Sweeney, Jon M. 1967–
Sweeney, Jon M. 1967–
PERSONAL: Born 1967; married; wife's name Danelle; children: two.
ADDRESSES: Home—VT. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Paraclete Press, P.O. Box 1568, Orleans, MA 02653.
CAREER: Writer, editor, publisher, and public speaker. SkyLight Paths Publishing, Woodstock, VT, cofounder and editor-in-chief; Jewish Lights Publishing, vice president of sales and marketing, Paraclete Press, Orleans, MA, associate publisher, 2004–.
Praying with Our Hands: Twenty-one Practices of Embodied Prayer from the World's Spiritual Traditions, photography by Jennifer J. Wilson, SkyLight Paths Publishing (Woodstock, VT), 2000.
(Editor) God Within: Our Spiritual Future—As Told by Today's New Adults (essay collection), SkyLight Paths Publishing (Woodstock, VT), 2001.
(Editor and author of annotations) Paul Sabatier, The Road to Assisi: The Essential Biography of St. Francis, Paraclete Press (Brewster, MA), 2003.
The St. Francis Prayer Book: A Guide to Deepen Your Spiritual Life, Paraclete Press (Brewster, MA), 2004.
Born Again & Again: Surprising Gifts of a Fundamentalist Childhood, Paraclete Press (Brewster, MA), 2005.
The Lure of Saints: A Protestant Experience of Catholic Tradition, Paraclete Press (Brewster, MA), 2005.
Contributor to periodicals such as Merton Seasonal, Lutheran, Sacred Journey, and Spirituality & Health.
SIDELIGHTS: Writer, publisher, and public speaker Jon M. Sweeney is an author whose works focus on a variety of spiritual and religious practices. He is an expert on the life of famed Italian friar St. Francis of Assisi, and writes regularly on theology and religious history. He has been an editor and publisher, first with SkyLight Paths Publishing, a multifaith trade book publisher in Vermont, and later with Paraclete Press in Massachusetts. Sweeney also travels frequently to speak on topics such as embodied (unspoken) prayer and the life of St. Francis. In addition, Sweeney's work has been featured on television programs, such as Public Television's Religion & Ethics Newsweekly.
Praying with Our Hands: Twenty-one Practices of Embodied Prayer from the World's Spiritual Traditions explores the notion that prayer is not solely a verbal activity but a physical one as well. Sweeney defines embodied prayers as actions or activities that express prayers and communication with God. The essays and photographs document twenty-one prayers that are performed with the hands. Such prayerful activities include lighting sacred candles, receiving the Eucharist with one's hands, weaving and laboring, clasping hands before praying, touching icons, counting prayer beads, and more. Sweeney documents such profound physical prayers as the laying on of hands during healing ceremonies and the breaking of bread in the symbolic gesture of fellowship. The book's message—"that prayer happens in our bodies, not just in our minds or on our lips—is instructive," stated a Publishers Weekly writer. "But more than instructive, the book is inspiring." Reviewer June Sawyers in Booklist called the volume "a lovely book designed to be used for more than just reading."
The Road to Assisi: The Essential Biography of St. Francis renovates Paul Sabatier's 1894 biography, considered the first modern account of the renowned saint. Sweeney provides a detailed introduction to the text, plus sidebars, notes, and annotations, all of which help readers better understand the real person behind the legend. Sweeney's work "offers an excellent introduction to the text," commented a Publishers Weekly contributor. The St. Francis Prayer Book: A Guide to Deepen Your Spiritual Life provides readers with "an accessible, practical introduction to Franciscan prayer" noted a reviewer for Publishers Weekly. In the book Sweeney explains the saint's approach to prayer and covers in detail the daily office and occasional prayers related to St. Francis.
Born Again & Again: Surprising Gifts of a Fundamentalist Childhood traces Sweeney's upbringing in a fundamentalist household and how that particular type of spiritual practice can offer important insight into religion. Sweeney reports being a particularly devout and contemplative youth as he grew up in Wheaton, Illinois. However, as a teen, he began to experience other religions and see how other cultures approach their relationship with God. This exposure to new ideas left him feeling conflicted about the unwavering certainties espoused by fundamentalism. As a young adult in his mid-twenties, Sweeney found that he could no longer connect with the religion of his youth. However, he still found great value in fundamentalism and its ability to encourage a profound religious experience by virtue of its earnestness and devotion to faith. "It is refreshing to read a book by an exfundamentalist who is not bitter," remarked a Publishers Weekly reviewer.
In The Lure of Saints: A Protestant Experience of Catholic Tradition, Sweeney explores how Catholics view saints as role-models and explains how studying saints can provide religious insight for Protestants and those whose religion does not embrace concepts of sainthood. He describes how saints are canonized, the importance of physical bodily relics, and the use of saints on religious trinkets, and includes guidelines for living a saintly life. Though Sweeney admits to not being completely converted to the idea of saints, he notes that the saints offer a means for Protestants to see their religion differently and to learn from an important facet of another tradition. Readers will "come away with a deeper understanding of, and sympathy for, why saints play an important role in the lives of Catholic and Orthodox Christians," noted a Publishers Weekly contributor.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, December 15, 2000, June Sawyers, review of Praying with Our Hands: Twenty-one Practices of Embodied Prayer from the World's Spiritual Traditions, p. 765; January 1, 2002, GraceAnne A. DeCandido, review of God Within: Our Spiritual Future—As Told by Today's New Adults, p. 834.
Library Journal, January 1, 2001, Graham Christian, review of Praying with Our Hands, p. 118.
Publishers Weekly, November 27, 2000, review of Praying with Our Hands, p. 71; April 14, 2003, "St. Francis Revisited," review of The Road to Assisi: The Essential Biography of St. Francis, p. 66; December 15, 2003, review of The St. Francis Prayer Book: A Guide to Deepen Your Spiritual Life, p. 70; March 14, 2005, review of The Lure of Saints: A Protestant Experience of Catholic Tradition, p. 63; June 27, 2005, review of Born Again & Again: Surprising Gifts of a Fundamentalist Childhood, p. 58.
Explorefaith.org, http://www.explorefaith.org/ (September 25, 2005), biography of Jon M. Sweeney.
Paraclete Press Web site, http://www.paracletepress.com/ (September 25, 2005), biography of Jon M. Sweeney.