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NEWS: ON HEAVEN AND EARTH featured in 60 Minutes Special on Pope Francis

photo credit León Muicey

Rabbi Abraham Skorka, co-author with Pope Francis of the New York Times bestseller On Heaven and Earth, was interviewed in a 60 Minutes special titled “Francis” which aired on April 13, 2014.

Skorka, Rector of the Latin American Rabbinical Seminary in Buenos Aires, Argentina, was interviewed because of his longtime friendship with Pope Francis which began over an Argentinean soccer rivalry.

The friendship grew as the two religious leaders discovered common ground among their faiths over hours of dialogue on various theological and worldly topics which were recorded in the book On Heaven and Earth: Pope Francis on Faith, Family and the Church in the 21st Century (April 19, 2013).

“While studying the books of the Talmud, I found one that says that friendship means sharing meals and spending time together, but in the end it points out that the sign of a real friendship is the ability to reveal what is in one’s heart to the other person,” wrote Skorka in On Heaven and Earth. “That is what happened over time with the two of us,” he said, referring to the bond he forged with then Cardinal Bergoglio.

Originally published in Argentina in 2010, On Heaven and Earth is an encapsulation of what Skorka and then Cardinal Bergoglio believe on topics including God, fundamentalism, atheism, abortion, homosexuality, euthanasia, same-sex marriage, and globalization. It is available in English from Image Books, the Catholic-interest imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House LLC, a Penguin Random House Company.

On Dec. 2, 2014, Image Books will publish a special edition of Pope Francis’s popular Apostolic Exhortation The Joy of the Gospel (Evangelii Gaudium).  In The Joy of the Gospel, Pope Francis explores a number of themes that are important for Catholics around the world, including obstacles to faith and what can be done to overcome those hurdles, how to foster more faithful and effective communication with God, and how Jesus answers the yearnings many feel in their hearts and souls. The Image Books edition will include a foreword by Father Robert Barron (author of Catholicism), an afterword by bestselling author Scott Hahn, and an exclusive eight page study guide.

Founded in 1954 with the mandate of providing quality religious titles to readers at an affordable price, Image Books is the only imprint from any trade publisher that is exclusively dedicated to Catholic topics. It has a uniquely rich history of publishing leading and classic Catholic-interest authors such as Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, Father Robert Barron, Mother Angelica, Mother Teresa, John L. Allen, Jr., Mike Aquilina, Raymond Arroyo, Colleen Carroll Campbell, Bill Donohue, Scott Hahn, Ronald Rolheiser, Amy Welborn, and Christopher West.

 

Praise for On Heaven and Earth:

“Whether or not they agree with everything that is said, readers of all religious backgrounds will be impressed by the substance and frankness of these conversations between Cardinal Bergolio and Rabbi Skorka. They clearly enact the call of the Second Vatican Council for ‘fraternal dialogues’ between Catholics and Jews. This is how religious leaders should speak to one another: on the basis of sincere friendship and respect.  This book will also encourage anyone who wondered if a pope from a non-European country could be personally committed to the Catholic Church’s new relationship with Jews.”

Philip A. Cunningham, Ph.D., Professor of Theology and Director of the Institute for Jewish-Catholic Relations, Saint Joseph’s University, Philadelphia

 

“This remarkable book wonderfully demonstrates the warm and positive relationship Pope Francis has developed with Jews and Judaism. These honest and respectful exchanges between then-Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio and Argentinian Rabbi Abraham Skorka on a wide range of sensitive and complex topicsGod, religion, fundamentalism, politics, and the Holocaustis a model not only for Jews and Catholics but for all those seeking productive interfaith dialogue in helping to repair a broken world.”

 — Rabbi Eric J. Greenberg, Director, Department of Interfaith Affairs Anti-Defamation League

 

To request a review copy of On Heaven and Earth contact Katie Moore, publicist, at kamoore@randomhouse.com or (719) 268-1936


Essential Resources for John XXIII and JPII Canonizations

On April 27, 2014 – Divine Mercy Sunday – Popes John XXIII and John Paul II will be declared saints in a historic double canonization ceremony. It is speculated that over 1 million people will flock to St. Peter’s Square to witness this significant moment.

We’d like to invite you to learn more about these two devoted and world-changing men by reading the following books about them.

