The Church of Mercy – A book by Pope Francis – UPDATED

We have a winner. Chris Grace will receive a copy of The Church of Mercy. Thank you all for reading and participating.

church-of-mercy-bookcover“Let us ask ourselves today: are we open to God’s surprises”? Pope Francis, The Church of Mercy

Pope Francis’ name seems to be on the lips of many people. There are so many Catholics who are invigorated by his words and way of life. One of the things that is most surprising is the number of non-Catholic friends who bring him up, and generally with great regard. As I have said in other posts, he has not changed on iota, not one element of doctrine, but he has changed the way that people see the Church, and how people see the papacy.

The Church of Mercy, A Vision for the Church, by Pope Francis (Loyola Press, $16.95, 150pp.) brings together homilies, papers, and audiences from our beloved “Bishop of Rome.” This treasure trove of communiques from the first year of his papacy offers readers a chance to truly spend time with Francis’ as he presses Continue reading

Jesus, A Pilgrimage – We Have A Winner!

970992_10152306293894233_290989403_nCongratulations to Ellen Rowe, whose name was drawn from the many names of those who submitted a comment to my review of Jesus, A Pilgrimage, by James Martin, SJ. Thank you for reading the post and entering, one and all. Many of you came to the blog through the posts and tweets by James Martin and America magazine, please keep coming back! All are welcome here, and I do run frequent book reviews and giveaways. That is to the joy of some and the dismay of others! (I am not renumerated for these reviews, in the majority of cases, I initiate the process.)

PrintA book review of Dan Horan OFM’s latest book, The Last Words of Jesus, A Meditation on Love and Suffering (Franciscan Media) will run on Tuesday, April 8, and a copy of that book will also be given away. Please read and comment on that post to win a copy! I like to say that I knew Dan Horan before he was Dan Horan, because we met before his blog Dating God became a hit, and before he was a widely published author. He had not yet become ordained as a priest at that time either. He’s a great guy and a wise scholar and author at a young age. If you don’t know him, you will want to, so please stay tuned.

You can learn a little more about Dan and his book in this video:

Jesus, A Pilgrimage – Book Review and Giveaway

970992_10152306293894233_290989403_n In November 2004, I had a chance to visit Israel, a place that I had longed to see. At the time, the  Second Intifada was in full swing, the Carmel market in Tel Aviv had been hit with by a suicide bomb two weeks before I was to go, and Yasser Arafat died two days my prior to my arrival.  It was an uncertain time, but I was not afraid. It turned out to be the trip of a lifetime, and one that truly impacted my faith. Before going, I read so many books about the Holy Land and about faith, although no book at that time could have prepared me for my journey.

In his new book, Jesus, A Pilgrimage, (Harper Collins, 510 pp, $27.95) Jesuit priest, author, and commentator, James Martin SJ writes about his own journey to Israel, his life of faith, and about Jesus. My initial reaction? Where was this book when I went on my pilgrimage?

Whether you are about to go to Israel or not, this book is a journey of mind, body, and spirit. With his deft writing skills well honed from years of working his craft, Fr. Martin leads us on a pilgrimage like no other. Weaving stories and anecdotes from his own recent visit to Israel, along with a remarkable breadth and depth of scriptural reflections and insights, he takes us on a journey to know Jesus.

It is the rare gift that someone can take scholarly material and make it accessible and easy to understand, without dumbing it down. Fr. Martin possesses this gift in abundance!  Whether examining scripture,  historical context, or a spiritual kernel of wisdom, the author takes us higher and deeper at the same time,  satisfying the intellect and the heart at once. He cleverly uses anecdotes from his own travel experiences and often in humorous ways, to illustrate a point, and Martin’s scholarly references provide a solid foundation for the conversation.

Whether or not you have ever been – or ever want to go to the Holy Land is not important. If you have an interest in Jesus, from any perspective, this book has something to offer you. For those of us who follow Jesus, we will find an invitation to deepen that knowledge through not only what we read, but because of the ways that this book invites one into prayer and reflection.

Smart, funny, inviting, engaging, wise, and deep, Jesus by James Martin is a pilgrimage like no other. You don’t have to leave your chair, but you must open your mind and heart, your transformation is optional, but it would be hard to imagine reading this book, and not being transformed in some way.

