. His references to literatureTolstoy, Byron, Shelley, Longfellow, Tennyson, Emerson, Shakespeare— enrich what I learn from the visual art he discusses. And in these pages I also meet familiar mentors of thought and theology: Buechner, Merton, Tillich, Heschel, Kierkegaard, Baillie, Rilke, Nouwen, Lewis, and of course the authors of the Bible.

Among all these mentors, some familiar and many new to me, I encounter art in a more restful, meditative way than if I were standing amid a buzzing museum crowd with a headset clutched to my ear. Within these pages I find much to contemplate, applying something of what took place in the artist to my own life. I am no longer staring at strange art in a museum in a new city. Now, the images come to me, held in my hands, along with the resources I need to understand and interpret them.

According to James Baldwin, “Every artist is involved with one single effort, really, which is somehow to dig down to where reality is.” For the artist of faith, such as the representatives in this collection, reality includes the realm of eternity. Our modern, materialistic culture considers eternal matters as peripheral, not nearly so urgent as, say, making money and achieving success. The noise of surrounding culture tends to drown out a God who prefers to whisper, and we need prophetic prods in order to reorder our world.

Art freezes the moment, quickening the senses. “I am attempting to express what I saw in a flower which apparently others failed to see,” explained Georgia O’Keefe. In doing so, art nurtures that most human act, our ability to transcend the immediacy of time and space. The ordinary can become extraordinary, the instantaneous can become permanenta form of lectio divina that requires no words.

Even as I write these words, my CD changer has made mechanical noises announcing a new disc under the laser. Instantly the room fills with the throaty sounds of a Russian male choir chanting prayers in a language I cannot understand. I stop typing, shove aside the papers on my desk, and close my eyes. Memories of a trip to St. Petersburg, Russia, come flooding back, including a visit to an oniondomed cathedral when I heard such sounds in person as they reverberated off the magnificent icon-covered dome above.

The following day I visited the Hermitage Museum. I walked into a room containing one of the world’s largest collections of Rembrandt paintings. His massive rendition of The Return of the Prodigal Son was the first to catch my eye, a painting so evocative that Henri Nouwen spent two days sitting before it in a folding chair, meditatingand later wrote a book with that title about his encounter. The German siege of Leningrad imperiled all these paintings, which were saved only by a heroic rescue effort. Rembrandt’s biblically themed portrayals survived not only that war, but also the atheistic frenzy of Bolsheviks who demolished churches and murdered forty two thousand priests.

Art endures. Later, a Christian convert from the darkest days of Stalin’s reign wrote, “The task of a writer is to select more universal and eternal questions, the secrets of the human heart and conscience, the confrontation of life with death, the triumph over spiritual sorrow, the laws of the history of mankind that were born in the depths of time immemorial and that will cease to exist only when the sun ceases to shine.” Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn devoted his life to honoring, by making permanent, the sacrifices of those who clung to such beliefs in a world gone mad.

Great religious art strives wordlessly for something similar. The paintings reproduced and discussed in these pages have become devotional for me in the best sense of the word: they inspire and inform my sense of devotion to the One who is eternally worthy.


From the Introduction of “Eye of the Beholder” by Luci N. Shaw


With feet in two worlds—the earth-bound reality and the unseen but utterly real transcendent sphere—Biblical prophets were specially chosen individuals. As commandeered by a divine call, they spoke to the people from God, and to God from the people, inhabiting the tricky threshold between heaven and earth. Their calling was to hear divine words, see divine visions, and then speak the prophetic message to their listeners, linking the transcendent and immanent. As a poet I have felt drawn to a somewhat similar task. Having ideas that seem to come from beyond me, and writing about them, seeing “pictures in my head,” images and words to describe them, have haunted me from early childhood, encouraged by my writer father. As an adult I pray and dream that the words and ideas given me might say something true and meaningful to a reader, a listener.

Presented with visions, permitted to see what others could not, prophets in Scripture were called to proclaim in human language what was “un-seeable” to their audience. Some of the most lasting and vivid poetry in Scripture came from the mouths of these prophets. Throughout biblical history there were many of them, nearly always sent by God to speak words of correction, warning or foretelling.

Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Daniel, and Isaiah were known as the Major Prophets because of the length, complexity, and duration of their prophecies, containing as they did image after image of blazing intensity. The so-called Minor Prophets also had this gift of perception, these glimpses of unseen reality, to be conveyed in words and actions. Habakkuk’s vision was called “a burden,” something so heavy with portent that expressing it, living it out, was a divine message on which the welfare of God’s people depended. Being called as a prophet was not an easy assignment. It set the seer apart from and often against those he was required to challenge. Presented in the language of the people, using earthy metaphors to express divine realities, many visions were written in the form of Hebraic poetry, with brilliant imagery reflecting their own settings and cultures.