The End and the Beginning: Pope John Paul II – The Victory of Freedom, the Last Years, the Legacy

The End and the Beginning is the thought-provoking biography of John Paul II by internationally renowned author George Weigel. In it, Weigel recounts the tumultuous last years of John Paul’s life with a probing and passionate assessment of a man who lived his life as a witness to hope in service to the Christian ideals he embraced.

John L. Allen Jr., associate editor at The Boston Globe and author of The Global War on Christians called it “essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the man and the Church he led for a quarter-century.”

The book is the result of fifteen years of conversations with John Paul II himself and previously unrevealed communist secret police files. The author gained access to a number of secret Soviet-era police files which show how spies had infiltrated not only the Church in Poland during the Pope’s early years as a priest and Bishop, but the Vatican itself during John Paul II’s papacy.

“This book is the Rosetta Stone of John Paul II’s life and legacy,” said Carl A. Anderson, Supreme Knight and Chief Executive Officer of the Knights of Columbus. “Only George Weigel’s masterful combination of rare opportunities and rarer intuitive skill could do justice to John Paul II’s epic life that changed the world.  If you really want to know John Paul II and his legacy, The End and the Beginning is indispensable reading.”

About the Author
GEORGE WEIGEL, Distinguished Senior Fellow of Washington’s Ethics and Public Policy Center, is one of the world’s leading authorities on the Catholic Church. The Vatican analyst for NBC News, Weigel is the author of fifteen books, including the New York Times bestseller Witness to Hope: The Biography of Pope John Paul II. His work has been translated into more than a dozen languages.

 

Journal of a Soul: The Autobiography of Pope John XXIII

Journal of a Soul is an inspiring reading experience that records this pope’s thoughts and traces his spiritual development from adolescence to the seminary to a career as a priest, a European papal diplomat, Patriarch of Venice, and finally Pope John XXIII. 

This Image Books edition features a biographical portrait of Pope John by his personal secretary, Monsignor Loris Capovilla. It also includes several of his most moving prayers, sixty brief thoughts and aphorisms, his “Rules for the Ascetic Life,” many of his letters, even his last will and testament.

The New York Times Book Review called it “indispensable for those who would understand the mind which originated the updating of the Roman Catholic Church.”

About the Author
POPE JOHN XXIII (1881-1963) is celebrated for convening the Second Vatican Council, commonly regarded as the most important event in religious history since the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century.

 

Journalists wishing to request review copies should contact Katie Moore, publicist, at kamoore@randomhouse.com or 719-268-1936.

 


NEWS: CATHOLICISM Virtual Book Tour, March 31 – April 9, 2014

We’re pleased to announce the launch of a virtual book tour to celebrate the paperback release of Catholicism by Fr. Robert Barron. Each day from March 31 to April 9, one of 10 participating bloggers will post a reflection on a chapter from Catholicism and what it means to him/her. A BIG “thank you” to all of the incredible bloggers who will be hosting stops on the tour. Please support them by visiting their sites and reading their reflections.

March 31 – Chapter 1: Stuart’s Study
April 1 – Chapter 2: Seasons of Grace
April 2 – Chapter 3: A Good Measure
April 3 – Chapter 4: Snoring Scholar
April 4 – Chapter 5: The Catholic Book Blogger
April 5 – Chapter 6: Prints of Grace
April 6 – Chapter 7: Catholic Bibles
April 7 – Chapter 8: Team Whitaker
April 8 – Chapter 9: Single Catholic Girl
April 9 – Chapter 10: The Curt Jester

 

And don’t forget about the Catholicism Sweepstakes…

 

How would you like to go to Mass at Sacre Coeur Basilica in Paris, explore the home of St. Therese of Lisieux, and attend a Papal Audience at St. Peter’s Basilica? One lucky winner and their guest will have the chance to do all this and more with Catholicism Sweepstakes sponsored by Image Books and Word on Fire.

Fr. Robert Barron’s book Catholicism has sold over 100,000 copies and has deepened the faith of Catholics around the world. To celebrate, Image Books and Word on Fire are partnering to send two people on the trip of a lifetime.

One winner and a guest will travel to Rome and Paris with 206 Tours to view firsthand some of the marvelous places explored in the book.

