Publisher's Letter - April 2018

Robert Ellsberg

In his Palm Sunday sermon for World Youth Day, Pope Francis addressed the joy that Jesus awakens in young people, “a source of anger and irritation to some, since a joyful young person is hard to manipulate!” The power of his homily was amplified by the fact that it came one day after the “March For Our Lives,” the massive protest by young people in the U.S. and around the world against the pandemic of gun violence and the inaction of political leaders beyond “thoughts and prayers.” Not everyone welcomed these protests. But it was hard to miss the Pope’s meaning when he concluded: “Dear young people, you have it in you to shout . . . . Even if others keep quiet, if we older people and leaders – so often corrupt – keep quiet, if the whole world keeps quiet and loses its joy, I ask you: Will you cry out? Please, make that choice, before the stones themselves cry out.”

That message rings out throughout our new collection of Pope Francis’s words to young people around the world: The Courage to be Happy. From his early trip to Rio in 2013, to his preparations for this October’s Synod on Youth, it is clear that young people elicit a special tenderness and love from Pope Francis. Yet his encouragement “to dream of great things” comes with a challenge: “Don’t retire early,” he says. “Go against the current; and this means making noise.”

A new book edited by Marie Dennis, shows how much the Catholic Church today is struggling to reclaim the message of Gospel nonviolence. Choosing Peace emerges from a conference, hosted at the Vatican and blessed by Pope Francis, that drew peacemakers from eighty countries to meet and advance church teaching on matters of war and peace. Contributors include Fr. John Dear, Terrence J. Rynne, and Lisa Sowle Cahill.

Our Spring list boasts the unusual coincidence of two books by authors married to each other. The first is Michael E. Lee’s Revolutionary Saint: The Theological Legacy of Oscar Romero (March) and now from Natalia Imperatori-Lee comes Cuéntame: Narrative in the Ecclesial Present, in which, drawing from a variety of disciplines, she constructs a Latino/a ecclesiology shaped by narrative—the stories we tell. Roger Haight calls it a “small gem of a book. . . Magnificent in its simplicity.”

Fifty years ago this month Martin Luther King, Jr. was among the most notable victims of gun violence. Those who killed him hoped to destroy his dream—of a “beloved community” set free from the shackles of racism, violence, and injustice. Vincent Harding’s Martin Luther King: The Inconvenient Hero remains an important reminder of the radical challenge of his life, while the news of every day makes it clear how far we remain from fulfilling his vision.

But this month includes some great news: James Cone’s The Cross and the Lynching Tree has been given the prestigious Grawemeyer Award in Religion. This is the capstone of a remarkable career, in which it has been our honor, as his publisher, to serve a supporting role.

In this season of Easter, may we all find the courage to be happy, to tell our stories, and to choose peace,

Robert Ellsberg

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