The young boy Samuel, with his responsive spirit, woken from sleep three times by God, was the one chosen to call out the high priest Eli, who had grown old and tired and had forgotten to listen and obey, to the detriment of the people he was meant to lead. The proverb says it: “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” Through Samuel, the vision came alive and real in the lives of the people.

Perhaps this is where I find myself, like young Samuel responding as best I can to the voice, listening for messages clear enough to transmit, recording them in their primitive forms in a notebook, then in my computer where they call for revision, revision, revision. I read them aloud to catch the rhythms I hear in my head. I have done this all my life. It is my greatest joy, for which I give glory to the Great Poet who created me as part of his universe, a shard of his seventh day.

These biblical prophecies bristle with colorful imagery reflecting the settings and cultures of the hearers. Much of it follows the forms of Hebraic poetry in couplets that reiterate or contrast. Take Isaiah, whose words describe what he saw of the Mighty One: “I saw the Lord. He was high and lifted up and his throne filled the temple.” The exalted vision that follows is pure poetry. (Somehow it reaches me most powerfully when expressed in the King James Version with its grand sonorities.) Many of the prophecies were more earthbound than Isaiah’s. Think of Jeremiah’s dream of a basket of rotten figs, inedible like the people whom he was castigating. Think of Ezekiel, who literally lived his metaphor, required by God to lie, bound with cords for months, to illustrate the bondage of the people of Judah. The prophetic vision was often heavy, a prediction of imminent destruction and calamity. In Jeremiah’s time, his message of doom so angered the people that they put him in a deep, muddy pit to think it over.

At Saul’s conversion on the Damascus Road, God flung him from his horse and claimed him in unmistakable terms. The vision was blinding and unspeakable, the lifechange of the man who became the apostle Paul dramatic.

In the Revelation John the Divine, exiled on Patmos, saw the blazing image of “One like the Son of Man” who transmitted to him prophetic messages for the Christian believers in seven communities of the early church. He was told, “Write what you see.” “Listen to the windwords,” is how a contemporary translation puts it. With its brilliant and mystical metaphors, John’s vision continues

with some of the most arresting and high-flown language and imagery in the Bible. It is both daunting and beatific.

In our own day, in a mechanistic society trammeled with political conflicts and a waning consciousness of the sublime, I believe poets—and particularly poets of faith— have a similar mandate. I suggest that writers who cultivate the gift of perception and awareness will make connections with what they see in imagination and how they write about it. It is a kind of translation in the hope that something of what they see and hear will open a fresh understanding, will somehow illuminate their readers. It’s like taking someone by the arm and saying, “Hey. Look this way! Have you noticed . . . ? Can you see what I am seeing?” It doesn’t have to be earth-shaking or exalted or profound, but it must speak into another human mind, building a bridge from writer to reader. It’s as if a poem hasn’t fulfilled its purpose until it makes a connection in someone else’s imagination, and enlarges, by increments, that companion mind.

We earth-bound mortals, with a cultivated consciousness, may have access to possibilities, or invisible realities. We have a connection with the seen and unseen by way of spiritual insight and our words suggest that, like John the Revelator, we “write what we see.” As we live in a creative world of beauty and terror, delight and disruption, we are called to notice the contrasts and linkages that fascinate and compel us into truth-telling and metaphorical language. As it was for Habakkuk, burdened with a prophetic vision (or a compelling image for a poem), our insights and language may burden us with something not to be gainsaid.

Not everyone in Scripture was called to be a prophet, not even the righteous. Not every human being will see reality through the eyes of imagination and vision. Yet in our own time we may also have access to the transcendent as our imaginations receive “pictures in our heads.” Rhythms and phrases take hold of us. Individual words and phrases will call to us from the pages of contemporary novels and journals, demanding to be written into poems. Ideas take shape and color and meaning. Rhythmic phrases hum in our minds waiting to be expressed in rhyme and meter. Or not.

Poets and prophets may not always be at the center of a social structure. Rather they are on “the edge of inside,” as Richard Rohr has said. We stand on a kind of threshold looking out, and in, and then, using the magic of language, we may open a window, point at a landscape and ask: “Can you see what I’m seeing?”—an introduction to enter our vision, an invitation to make a connection.