The sweepstakes runs from March 11 to May 2, 2014 and is open to legal residents of the contiguous United States, including the District of Columbia (excluding Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico), who are the age of 18 or older at time of entry.

Twenty-five (25) runners-up will each receive a copy of Father Robert Barron’s DVD box set, Catholicism (valued at $99.00).

Official sweepstakes rules can be found here. To view package specifics, visit the 206 Tours website.

To enter the Catholicism Sweepstakes, visit: http://www.imagecatholicbooks.com/catholicism-sweepstakes/

 


INTERVIEW: Fr. Ronald Rolheiser talks about his new release SACRED FIRE


 

 

 

 

 

 

Sacred Fire is the sequel to your best-selling contemporary classic, The Holy Longing, which was published 15 years ago. Did you always intend to write a sequel? Why now?

Yes, I always intended a sequel to the Holy Longing:

i) The last chapter of the HOLY LONGING suggests that a spirituality should follow from the principles of THE HOLY LONGING and, in caption, gives some of that spirituality. SACRED FIRE tries to lay out that spirituality in some detail and, importantly too, show where it fits into the overall paradigm of the spiritual life.

ii) Why now? I needed time to research, teach, and mature the ideas for a SACRED FIRE. As well, given that I have a full time, and very time-demanding job, I needed to have some Sabbatical time within which to write SACRED FIRE. I got that time in 2012-2013 and, hence, SACRED FIRE. That’s its origins and its timing.

 

In Sacred Fire, you talk about three stages of discipleship — essential, mature, and radical. How does one identify his/her current stage of discipleship and what are some of the challenges of moving from one stage to the next?

1. In terms of identifying one’s own current stage in the journey, there are real dangers in self-diagnosis. One is best to do this with the help of a spiritual mentor. However, that being said, the movement between “essential” and “mature” is somewhat easier to determine, i.e., basically it is a question of “Am I living for others or am I living for myself?” Or, in another criterion: Is my biggest concern: “How will this turn out for me?” Or, “How can I be helpful here?”

2. What are the challenges in moving from one state to the next?

i) In moving from “essential” to “mature” the major challenge is to awake from the long sleep of adolescence, namely, to channel our energies (all of them, not least our sexuality) in a way that they are life-giving for others (and of course too for ourselves). But this is hard in our culture because so much within our culture invites us and tempts us never to grow up, to always be the adolescent.

ii) In moving from “mature” to “radical” the challenge is to “let go”, to let go of virtually everything we have accumulated in our lives so that when we finally have to die we can die without clinging, without bitterness, without anger, and without despair. As the last chapter of SACRED FIRE suggests, we have to be willing to make our death our final act of giving. But, of course, this is very, very difficult, everything within our natural instincts resists. Life wants always to preserve itself. Nobody, unless he or she is clinically depressed, wants to die. This earth, for all its shortcomings, is the only life we know.

 

The primary focus of Sacred Fire is on the second stage, mature discipleship, which coincides with the struggle to give our lives away. What do you think is the most challenging aspect of mature discipleship? What is the most rewarding?

1. What is most challenging? Accepting and living out the fact that our lives are not our own, but that we belong to community and to a reality larger than ourselves. This is what older cultures used to try to teach in their initiation rites. Since, in our culture, we do not really have any deep, meaningful initiation rites (to turn a girl into a woman and a boy into a man) we end up, mostly, having to “self-initiate” and that can take a long time and have a lot of painful false starts, false turns, and setbacks. Sometimes too we simply don’t make it. The thousands of young people who die every year from drugs and senseless accidents are mostly young people trying to “self-initiate”. Within “mature” discipleship itself one of the biggest challenges is simply to sustain enthusiasm and energy through the many years of giving. John of the Cross, for example, said that during out “mature” years the biggest challenge in sustaining our prayer lives is flat-out boredom. It is not easy to sustain good will, energy, and selflessness for 60-70 years.

2. What is most rewarding? Mature living is its own reward! Living for others brings us joys that dwarf the pleasures of our adolescent years. Just ask a young mother how the joy of being a mother rates in relationship to the partying she did in adolescent years. Goodness brings its own reward. It’s like some of those ads inviting us to keep slim that say: “Nothing feels as good as being this healthy!” Well, nothing feels as good as being unselfish and giving life for others.

