If you are a religious publishing geek like me, you know all about James Martin. If you have not heard of him, then you are in for a treat. Jim is a Jesuit priest on staff with America magazine, for which he serves as “editor-at-large.” While Jim is mostly known for being ubiquitous in the media, most famously for Stephen Colbert naming him his old show’s “chaplain,” as well as Jim being the go-to Catholic-answer-man for almost all the major reporters covering the beat, he is probably the bestselling Catholic author writing on the faith today. Still, what I think makes him so special is his passion for helping people connect with God.
I first read Jim’s work in My Life with the Saints (Loyola), a wonderful memoir-plus-biography of the major Christian figures that have shaped Jim’s spiritual life. I was deeply moved by the capsule introductions to such figures as Ignatius of Loyola and Francis of Assisi but also by the unofficial saints, such as Dorothy Day, Mother Teresa, Thomas Merton, and others. But what I found most helpful was Jim’s story of how each figure changed how Jim practiced his own faith. This kept the focus on spirituality and how to grow as a Christian, which each of his subjects would have appreciated.
With The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything, Jim moved over to HarperOne and so we got to know this witty, wise, and surprisingly saintly author more intimately—all to our gain. I think The Jesuit Guide is the best spirituality book published in the last ten years. While seemingly a jocular and accessible primer on Ignatian spirituality, it also serves as one of the most balanced and richest introductions to what it means to follow Jesus today—that goes for any type of Christian, not just Catholics.
All of Jim’s books are worth imbibing: Between Heaven and Mirth (a wonderful and much-needed argument for the importance of joy and humor in the Christian life), Jesus: A Pilgrimage (an entertaining account of Jim’s adventures in the Holy Land that also serves as an enriching survey of the life of Christ), and The Abbey (a moving novel showcasing a realistic portrait of how God works with and heals us today).
But the occasion for writing this is to announce his latest book, Seven Last Words: An Invitation to a Deeper Friendship with Jesus. A series of meditations on the final sayings of Jesus from the cross, the book began as a homily Jim gave at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City last year on Good Friday. Each mediation on one of the sayings (such as, “Father, forgive them…”) serves as an invitation to discover a different facet of Jesus’s life, providing overlapping themes that allow us to see why Jesus understands our lives and our suffering so deeply.
And then Jim turns the whole issue around and we are no longer standing at the foot of the cross with Jesus but Jesus is sitting with us. And here is the real invitation of the subtitle—why we can trust Jesus with all our deepest worries, fears, secrets, all the darkness inside us, and he will not only understand us but bring his light to us.
As Lent approaches, I can’t think of a better way to prepare the way for Holy Week than reading this special invitation from Father James Martin.
Michael G. Maudlin
Senior Vice President and Executive Editor