I find it interesting how one book, one author, one concept, one thought leads to another and another and another ….
At our Seed of the Word book club meeting yesterday — if you care to listen, you can click this link — we discussed Thomas Merton’s classic The Seven Storey Mountain. If you do listen, I’m the schmuck answering the moderator’s first question. I tell the group, “I had difficulty reading this book.” Definitely not the consensus! Next up at the club is Jesus, A Pilgrimage by James Martin, SJ who unequivocally states that it was Merton’s book that changed his life and led him from Corporate America to the Jesuits. See the connection? One thing leads to another.
Today’s Zenit quotation of the day comes from Maximilian Kolbe
“No one in the world can change Truth. What we can do and and should do is to seek truth and to serve it when we have found it.”
I smiled when I read that. Maximilian Kolbe appears briefly in The Hamsa as that ‘crazy holy man’ who saves Bronek with his Latin recitation of Pater Noster. Then I reflected on Kolbe’s quote. The promo quote from Gaspar, Another Tale of the Christ is
“The story of one man’s remarkable search for truth.”
I begin every manuscript with a core message, and the core message behind Gaspar is: Truth is universal.
Mrs. tVM and I hike the ‘Inspiration Trail’ at Sanctuary Cove several times every year. One of the messages posted on the trail is a quote from Chief Seattle:
“Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.”
Indeed, it is a Circle of Life. One thing leads to another and in the end, all things are connected.
Late in November 2014, I decided to offer The Christmas Story sequence from Gaspar, Another Tale of the Christ as a download on my websites. After tipping my hand to my friend Father Paul, he encouraged me to read the sequence at the Masses at the Redemptorist Renewal Center during this Epiphany weekend.
I am pleased to announce that Alistair will be making the trip from LA to Tucson this weekend to
read the story as Christians around the world commemorate the visit of the Magi to the Christ child. Epiphany concludes the celebration of the Christmas season.
Epiphany weekend Masses at the RRC are scheduled for
Saturday, January 3, 2015 at 4:00 p.m.
Sunday, January 4, 2015 at 7:30 a.m. and
Sunday, January 4, 2015 at 10:00 a.m.
If you happen to be in the area this weekend, I invite you to attend one of the three Masses and join the celebration. Christian Music Minister Tom Booth is scheduled to provide worship music at all three Masses, and Father Greg Wiest will be celebrating the Eucharist.
On this winter solstice – the longest night of the year – I think of the birth of light and how it grows to envelope the Earth and everything that is a part of creation. I will contemplate on that light every day this week as we approach Christmas Day. As I do, I will smile as I reflect on Alistair McKenzie’s song We All Know.
Throughout the year, I receive inspiration from everyone who supports my writing efforts by reading my books and reading my posts on this website and also on the Vitruvian Man and Tucson Poverello House websites. Your comments, reviews and feedback are invaluable to me. Your words keep me energized, particularly when my batteries run low. As a gesture of my appreciation, I am pleased to offer these two gifts
The Christmas Story from Gaspar, Another Tale of the Christ as a PDF download and
The Christmas Story from Gaspar, Another Tale of the Christ as an audio presentation produced by my friend and business associate Alistair McKenzie.
A Special thanks to Alistair for producing this audio AND for writing an original Christmas song “We All Know” featured at the conclusion of the narrative. His song captures the essence of the entire story of Gaspar in a very special way.
You have made my life better. I hope these small tokens of gratitude make your Christmas a bit more meaningful.
Yesterday, I received an email from an old friend and teammate, gentleman Sean Riley. He just completed reading Gaspar, Another Tale of the Christ. When I get back home, I will add his comments to the “What They’re Saying” page. Sean recalled a few years back when I started writing Gaspar that I put the nativity sequence up on the website as a download. He asked for a copy so he could read it to his grandkids on Christmas Eve.
With thanks to all the people who have taken time to comment and review my work since The Olympian was published in 2008, I have to admit that Sean’s request means more to me than any I’ve received.
Every Christmas, I try to put up a free download on my websites as a gesture of my appreciation for the support and inspiration I get from readers and subscribers of my websites and of my novels. Two years ago, I put up the draft of the nativity sequence from Gaspar. I titled the nativity sequence The Star, which is the title of the chapter from which I take it. In December 2012, I wrote that I expected the book to be out by December 2013. I was only a year off!
