A monthly letter from Orbis Books Publisher, Robert Ellsberg

Robert EllsbergSome years ago, artist Robert Lentz produced an icon entitled “The Christ of Maryknoll.” In this icon Jesus, with his wounded hands, is seen peering through a barbed-wire fence—a reminder of his identification with all who are excluded and marginalized. For those who aspire to follow Christ’s way, it is a striking reminder of where we are to find him in our world.

This icon has appeared in posters and book covers, including Deidre Cornell’s book Jesus Was a Migrant. Title and image both offer a mute reply to the contentious rhetoric and executive orders that brand undocumented immigrants and refugees as terrorists and criminals. Another title that speaks for itself is Our God Is Undocumented: Biblical Faith and Immigrant Justice by Ched Myers and Matthew Colwell. A third book, Miguel De La Torre’s Trails of Hope and Terror: Testimonies on Immigration, shatters many of the myths and stereotypes about those labeled as “illegals.”

All of these books were published in recent years, but they are among the many backlist titles that have found a new and desperate relevance today.

Now, for our newest titles:

James Martin, a Jesuit priest and author of many bestselling books, has emerged as one of the most popular Catholic authors in this country. We are delighted to publish an anthology of his work in our Modern Spiritual Masters Series. Skillfully edited by Orbis editor James T. Keane, James Martin: Essential Writings offers an overview of Martin’s significant themes—particularly his trademark application of Ignatian spirituality to contemporary life. Some may quibble that Fr. Martin is too young (or witty, or irreverent, or honest about his own doubts and struggles) to be a “spiritual master.” Let those who read this book, and find here practical inspiration about how to live a more faithful, joyful, and discerning life, decide for themselves.

Peter Phan, who came to America as a refugee from Vietnam and went on to become one of the most distinguished Catholic theologians in the world, has written The Joy of Religious Pluralism: A Personal Journey. The background of this book was a notification from the Vatican, more than twenty years ago, that identified “errors and ambiguities” in his work on interreligious dialogue. After all this time, he has chosen to respond—not so much defending his own work but offering a spirited affirmation of the methods of Asian Theology. On the subject of religious pluralism, he shows how this is a source not simply of challenge to Christian self-understanding and mission, but a potential source of “joy” for us who live in a world of many faiths.

Peace and blessings,

Robert Ellsberg

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