 

In Sacred Fire, you write, “God does not meet us in the abstract but in our real lives.” What can we do to ensure that we are ready to accept God’s invitations to us in our daily lives?

All we can do is to live honestly – and our honesty will leave us open, as open as a loving womb waiting to receive God’s seed.

 

What do you hope readers get out of this book?

I nurse a double hope here:

1. That readers will sense in this book a “palatable” invitation to move from being good people to being greater people.

2. That SACRED FIRE, in the places where it talks about the stages of the spiritual journey, will give readers a structure within which to see and understand the stages of both the human and the spiritual journey.

 

Your book The Holy Longing has more than a quarter of a million copies in print. On March 11, 2014 it became available for the first time in paperback. What is it about The Holy Longing that gives it such timeless appeal? What do you hope new readers will take away from it?

I wrote HOLY LONGING in response to an invitation from the then Religious Editor at Image Books, Eric Major. He asked me to write a book that … in his words … He could give to his own adult-children and friends to explain to them why he still believed in God and Jesus and why he still went to church – and that he could read himself on days when he wasn’t sure why. So the intent of HOLY LONGING was quite fundamental, basic, i.e., to give a contemporary apologetics of sorts. Eric Major’s hunch was right. The book found a huge market, not just among Roman Catholics, but within every kind of Christian church. There is a hunger, almost universal, today for this kind of book which speaks about God, Christ, faith, and the spiritual journey in a language that is faithful to the tradition but is not the normal, overt church language. Among other things, too, HOLY LONGING has become popular textbook for undergraduate theology classes in many schools and universities.

 

The Holy Longing is used extensively in RCIA and Faith Formation programs around the country; do you think Sacred Fire could also be used in this capacity?

Yes, that is my hope. It will take people to the next step beyond the fundamentals, but it still builds upon the fundamentals. It is the first “graduate” course after HOLY LONGING (which might be entitled, SPIRITUALITY 101).

 

To request a review copy or to schedule an interview with Ronald Rolheiser, please contact Katie Moore, publicist, kamoore@randomhouse.com, 719-268-1936.

 


INTERVIEW: Dr. Brant Pitre Discusses Jesus the Bridegroom

 

What inspired you to write Jesus the Bridegroom?

 

Several years ago, I gave a lecture on “The Bridegroom Messiah,” in which I briefly traced the story of the Bible from the first wedding in Genesis to the final wedding between Christ and the Church at the end of time. At the center stood the crucifixion of Jesus as his ‘wedding day’. The response to the lecture was phenomenal. It really seemed to touch something deep in the audience, by helping them see the passion of Jesus—and the history of the world—differently. I realized I was onto something, and began learning as much as I could about ancient Jewish wedding customs and the biblical prophecies of the Bridegroom God coming to wed his people. As I dove in, dozens of passages in the Bible—the Exodus, the Song of Songs, the Wedding at Cana, the Last Supper, the Crucifixion, the End of Time—suddenly sprang to life and were filled with new meaning for me as chapters in a divine love story between Creator and creature, between God and Israel, between Christ and the Church.

 

As a biblical scholar, your focus has been on Jesus and the Jewish roots of Christianity. Can you share with us a little bit of your background and how you came to focus on this particular area of Biblical study?

 

Although I grew up a cradle Catholic, during my graduate years, I studied under several Jewish professors who really encouraged me to immerse myself in the Old Testament and to become familiar with the practices and beliefs of first-century Judaism. Almost immediately, I began to notice striking parallels between the Old Testament and the New, between ancient Judaism and Catholicism. When I myself started teaching, I found that when I shared these parallels with students, their eyes would light up as they began to understand that the New Testament is concealed in the Old, and the Old is revealed in the New. And that it’s all part of a divine plan that’s been there from the very beginning.

 

This book begins with the apostle Paul’s teaching that Christ is the “Bridegroom” and the Church is the “Bride.” How could a first-century Jew like Paul, who knew how brutal Roman crucifixions were, have ever compared it to a wedding?