Luci Shaw

Paraclete Press and Elements Theatre Company join the worldwide celebration of All Saints Day with Battered and Bright: Celebrating the Saints

November 2 & 3, 2018 — Paraclete Press and Elements Theatre Company have a lot in common, including a passion to spread the Gospel through the written and spoken word, and offer encouragement to those of us ordinary folks hoping to get one step closer to heaven every day. This All Saints Day, Paraclete and Elements join in our mutual love of sacred literature, to present an ecumenical celebration of the Saints portrayed through the lens of theatre.

Elements Theatre Company (Orleans, MA) and Paraclete Press (Brewster, MA) present Battered and Bright: Celebrating the Saints: November 2, 7:30 pm, November 3, 3 pm & 7:30 pm, at the Church of the Transfiguration, Rock Harbor, Orleans. For tickets call 508-240-2400, visit elementstheatre.org, or purchase at the door. $35 General; $30 Senior; Free for Students and Youth 18 & under; Group rates available for 10 or more.

Meet revered Saints—Peter, Paul, Priscilla and Aquila, Patrick, Catherine of Siena, and Francis of Assisi—whose stories will come to life through narratives and live music. Fire-lit basins, background projections, and a large book set the stage, allowing the audience to step into the radical world of the Saints through the ages.

Jon Sweeney, Paraclete Press’s Editor-in-Chief, will moderate post-performance discussions with Artistic Director Danielle Dwyer, CJ, and Dramaturg Brad Lussier. Guest speakers include Paraclete Press authors Bert Ghezzi (The Angry Christian), Susan L. Miller (Communion of Saints: Poems), and Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle (Feeding Your Family’s Soul); St. Peter’s Lutheran Church pastor Christian Holleck (Harwich, MA); and others. Click here to meet the Casts & Panelists.


“As actors, we must take on the whole person of the character we are playing. As we charted the Saints’ journeys of spirit, walked through their lives, explored their vibrancy of faith and commitment, we found hope. There is no shame in being human—once we accept this gift, there is actual peace.”—Sr. Danielle Dwyer

Saint Francis comes to life for a new generation in stunning new title from Phil Gallery and Sibyl MacKenzie

October 4, The Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi — As the world celebrates its favorite and most unifying saint, Francis of Assisi, Paraclete Press announces the release of the first title in its new San Damiano Books imprint, St. Francis and the Animals: A Mother Bird’s Story (October 4, 2019 • ISBN 978-1-61261-973-6 • $17.99 • Hardcover).

 Watch a video trailer about the book here! 

Phil Gallery’s inspired words from the perspective of Mother Bird, paired with Sibyl MacKenzie’s vibrant, beautiful illustrations, give readers young and old an entirely new angle on Brother Francis – the boy who grew up in Assisi, ventured out as a brave knight, turned aside when he heard God’s call, and became the gentle monk who loved the Creator and all of creation with his whole heart. The familiar stories take on an even more profound meaning when told from the perspective of Francis’s brothers and sisters, the birds – and one little bird in particular who takes flight for the first time thanks to the kindness of Brother Francis – showing how all the parts of God’s creation are connected.

Praise for St. Francis and the Animals: A Mother Bird’s Story
“This is an enchanting tale of St. Francis’ love of all creatures that shows how religious tales, in engaging prose and elegant illustrations, can guide us in the most important project of our lives: connecting with God, the Maker of all good things. This will become one of the favorite books of childhood!” –Fr. David B. Couturier, OFM Cap., Director of the Franciscan Institute, St. Bonaventure University

“This book is great! It is a wonderful depiction of the story of the life of Saint Francis as told with amazing drawings.”
Bob O’Connor, Author of A House Divided Against Itself

“These stunning illustrations and the engaging text describe how Francis related to a great variety of animals. This book is sure to spark valuable conversations.”
-Fr. Pat McCloskey, OFM, Franciscan Editor, St. Anthony Messenger

“Simply stunning! This is guaranteed to stir your heart with a rousing love for God, His Saints, His Creation, and all creatures—great and small. This tender story is magnificently illustrated and a very engaging expression of the life of the beloved Saint of Assisi. I highly recommend it for children and adults alike!”

Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle, award-winning author of many books including Angels for Kids and My Confirmation Book

Phil Gallery is the author of four books in the award-winning “Can You Find” series that sold more than 140,000 copies. He lives in the hills of eastern West Virginia, where he and his wife Shari raised their four children.

Sibyl MacKenzie graduated from Columbia University with a degree in German Literature and has exhibited in galleries all over the US.

St. Francis and the Animals: A Mother Bird’s Story is the first book in Paraclete’s new San Damiano Books imprint for Franciscan spirituality. San Damiano Books will publish 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.

For interviews with author Phil Gallery or for review copies, please contact Director of Marketing Laura McKendree: email lauram@paracletepress.com, phone 800-451-5006 ext 316.


