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Posts Tagged ‘Orbis Books’

978-1-62698-139-3This year Ash Wednesday, and the beginning of the season of Lent, falls on February 10. In this period leading up to Easter many Christians observe a season of reflection, repentance, and renewal. While specific customs vary widely among denominations, all people can benefit from taking time for prayer.

For daily spiritual reading during Lent I intend to draw nourishment from All Shall Be Well: Readings for Lent and Easter. A powerful collection of writings from poets, activists, and religious sisters and brothers, this volume from Orbis Books includes voices who speak for peace, caring for the needy, and uplifting the weak.

I do not want to give a litany of the authors, but the table of contents, with writers both classic (Howard Thurman) and contemporary (Mary Lou Kownacki), had me quite excited. In particular I enjoyed the words of Julia Alvarez, Dorothy Day, Virgil Elizondo, and Daniel Berrigan. The selections are numbered but not dated, since the dates for Lent vary; this thoughtful format will make the book easier to use year after year.

All Shall Be Well will make an inspiring and uplifting companion. I encourage you to find a copy, and may you have a blessed, prayer-filled Lent.

Disclaimer: A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for review purposes. No fee was received.

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Pope's HomiliesImagine being invited to join Pope Francis at his home in St. Martha’s guest house at the Vatican. In the morning you would have the opportunity to be inspired by his homily, grounding your day in a foundation of faith. With Morning Homilies, Orbis Books gives readers a glimpse of the vision of Pope Francis, shared over the course of the first five months of his papacy. The homilies originally appeared in L’Osservatore Romano and are translated from Italian into English by Dinah Livingstone. These brief readings open a window to receive the teachings of Pope Francis, and provide an excellent resource for meditation and reflection.

Pope Francis has inspired many, both inside and outside the Catholic tradition, with his visible commitment to living the message of the Gospel. He does not merely preach, but sets a public example in alignment with his words. Within these pages readers will encounter themes that Pope Francis has raised on many occasions: the call for the church to serve the marginalized; the need for being a people of hospitality and forgiveness; the importance of humility and courage. The words of Pope Francis often deliver a necessary challenge, as he calls the church away from hypocrisy and idolatry and toward the teachings of Jesus.

A second volume, Morning Homilies II, includes the homilies presented from September 2013 to January 2014. With this additional publication readers can continue to benefit from the Pope’s intimate morning lessons, following along from home throughout the liturgical year.

Readers will be glad to have these volumes on hand, to turn to the Pope’s inspiring words whenever uplift or encouragement is needed.

Disclaimer: A review copy of Morning Homilies was provided by the publisher. No fee was received.

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The Syrian people have been living in crisis for several years, and their situation continues to worsen. In recent weeks the overwhelming challenges facing refugees and internally displaced persons have been in the news with greater regularity, due in part to sorrowful stories of deaths while en route to seek sanctuary in Europe. Many countries that should be hosting people in need are, instead, tightening their borders.

We are meant to carry each other, to show compassion, to reach out with love to those in need. If you are looking for a way to contribute financial resources, I highly recommend reading about the work of Mercy Corps.

Many ordinary citizens are reaching out and trying to offer assistance, urging their governments to adopt humane and welcoming policies. This morning I read of the first refugees arriving not far from my home in southeastern Pennsylvania. In my area, Church World Service is one of the agencies coordinating welcome for Syrian families.

While watching this news unfold, I have been revisiting a beautiful book I reviewed on this blog, The Other Face of God: When the stranger calls us home. I am re-posting the review here in its entirety.

In The Other Face of God, Mary Jo Leddy shares stories of her life at Romero House, a home for people who are, for now, refugees seeking a new home. Her stories describe the lives of individuals with whom she has lived, and out of her experiences a theology of neighborliness and justice emerges. How does the stranger “calls us home”? In Leddy’s words, “Living in the shelter of each other, we begin to live in the neighborhood of God.” This is a powerful book, full of passion and deep faith. As I read, the prophet Micah’s words rang in my heart: “What does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?”