 

Because Paul knew that the history of salvation in the Old Testament isn’t just a history of priests, prophets, and kings. Paul knew that it is also the story of the Bridegroom God of Israel, who will stop at nothing to save his holy people from sin and unite them to himself in an everlasting marriage covenant. So many of us today think of God primarily as a ‘higher power’, or an invisible problem-solver, or even just as the creator and judge. But for Paul, the God Yahweh was a person.  As a former rabbi, Saint Paul also would have known that at an ancient Jewish wedding, the bridegroom would celebrate a wedding banquet and be dressed like a king and priest. And that is exactly what happens in the passion of Jesus. He celebrates a wedding banquet with his disciples at the Last Supper; he is crowned with the crown of thorns; clothed in the seamless garment of a priest; and led to the cross where he will offer his life for his bride. And when Paul realized this, it transformed the way he saw all of reality, and the way he saw the Cross.

 

In the book, you write that “the key to unlocking the deeper meaning of many of these familiar passages in the Gospels can be found by trying to understand them in their original, first-century Jewish context.” Can you offer a few suggestions for how readers can do this?

 

The trick is to read the New Testament in light of the Old Testament, as well as ancient Jewish tradition. For example, when Jesus provides the wine for the wedding at Cana, he’s not just performing a miracle, he’s revealing his identity as the Bridegroom Messiah. In Jewish tradition, the Messiah would provide the miraculous wine of the wedding banquet of God (Isaiah 25). Likewise, when Jesus identifies the wine of the Last Supper with the blood of the “new covenant,” he’s alluding to the prophet Jeremiah, who speaks about a new marriage covenant between God and the twelve tribes of Israel (Jeremiah 30). In other words, the Last Supper is not just a meal, but a wedding banquet. Finally, when Jesus speaks to the Samaritan Woman at the well about the “living water” he wishes to give her (John 4), he’s alluding to the living water that was used for the ritual washing of a Jewish bride before her wedding. In other words, the living water Jesus wants to give is that which will flow from his side on the Cross and wash his bride clean from sin. In short, whenever you find something strange or mysterious in the New Testament, the key to unlocking its meaning is almost always in the Old Testament.

 

In chapter 4 you make an interesting observation about the crucifixion of Christ saying, “…because the crucifixion of Jesus is so familiar, it can also be easy to forget or to underestimate just how horrific this manner of execution really was.”  What can we do to ensure that we don’t get complacent when it comes to our view of Christ’s passion and how can we remind ourselves of the enormity of Christ’s sacrifice for us on the cross?

 

The first thing to do is read the chapter on what crucifixion was really like in the first century.  I made sure to get first-hand testimony from ancient Roman and Jewish writers, in order to try and ‘go back in time’ and see what actually happened to Jesus. The second thing to remember is that it is not just how much Jesus suffered on the cross; even more important is how much he loved. And when we see Jesus not just as Teacher, Prophet, or King, but also as the Bridegroom Messiah, then this love becomes something personal. As Saint Paul put it: “the Son of God… loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

 

You write about how understanding the passion of Christ through the lens of the Bridegroom Messiah can help us understand other aspects of our faith such as baptism, the Lord’s Supper and marriage to name a few. Is there one aspect of your faith that has been especially deepened by viewing Christ’s passion in this way?

 

Personally speaking, I was most deeply impacted by the section on marriage and the “great mystery” of Christ’s love for the Church (Ephesians 5). Paul describes Christian marriage as a kind of ‘living icon’ of the love between Christ and the Church. Now, if Jesus is the Bridegroom and the Church is the Bride, then this means that Christian couples have a very high standard for the sacrificial love they should show one another! I find this an incredible challenge to live out the mystery of marriage and an amazing consolation to understand the sacrament of marriage as a foretaste of the joy of the eternal Wedding at the end of time.

 

What do you hope readers will take away from Jesus the Bridegroom?

 

I hope that people will see Jesus of Nazareth—and the whole history of the world—differently. For if Jesus really is the Bridegroom God made flesh, then he didn’t just come to save humanity from sin and hell. He came and died on the cross in order to unite us to himself forever in a personal relationship of love. And this relationship between Christ and the Church is so intimate, so permanent, so sacrificial and so life-giving that it can only be de described as a marriage—the eternal “Marriage of the Lamb” (Revelation 19). Indeed, it is the marriage, the only one that will truly last forever.

 

To request a review copy or to schedule an interview with Brant Pitre, please contact Katie Moore, publicist, kamoore@randomhouse.com, 719-268-1936.

 



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