Jesus, A Pilgrimage. The journey awaits you- are you ready?

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Would you like to win a copy of this book? Here’s how… Please leave a comment on the blog; it needs to be a full sentence, not just a word. This post will appear on multiple blog platforms, but there is only one drawing. Multiple comments does not mean multiple entries. Deadline for leaving comments that will be entered into a random drawing is Friday, April 4, 2014, 11:59pm. Winner will be informed via email no later than Monday, April 7, 2014.

Not By Bread Alone – Plus A Retreat Offer – Lenten Resource Review and Giveaway

ResizeImageHandlerThis blog, as you know, is called “There Will Be Bread.” The title came to me through some prayer and meditation about Eucharistic living and the importance of God encountered in real form as we gather at the table. In this way, I am aware that “bread” is not “bread” alone. And we do not live by bread alone, but by the bread that is Christ.

That is why I love the title of this next little Lenten offering, Daily Reflections for Lent, Not By Bread Alone, by Robert F. Morneau, published by Liturgical Press. It is a true gem! If I am honest, I will tell you that I look forward to each year’s version of this small book. This year’s edition does not disappoint. None of this is a surprise considering the nature of content that comes from this august publisher.

The format is simple. Each day is marked by a line from Scripture and followed by a brief reflection. Bishop Morneau is an excellent writer, which one must be to convey so much in but a few words and images. His voice is gentle and wise. East reflection is followed by a couple of thoughts to prompt meditation, and then by a closing prayer.

It is with regret that I tell you that the paper copy of this book is already sold out! That said, a copy does await today’s winner. If you want to purchase an eBook version, please purchase at Liturgical Press. A large print edition is also available by clicking here.

Your comment on the blog counts as your entry. This will be a great book to win considering that you can’t buy it any longer!

13292458-empty-wooden-fruit-or-bread-basket-on-white-backgroundIn addition to reviewing this Lenten book resource, I also wanted to say a few words about an upcoming online retreat for the season. Desert Journey and Daily Bread: Food and Fasting in Lent is being offered by theologian, author, and spiritual director, Jane Redmont. This topic is very timely of course, and I was reminded of the connection of not living by bread alone.

This seven week online journey is a call to, in Jane’s words, “simplicity, mindfulness, and holiness.” Each week of this ecumenical journey will offer a different theme, via short readings, spiritual exercises, prayers, images, and explorations of the broader context of the Lenten journey. The retreat runs from March 5 to April 20, and gives one the opportunity to commit to a Lenten practice. The retreat is fully online, and need only be as interactive as the user wishes. There are more details at the link.

Jane+at+ferry+terminal+July+25+2011+croppedA skilled retreat leader and facilitator who brings a contemplative focus to all of her work, Jane has extensive experience offering online retreats. The retreat cost is $150 and there may be options for a sliding scale payment or scholarship. Contact Jane via her website for information. In full disclosure, I am very pleased that I myself have decided to join in on this Lenten retreat.

Jane is offering a special price reduction for Food and Fasting to readers of this blog. The cost is $150, but there is an early bird price in place this week for $120. If you register by Sunday, use code 1105 for a reduced price of $105. If you register from Monday on, the price goes back to $150, but the reduced offering will be $135. Please use code 2135 for that! Thank you Jane, for offering these price breaks. This makes a great value an even greater one!

Hope to have many of you join us on this unique Lenten journey. If you have questions about an online retreat, ask Jane by writing to readwithredmont at earthlink dot net.

Remember leave a comment to win a book, and go to Jane Redmont’s website to register for this retreat. (She is also offering a Merton retreat, read more about that at that link.)

Thanks for reading and commenting, all are welcome! Please fee free to share these opportunities and offers with others.

The Meredith Gould on Church Social Media (and book giveaway!)

meredith-gouldRecently I had the chance to interview Meredith Gould, author of numerous books, the most recent being, The Social Media Gospel: Sharing the Good News in New Ways. I wanted to talk to Meredith about #chsocm, or church social media, and she had some tremendous insights and advice to offer. The woman that I refer to as “the apostle of the internet” has been living at the intersection of faith, communications and technology, long before social media was social media, tireless in her faith. And she always has something to say, generously sharing her gifts and experience with all! (If you don’t believe me, visit her website, or follow Meredith on Twitter.)

