Back in 1974, Pope Paul IV spoke insightfully of evangelizing in today’s world. "Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses," he said in his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi.
He was talking about how Christians should proclaim the Good News to the world. He insisted that to evangelize we must actually inform others of the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. At the same time, he recognized the power of the stories of real people. Through authentic lives of faith, the Gospel is communicated to others.
To put it another way: Those who practice what they preach are far more effective than those who simply preach.
That simple nostrum is at the heart of our new People of God series, co-published with Liturgical Press in the United States. In each slim volume, our authors describe in powerful but simple prose the life of an authentic Christian witness. For Canadian readers, the series began with Oscar Romero: Love Must Win Out, by Kevin Clarke, a senior editor at America magazine. Here we get a compelling portrait of the murdered archbishop of San Salvador, whose own journey of faith and martyrdom became an homage to the Passion of Christ.
This past spring, we published Martin Sheen: Pilgrim on the Way, by Pauline Sister Rose Pacatte. A well-known film critic, Sr. Rose looks at how the famous star of West Wing and Apocalypse Now was almost defeated by a tempestuous life in film and television, but was saved by a faith that overcame his inner doubts and battles with alcohol.
More recently, we released Flannery O’Connor: Fiction Fired by Faith, by Angela Alaimo O’Donnell, a professor/poet at Fordham University. Flannery O’Connor’s life was short and seemingly uneventful. She lived to be 39 and was stricken by lupus. From the age of 25 she lived quietly on her mother’s farm in Georgia. She published only two novels, a couple of books of short stories and letters. But her impact on American literature far exceeded these bald details of her life. She became famous, even in her lifetime, as a writer with a searing attachment to the truth who consciously and deliberately strove to let her faith shape her work.
This fall we will publish two more volumes in the series: Dorothy Day: Love in Action, by Patrick Jordan, and Luis Antonio Tagle: Leading by Listening, by Cindy Wooden. Day, an icon of the power of Catholic social teachings, and Filipino Cardinal Tagle, a symbol of hope in Christ in the developing world, both fit Pope Paul’s call for true witnesses to Christ.
We hope at Novalis that you find all the books in the People of God series to be inspiring as well as enlightening.