Through living in Romero House in Toronto for more than twenty years, Leddy has built relationships not only with those living in her house, but in the neighborhood. In building relationships with Romero House residents, Leddy has experienced the critical importance of respecting individual people, not treating people as a “cause” or an “issue.” Strangers can become neighbors when we learn to truly see one another. The distance between “us” and “them” disappears when people work alongside one another to plant a garden, to plan a party, to care for the needy in their midst.

Borders and boundaries between people do not need to be viewed as barriers. Rather, they can be meeting places. When we meet in a spirit of compassion, that meeting place can be full of the Holy Spirit. In Leddy’s view, a Christian should not try “to see Christ in the poor,” but to recognize that the spirit of Christ lives along the border—between you and I, between one and another, wherever compassion meets suffering.

Her narrative addresses the harsh and discouraging realities that people who are living without a country must face. The bureaucratic hurdles for those seeking residency and employment are many, and indifferent to individuality. I appreciated that Leddy drew upon Hannah Arendt‘s analysis of bureaucratic systems, and I think she did so in a way that would be very clear for readers without background in political philosophy. As a counter to the indifference of systems, people of faith are called to love our “enemies.” Leddy provides an insightful analysis of the ways that governments can turn “strangers” into “enemies” to further their political agendas.

Through her life and her writing, Leddy offers a powerful call for the works of mercy to be given “a place of privilege” in religious communities. Like the merciful Samaritan in Luke 10, we must help the stranger in need. We must be willing to truly see the face of a stranger, rather than a “problem,” and to allow compassion to emerge. We must remember that the parable ends with the command of Jesus that we “go and do likewise.”

Amidst the diversity of religious beliefs and places of origin, “perhaps there is only one distinction that matters: those who are learning to love their neighbors and those who remain indifferent to them.”

Mary Jo Leddy’s The Other Face of God: When the stranger calls us home was published by Orbis Books in 2011.

Disclaimer: This review is freely given. No fee was received.

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As the new church year approaches, with the first Sunday of Advent on November 30, many seek inspiring resources for the coming season. A recommended companion to the lectionary is A Maryknoll Liturgical Year: Reflections on the readings for Year B, published by Orbis Books. The stories from Maryknoll missioners draw upon a way of living in alignment with the teachings of Jesus. Missioners work among those who suffer material poverty and marginalization, learning to love each person as an equal, a potential teacher, and a beloved of God. With this book at hand, readers have many opportunities to remember the call to center our lives on service to others.

The stories remind us to be “open to truth appearing in unlikely places,” and a common theme is that people who are living in material poverty, in ongoing crisis, can open our eyes to the work of God in our midst. We are called to embody God’s love for others, and also to see God in each of our fellow humans.

The poverty and injustice in our world can be very discouraging, and it helps immensely to read witness from people who are working for positive change. Throughout this past year I have received spiritual refreshment and inspiration from Maryknoll’s book for year A, and I look forward to the daily reading of stories in this new volume. As the writer for the first Sunday of Advent asks, “As we pass through our own kind of unending Advent of widespread unemployment and unprecedented economic inequality, are we prepared to see hope and the Spirit’s truth in people and places where we have never looked before?”

Prepare your heart to receive the scripture in newness, and to have your faith refreshed by the testimonies of these Maryknoll missioners.

Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher. No fee was received.

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In a world full of broken relationships, religion must lead us toward healing. Religion can help to decrease pain and to bridge the divisions created by fear. Jesus of Nazareth is one of the principal guides we have for this healing process. Whether you view Jesus as a prophet, a gifted rabbi, or the one messiah, his teachings on love could bring about a positive revolution in our homes, in our communities, in our nations.

Author Jim Forest brings readers into a deeper understanding of the central teachings of Jesus in his latest book, Loving Our Enemies: Reflections on the hardest commandment. This is one of the most inspiring, practical, and urgently needed books that I have read.

In the Gospels, Jesus repeatedly teaches that love of God is inseparable from love of neighbor. We are called to break bread with one another, and to see each person we encounter as one of God’s precious creations. Jim Forest highlights the Gospel message and elaborates with historical examples of people who bravely lived the teachings of Jesus, setting aside fear and acting out of love.

Followers of Jesus should always remember that even while dying, Jesus prayed for forgiveness of his persecutors. For me, one of the most personally helpful sections of this book included reflections on the need to pray for our “enemies,” those who cause us anger, fear, or hurt. As Forest writes, “Even the smallest act of caring that prayer involves is a major step toward love, an act of participating in God’s love for that person.” Prayer for others can be where we start loving them, because prayer can change our own hearts.