This year, I have decided to offer the final version of the nativity sequence as it appears in the final version of the book published in August 2014. Sean’s email came when we had already made the decision to offer The Christmas Story from Gaspar as this year’s appreciation gift.
As I was preparing the short manuscript for download, I had another wild idea. I called my friend and business associate Alistair McKenzie in Los Angeles. Alistair produced the audio books for The Sixth Day, A 17,175-Word Novella About Creation and Prizefighting and The Olympian, A Tale of Ancient Hellas. He also wrote and performed the song We Pray for Light, which will undoubtedly be featured in The Sixth Day film – working title Third Man – if we get lucky and see it to fruition. I asked Alistair if he would consider reading the sequence and producing a short audio. He agreed. I pushed the envelope and asked him if he would consider writing a Christmas song to accompany the reading. Within a few days, he sent me his draft, an amazing original song tentatively titled We All Know.
When I told my friend Father Paul Coury at the Redemptorist Center what I was up to, he encouraged me to ‘witness’ why I wrote Gaspar and to read the sequence and play Alistair’s song at all three Masses over Epiphany weekend, January 3 and 4, 2015. I thought about it and called Alistair to discuss it. With little hesitation, Alistair McKenzie agreed to come to Tucson and read The Christmas Story from Gaspar at Our Lady of the Desert Church at the Redemptorist Center over Epiphany weekend. More on that later.
This is my initial announcement that this special gift – a PDF download of Gaspar’s Christmas Story, Alistair’s audio production and accompanying Christmas song – will be available for download at no charge later this month. Please look for it and spread the ‘good news.’ As much as I want to say this is my gift to you, I know it is as much a product of Alistair McKenzie’s generous and creative heart. More to follow soon …..
One of my favorite films is the 1992 version of James Fenimore Cooper’s classic Last of the Mohicans. The film opens as Hawkeye, Chingachgook and Uncas chase down a deer for their meal. Before partaking of the animal, they kneel before its lifeless body and thank it for sharing itself with them. I think of that scene often as I try to slow my pace of eating in this hectic world we live in.
I used the scene early in Gaspar, Another Tale of the Christ as the young Gaspar journeys to Kanheri with his slave Androkles and his Indian guide Bhima
“… I have learned during the first two nights that no one will ever eat food in Bhima’s presence without first thanking whatever powers he believes in for furnishing us with this food … Tonight, I take a single bite and chew it unhurriedly, thinking about the field of wheat that offers me its grain. The wheat field rolls wave after effortless wave through my mind, powered by a soft breeze that flows in rhythm with the breath of the world. I take a second bite and imagine a smiling woman using the grain to make the dough. And so it goes as I picture the flowering lentil and thank it for giving me sustenance.”
On this Thanksgiving Day, I invite you to slow your pace and thank God for being a part of creation that generously shares itself with its brothers and sisters.
I spent two years writing my story of a man’s search for truth, published in August as Gaspar, Another Tale of the Christ. If someone told me, “You have never had an original idea,” I would agree with her. Ideas are like stories and songs and paintings … they have always existed. They float around somewhere waiting for people to pull the thoughts together that already exist and to share them with other people in words, notes and paint.
I love books. One year ago, my friend Father Charlie asked me if I would do the book purchasing at the Redemptorist Renewal Center’s bookstore. I answered with an enthusiastic ‘Yes!’ The only thing I can think of that is better than being surrounded by books is to be surrounded by puppies.
I have introduced some new books into the Children’s shelf. Traditionally, it was stocked with books about Jesus, Mary and Joseph, the Saints and Bible stories. That is good. Still, I believe God inspires writers to tell stories to children beyond ‘Bible’ stories, stories that are easy to read that carry valuable lessons for young people. With that thought in mind, we’ve expanded the Children’s shelf to include other spiritual books like God’s Dream by Desmond Tutu, The Tiny King by Taro Miura and The Three Questions by John Muth. They have sold well.
My idea to include books like this was validated this morning as I read Franciscan Father Richard Rohr’s summary of his weekly meditations. Fra Rohr by the way is the most popular author in the bookstore. We sell more Rohr books that any other author and by a significant margin.
One of the books on our children’s shelf is Old Turtle by Douglas Wood. Mr. Wood followed with a sequel titled Old Turtle and the Broken Truth. Fra Rohr uses the story this morning to sum up his weeklong message on ‘Oneing,’ God’s plan to create unity out of multiplicity. His summary of the Old Turtle story is so perfect, I’ve decided to pass it on. I know you will enjoy it as much as I do. I hope it encourages you to purchase this beautiful book for someone you love.