Announcing book two in “The Pope’s Cat” series from Jon Sweeney: Margaret’s Night in St. Peter’s – A Christmas Story!

For Immediate Release

For October 1, 2018 — Margaret the cat and her best friend, none other than the Pope himself, are back to entertain and teach young readers about the inside world of the Vatican, and everything that goes on at Christmastime at St. Peter’s Basilica: Margaret’s Night in St. Peter’s (A Christmas Story) (October 2018 / Paraclete Press / ISBN 978-1-61261-936-1 / trade paperback / color illustrations / $10.99) by Jon M. Sweeney, illustrated by Roy DeLeon.

Picking right up where they left left off, this disarming story about the antics of mischievous Margaret and her beloved friend the Pope takes readers to iconic sites at St. Peter’s – behind the Pieta, and even up at the altar – allowing children to take part in Margaret’s first experience of the miracle of Christmas.

“This beautiful book is a love letter to the church, to Christmas, to Rome, and to St. Peter’s Basilica—and not just for children!” –James Martin, SJ

“What could be more endearing than a charming and curious stray cat? It could only be the cat that’s been adopted by the pope and has free run of the Vatican at Christmastime: Margaret! This enchanting and beautifully illustrated storybook will tickle your fancy! I highly recommend it to children and adults alike!” –Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle

“Have you ever wished you could celebrate the wonder of Christmas within the beauty of the Vatican? Take a step inside St. Peter’s Basilica with the Pope’s special friend Margaret the cat and see the Church’s celebration of the Nativity with fresh eyes and a glowing heart. Jon Sweeney playfully invites us into another adventure featuring exquisite color illustrations by Roy DeLeon. Sensational!” –Lisa M. Hendey

About the author: Jon M. Sweeney’s popular history, The Pope Who Quit: A True Medieval Tale of Mystery, Death, and Salvation, has been optioned by HBO. He’s the author of two dozen other books including The Complete Francis of AssisiWhen Saint Francis Saved the Church, winner of a 2015 award in history from the Catholic Press Association, and The Enthusiast: How the Best Friend of Francis of Assisi Almost Destroyed What He Started. This is his second book for children.

About the illustrator: Roy DeLeon is an Oblate of St. Benedict, spiritual director, yoga instructor, graphic designer, and professional visual artist. He is also author of Praying with the Body.

For review copies or interviews, contact Director of Marketing Laura McKendree at lauram@paracletepress.com, or 800-451-5006 ext 316.

Celebrate 90 years of a life well-loved and well-lived with Jean Vanier’s “We Need Each Other”

Paraclete Press launches a month-long celebration honoring Jean Vanier’s 90th birthday with the release of We Need Each Other: Responding to God’s Call to Live Together (September 18, 2018 • ISBN 978-1-64060-096-6 • Hardcover • $19.99).

Vanier’s words in this book represent the culmination of 65 years of global ministry, and the definitive summary of his life’s work and deep beliefs. His message of reconciliation is something the world desperately needs in these dark times of spiritual and cultural division.

In Vanier’s own words:
 “Today we are living in a very stressed world. There is a lot of fear and even hatred for those who are different. Jesus came to preach peace and to break down the barriers that separate people. May this little book help each one of us become messengers of peace, of mercy, and of forgiveness.”

Paraclete will be celebrating Vanier’s life and message with a vibrant social media campaign throughout the month, including intimate video interviews revealing the heart of this “living saint,” reviews and online discussions of the book and its message, and video sharings from a book launch with Vanier himself at his home in France, October 7-8, 2018.

Jean Vanier
 was awarded the Templeton Prize in 2015. He is a philosopher, theologian, and man of letters with great heart and compassion. The first L’Arche Community was started in 1964 in Trosly-Breuil, a village in the north of Paris, when Vanier invited two people with intellectual disabilities to live with him in a small house. Today, L’Arche is made up of 151 communities spread over five continents.

“This is vintage Vanier.” —Ronald Rolheiser, OMI, author of The Holy Longing and Bruised and Wounded
“Jean Vanier is a living saint.” —James Martin, SJ, author of Jesus: A Pilgrimage
We Need Each Other is a treasure.” —John Pattison, Englewood Review of Books

To request a review copy or an interview, please contact Laura McKendree: email lauram@paracletepress.com, call 1-800-451-5006 ext 316.

Paraclete Press Announces the Launching of a New Publishing Imprint



October 2018 — In time for the Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi, Paraclete Press releases the first title in its new imprint for Franciscan spirituality. San Damiano Books will publish 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.