I highly recommend Loving Our Enemies for individual reading, as well as for book discussion groups in religious communities.

Disclaimer: A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for review purposes. No fee was received.

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Sometimes the best way we can work for peace is to be a witness to another person’s journey. With Jesus was a Migrant, readers have an opportunity to bear witness, as author Deirdre Cornell gives comfort to the grieving and celebrates with the joyful. Deirdre Cornell has been accompanying migrant workers for many years, and I highly recommend her timely book.

By sharing stories of individuals with whom she has caring relationships, Deirdre Cornell provides open windows through which readers can glimpse the struggles of immigrants who have come to the U.S. from Mexico and Central America. These tender stories are rich faith narratives, and Deirdre Cornell draws wisdom from complementary stories in the Bible. From Abraham, who left his father’s land, to the infant Jesus carried by his parents to safety in Egypt, the Bible holds many migration stories.Perhaps most importantly, she highlights the biblical calls to welcome the stranger and to love one another.

In the U.S., the overwhelming majority of people are here because they or their ancestors migrated from elsewhere. Sharing her own family experience, Deirdre Cornell emphasizes the importance of remembering where we came from and why we left our homelands. These root stories can help develop empathy in those who have been in the U.S. for many generations. We also benefit from travel abroad, where we ourselves have the experience of being strangers and newcomers.

Why do people come to the U.S.? What are their lives like once they arrive? By compassionately sharing stories we might not otherwise hear, Deirdre Cornell awakens hearts with a fresh perspective. After reading Jesus was a Migrant, one cannot see immigration as just another issue that needs tackling. Rather, it is a topic that involves the precious lives of fellow human beings in need.

As people of faith, how should we respond to immigrants in our communities? What should we require of government policy makers? With a humanitarian crisis presently underway at the southern border, these questions become matters of life and death.

Matt 25 35With Jesus was a Migrant, Orbis Books once again gives readers a heart-challenging read that radiates with truth, written with a compassionate eye. I encourage you to read Jesus was a Migrant, perhaps with a book club or Sunday school class where you can share a lively discussion. I pray that your heart will be touched, and you might be inspired to act on behalf of migrants who are struggling to create a peaceful future.

Disclosure: A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for review purposes. No fee was received.

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Reading scripture with Maryknoll is an invitation to engage in the gospel call to peace and justice-making throughout the year. Readers hungry for an inspiring and practical peacemaking message will be glad for the efforts of editors Judy Coode and Kathy McNeely, who have produced an excellent resource, A Maryknoll Liturgical Year: Reflections on the readings for year A.

The Maryknoll Society consists of Catholic sisters, brothers, and lay missioners who feel called to live alongside the poor whom they serve. Through their work and their lifestyle, Maryknoll missioners seek to live out the call of Jesus to serve those in need. This collection of stories and reflections, each three to five pages in length, will be an inspiring guide to opening the scriptures. Each writer extends an invitation to delve into the week’s text (cited briefly at the beginning of the selection) and to make connections to the needs of the world.

One writer, based in Nicaragua, describes the celebration of the feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary. In the midst of poverty, Mary’s story brings great joy. The author asks, how do we respond to God’s call with whole-hearted surrender as Mary responded? Can we envision the joy as well as the struggles of our fellow humans, accompanying one another, at least in spirit?

In this book, we read the stories of community health workers in Brazil alongside the healing narratives of Jesus; stories of Abraham seeking a homeland, alongside the struggling pastoralists of Kenya; the parables of Jesus heard in a farming community of Peru. Amidst this diversity, our shared humanity shines clear, and the need to listen to one another becomes compelling.

For me, the entire book reads as a prayer for a heart open to God’s guidance, and for strength to follow teachings of love, even when—perhaps especially when—those teachings veer from the mainstream. May we see with our hearts that we all are made by the same one creator, that there is no god but God, that any idols that stand as walls between us must be removed.

The new church year begins with the first Sunday of Advent, December 1. I encourage you to obtain a copy of this book to bless your new year with inspiration.

Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher. No fee was received.

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