Rest: The Broken Truth by Father Richard Rohr, OFM
A wonderful children’s book, Old Turtle and the Broken Truth, written by Douglas Wood with watercolor illustrations by Jon J. Muth, tells an imaginary story of how the world came to be so fragmented when it is meant to be whole and how we might put it back together again.
In a far-away land that “is somehow not so far away,” one night a truth falls from the stars. And as it falls, it breaks into two pieces—one piece blazes off through the sky and the other falls straight to the ground. One day a man stumbles upon the gravity-drawn truth and finds carved on it the words, “You are loved.” It makes him feel good, so he keeps it and shares it with the people in his tribe. The thing sparkles and makes the people who have it feel warm and happy. It becomes their most prized possession, and they call it “The Truth.” Those who have the truth grow afraid of those who don’t have it, who are different than they are. And those who don’t have it covet it. Soon people are fighting wars over the small truth, trying to capture it for themselves.
A little girl who is troubled by the growing violence, greed, and destruction in her once peaceful world goes on a journey—through the Mountains of Imagining, the River of Wondering Why, and the Forest of Finding Out—to speak with Old Turtle, the wise counselor. Old Turtle tells her that the Truth is broken and missing a piece, a piece that shot off in the night sky so long ago. Together they search for it, and when they find it the little girl puts the jagged piece in her pocket and returns to her people. She tries to explain, but no one will listen or understand. Finally a raven flies the broken truth to the top of a tower where the other piece has been ensconced for safety, and the rejoined pieces shine their full message: “You are loved / and so are they.” And the people begin to comprehend. And the earth begins to heal.
I have never heard the term ‘Ignatian Contemplation,’ but it came to me twice this morning. This morning’s Magnificat readings included a short biography of Ignatius of Loyola, the Spaniard who founded the Society of Jesus, more commonly known as the Jesuits. This morning, I began reading Jesus, A Pilgrimage by popular Jesuit author James Martin. In his introduction, he explains how he learned a new way to pray called Ignatian Contemplation when he began his training for the priesthood.
As a person practices Ignatian Contemplation, she places herself in a scene from the Gospel, and he imagines what he would see, feel, hear, smell and touch. In this imaginative state, we allow God to communicate with us in a most personal way.
Gaspar, Another Tale of the Christ is about one man’s search for truth. It is not about Jesus. I liken it to Lew Wallace’s classic Ben Hur, a Tale of the Christ. Jesus is crucial to the story, but the narrative is not about Jesus.
As I researched Ignatian Spirituality this morning, I realized that I employed Ignatian Contemplation when I wrote the sequences that I did take from the Gospels, I imagined myself being there … I smelled the urine-soaked straw in the stable, and I was relieved when Balthazar opened his gift and the sweet smell of frankincense overpowered the animal odors …. I felt every blow that Gaspar endured before he was rescued by the Samaritan …. And I watched from the rampart as the storm broke furiously over the three crucified men on the quarry hill outside the city walls …
The Jesuits say that God will speak to you through Ignatian Contemplation. I believe it. I am convinced this method of praying will work for any spirituality regardless of its religious tradition. In those quiet, dark mornings I spend in the desert, I am consciously going to commit myself to a time of Ignatian Contemplation. I invite you to try it yourself.
Several weeks ago, a business associate that is also a trusted friend and confidant brought to my attention that Gaspar, Another Tale of the Christ contains a considerable number of typographical errors, syntax errors and grammatical errors. I am more humbled than I am disappointed. As an independent storyteller, I will take full responsibility.
My initial inclination was to pull the book from publication, but I decided not to react too quickly. I have concluded that the strength of the story demands that it remain available while I correct the errors and re-publish the book.
I apologize to anyone who had difficulty with the book because of the syntax, typographical and grammatical errors, etc. When we release the new edition early in 2015, I will personally send each of you the new edition – free of errors and free of charge. Simply send me your request at ‘eskraay at eskraay dot com,’ and it will be done.
I remain grateful to my friend for honestly explaining the situation to me, and I remain grateful to everyone who has read the book and enjoyed it despite my mistakes.
If you are aware of errors that need correction, I would appreciate your input. Please email me any changes that need to be considered to my personal email: ‘eskraay at eskraay dot com.’ Thanks for your help.