Do you want to win a book? Anyone who leaves a comment on any of the blogs where this interview is posted will be entered in a drawing to win a copy of The Social Media Gospel. Rules can be found at the end of the post.

Now for questions – and answers – about the practical and pastoral dimensions of the mission field of @chsocm from Meredith’s point of view.

As a social media minister, I’m often told by others that they “don’t have the time” for social media. The implication seems to be that #chsocm is something for lazy people with nothing better to do. What would you say to this?

After heaving a deep sigh and looking toward heaven, I’d explore this naysayer’s knowledge of what social media is and why it works well for community-building among people of faith.

I’m pretty sure I’d quickly discover that the naysayer doesn’t realize social media is called “social” media because it facilitates conversations that can lead to quality relationships that in turn lead to community.

Probing a bit further, I’d probably discover that the naysayer does not, in fact, understand the amount of commitment and effort it takes to build communities IRL (in real life). And I’d probably also discover that the naysayer is clueless about tools for easily maintaining a credible online presence to build community.

Depending on my mood, I might ask questions like, “How much time do you think it takes to develop any ministry and then get people actively involved?” Next, I’d ask, “If you had a tool that could speed up that process, why wouldn’t you want to learn how to use it?” I might also ask, “What’s really doing on? What worries you about social media?”

If I were completely fed-up with the naysayer’s resistance, negativity, and lack of coachability, I might ask, “Are you always so uncharitable toward people who are developing new ways to preach, teach, and live the Gospel?”

Nah, I wouldn’t say that.

I’d say, “Don’t want to use social media? Then, don’t but please don’t prevent others from sharing the Gospel with these tools.”

Many of us who are active in social media ministry see this as an offering of hospitality. How can worship communities use social media as a way of welcome? OK, that is a big question… let me rephrase it by asking, what are the top 2 or 3 best practices of social media hospitality?

Great question! I’m going to mention three best practices because I love the number three, for reasons that should be obvious!

1) For your church website and e-newsletter: Don’t just post social media icons/buttons. Include “teaser copy” that’s a call to action like, “continue the conversation at:” or “build community at:” or “join us in between Sundays at:” And please don’t bury information about these ways to connect in your website or e-newsletter footer.

2) When setting up social media platforms: Make sure that images, color palette, font, description and other forms of “branding” is consistent across platforms. While this might seem like a picky technical issue, this level of coherence conveys stability, integrity, and clarity. More hospitable!

3) While using social media platforms: Be inviting and gracious to newcomers; generous with regular visitors. Know when to use email or pick up the phone to reach out when online communication is devolving in clarity or tone.

Many parishes or dioceses fear social media because they see a potential for something nefarious, worrying that it might compromise safety, especially for the young. What are some assurances against this, as you see it?

We’re now experienced enough with digital to understand the vital importance of privacy and protection, especially for youth and other vulnerable populations. Every social media platform offers rigorous ways to lock down accounts for more privacy. Unfortunately, people don’t seem to be getting help or taking time to learn how to set up privacy functions.

In addition, I encourage churches at the local and diocesan levels to either create or adapt existing guidelines for social media use. I include a detailed appendix about this (Appendix B: Yes You Need a Social Media Policy) in The Social Media Gospel as well as examples. Trust me, adapting an existing policy (even from churches in other denominations) is way more efficient than making one up from scratch.

Bigger issue that’s too big to get into here: “privacy” vs. “secrecy.” Church has gotten into a whole lot of avoidable trouble and scandal by confusing “privacy” with “secrecy.” I discuss this in more detail in my earlier book about church communications ministry, The Word Made Fresh: Communicating Church and Faith Today.

Along those lines, how do you counter the old trope that says social media is really for “young people”?

I’d reach for high quality dark chocolate and let that flow into my system before suggesting a visit to the Pew Internet & American Life Project. Data collected by the Pew Research Center puts that erroneous assumption to rest. Lately, when anyone asks how to find something online, I send them to this link.

Contest rules: Anyone who enters a comment on any of the blogs where this post appears will be entered into a drawing. The deadline for comments is Friday, July 26, 2013 at 8pm Eastern Time. The winner will be contacted for address and shipping information.   The winner will be contacted for address and shipping information.