A Living Gospel

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“Robert Ellsberg has written perhaps the most essential illuminant for these darkening times. This is an indelible meditation on living, breathing holiness. . . . Ellsberg has more than met his hope of making saintliness a participatory endeavor, one open to any and all.”Barbara Mahany, Chicago Tribune

“The Holy Spirit writes no more Gospels except in our hearts. . .  . We, if we are holy, are the paper; our sufferings and our actions are the ink. The workings of the Holy Spirit are his pen, and with it he writes a living gospel.”—Jean Pierre de Caussade, SJ, 18th century

In a number of award-winning books, Robert Ellsberg has reflected on the lives of saints, prophets, and spiritual masters, drawing particular attention to models of holiness that speak to the needs of our time. The message of such figures, as he shows in this new book, is found not only in their writings but in the “text” they wrote with their lives.

Among the particular figures he examines are Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton, Henri Nouwen, and Flannery O’Connor. He especially holds up the example of holy women, who charted their own path, and those who exemplify a “holiness of the everyday.” In learning how to read the “living gospel” in their stories, he shows how we may learn to read our own lives in the same light.

Robert Ellsberg, Publisher of Orbis Books, is the author of many award-winning books, including All Saints, The Saints’ Guide to Happiness,  and Blessed Among Us (based on his daily reflections for Give Us This Day). He has edited the diaries and letters of Dorothy Day, as well as anthologies by Flannery O’Connor, Gandhi, and Pope Francis.

Book Details

A Living Gospel
Reading God’s Story in Holy Lives
Robert Ellsberg

A Living Gospel Table of Contents (978-1-62698-325-0_toc.pdf, 45 Kb) [Download]

This compact volume is a wonderful read whether you are familiar with Robert Ellsberg’s earlier work or merely curious about saints. . . . From his examples we should draw hope for our own modest efforts at holiness, and we could have no better guide than Ellsberg’s new book.
Perhaps the most essential illuminant for these darkening times.
In this beautiful book, Robert Ellsberg shares the gift of the saints—not unreachable, perfect people, floating in prayer, but real human beings who lived close to the ground, who sought to follow Jesus despite their own flaws, their crappy moods, their moments of doubt and disbelief; in other words, people like us. Robert’s own life has been shaped by his encounters with such figures. Isn’t that the way it is for all of us? We come to know Jesus through those who love him. And through their witness we find the courage to take one step, and then another, along his path of discipleship.
Robert Ellsberg’s "A Living Gospel" is the most meaningful work of hagiography I have ever read. He doesn’t just describe saints; he takes us into their spirit and their spirituality. This book will stretch your ideas of what it means to be holy in this day and age.
Drawing on a lifetime of reflection on saints and holy lives (including those he has known), Robert Ellsberg calls our attention to the deepest function of such stories: to help us recognize the patterns of grace in our own lives, and to respond more faithfully to our own call to holiness.
This book is a thoughtful account of what makes a truly faithful life, reminding us that God is always at work within each one of us. Ellsberg describes the process of holiness, that gradual movement into alignment with God’s will, with incredible perception and wisdom. The examples of lives well lived (including Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton, and Henri Nouwen), along with his depiction of grace, humility, and justice are challenging, meaningful, and life-giving.
A tremendous and compulsively readable book. One of the best books on the saints I've ever read.
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