A monthly letter from Orbis Books Publisher, Robert Ellsberg

Robert EllsbergLately I have been reflecting on the challenge set forth by the French writer, Albert Camus, in a speech he delivered at a Dominican monastery after World War II. Camus was a famous unbeliever, and yet he never despaired of finding common cause with believers in the struggle against evil, cruelty, and injustice. “What the world expects of Christians,” he wrote, “is that Christians should speak out, loud and clear, and that they should voice their condemnation [of evil] in such a way that never a doubt could rise in the heart of the simplest person....”

Such women and men, who “spoke up clearly and paid up personally” as Camus put it, are not difficult to name. A great compilation of their stories, from St. Francis and Sojourner Truth to Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Oscar Romero, and Dorothy Day appears in Cloud of Witnesses, edited by Jim Wallis and Joyce Hollyday. Another Orbis classic, Peace is the Way, edited by Walter Wink, collects writings by great apostles of nonviolence, from A.J. Muste and Mahatma Gandhi, to Daniel Berrigan and Cesar Chavez. Modern Spiritual Masters presents the writings of twelve great spiritual writers, including Henri Nouwen, Thomas Merton, and Mother Teresa, who showed the connection between “contemplation and compassion” so essential to Christian disciples today.

Besides these classics, we have just published three new Orbis books offering spiritual resources for a time of fear and division. Ruben L. F. Habito, a former Jesuit who studied Zen Buddhism in Japan, has written Be Still and Know: Zen & the Bible. Offering Zen reflections on familiar biblical texts, Habito outlines a path to compassionate awareness that is strikingly relevant to our times: “A genuinely spiritual person is not one who seeks an escape from the realities of everyday life, but rather one who is able to see these realities with new eyes, with an open heart and mind.”

In The Transformed Heart: Spirituality, Religion, and the Struggle for Integrity, Tom Zanzig draws on his personal experience, his study of the mystics, and his forty years of work in professional ministry, to share what he has learned about the spiritual path: that it is a life-long process of transformation, in which our understandings of God, ourselves, and the meaning of life are constantly dying to give birth to something deeper.

Finally, in the latest in the series edited by Ilia Delio, The Source of All Love: Catholicity and the Trinity, Heidi Russell shows us connections between the classical doctrine of the Trinity and the insights of quantum physics and the new cosmology to reveal the tendency toward wholeness and Love that lies at the heart of all reality. In this light, the Trinity is not simply a doctrine to be believed, but a way of seeing that overcomes all division, alienation, and violence.

All these books remind us that there is a power stronger than hatred, a truth that overcomes lies, a source of light that surpasses all darkness. May we find the courage and grace to speak out clearly for the values that matter.


Robert Ellsberg

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