Coming October 4, 2018:

St. Francis and the Animals: A Mother Bird’s Story 
by Phil Gallery, illustrated by Sibyl MacKenzie
Format: 8.5×11, 32 pp. Hardcover / ISBN: 978-1-61261-973-6 / $17.99
Ship Date: 9/13/2018 / On Sale: 10/4/2018


“Stunning illustrations and engaging text. This book is sure to spark valuable conversations.” —Fr. Pat McCloskey, OFM, Franciscan Editor, St. Anthony Messenger

If the animal kingdom can understand the life and teachings of the world’s most famous saint, so can children, who will be delighted by this simple, beautiful book for the ages.


Francis of Assisi In His Own Words: The Essential Writings, 2nd edition 
by Jon M. Sweeney
Format: 5×7.5, 160 pp. Trade paper / ISBN: 978-1-64060-019-5 / $16.99
Ship Date: 10/2/18 / On Sale: 10/23/18


“A very good translation of [Francis’] original writings, in words that we can now appreciate.” —Richard Rohr, OFM

Sweeney has expanded his bestselling compilation to include six additional writings such as: “The Form of Life He Wished for Clare,” “The Sermon to the Birds,” and “The Source of True Joy.” An expanded introduction and notes add historical and theological context.

Authors under contract for 2019 include two more books for children; Wendy Murray with a new biography of St. Clare; 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, “The Admonitions”; and Amid Passing Things: Life, Prayer, and Relationship with God by new author Jeremiah Myriam Shryock, CFR.

Happy Birthday Saint Teresa of Calcutta!

Read and enjoy this excerpt from Suzanne Henley’s Bead by Bead: The Ancient Way of Praying Made New in honor of Saint Teresa of Calcutta’s birthday (August 26th).

Chapter 4:

Clearing Your Cache and Beginning to Pray

Regardless of how many years and how earnestly you have prayed, author John McQuiston reminds us, “Always We Begin Again.” Each attempt at prayer is a new one. There are no referees, no winning score, no out-of-bounds, no penalties. You must bring your whole self to it. Several years ago I heard Richard Rohr say, “I have prayed for years for one good humiliation a day, and then, I must watch my reaction to it. I have no other way of spotting both my denied shadow self and my idealized persona.” Prayer can be messy. It is not—and should not be, I believe—a tidy package. We must wade through the mud first. As Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh reminds us, “no mud, no lotus.”

Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:5–6 to go into our closet to pray. Closets are of course our first choice as children when playing Hide and Seek, and that often describes prayer: Hide and Seek. And we are still children. However, I retreat at the image of the Holy Spirit in my closet—ancient dust balls roiling among the cluttered clogs and worn-out sandals, pants legs slapping about, a sweater or two slumped off hangers—and the two of us hunkering knee to knee amid the musty odor of tee shirts and jeans whining, “Put me in the laundry!” This closet with its housekeeping embarrassments of course is the untidy closet of my heart. And, as messy as it might be, this is exactly where we all must begin. One of the main points of prayer, it seems to me, is in fact to air our dirty laundry.

We can spend a lot of time and effort hiding from what we know to face in prayer—“That of which we are not aware, owns us,” James Hollis reminds us in Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life—but sometimes roles switch; the Spirit sometimes seems to hide, sometimes for months, even for years.

In 1989 Mother Teresa came to Memphis to speak. Two of my children were quite young and could have no idea at the time of the enormity of devotion and accomplishment of this tiny woman, but I wanted them to have a memory of her presence. For some lucky reason we were given aisle seats. We waited a long, very fidgety time. Suddenly there was a stir. Mother Teresa did not come out on a stage two hundred feet away but was actually walking up the aisle toward us. The packed coliseum was quiet with respect and awe as she approached. Then she was beside us, and my son Walker, in the carrying voice of an excited child, stood up and exclaimed to the hushed auditorium, “Look, Mom, she has on sandals! And they’re just like mine!”

We now know that Mother Teresa, as many of us do, experienced her own very dark night of the soul. According to her letters—which she never believed would be made public—the desolation and abandonment by God she felt lasted for fifty years, beginning almost from the moment she arrived in Calcutta to begin the work she believed Jesus had commanded her to do. Continuing her work, and always smiling (“a mask,” she called it), she wrote of the “torture,” “emptiness,” and “darkness” she lived with for the majority of her life. For a period she even stopped praying. We balk and flounder, searching for an adequate explanation for this gut-wrenching information—or dismiss it with a shrug of psychological shoulders. As unutterably painful as those years must have been for her, though, they tell each of us in our own dark nights of searing doubt and unbearable loneliness that we’re in good company. We all wear the same sandals.