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Jon's last few articles in America:

June 2, 2017

Telling Lives: The confusing business of biography

"We all have books we enjoy and authors we enjoy, and the two are not always in tandem. A novel may enthrall me, but the interview I hear with its author may dampen my enthusiasm. Samuel Johnson once said, “Those whom the appearance of virtue, or the evidence of genius, have tempted to a nearer knowledge of the writer in whose performances they may be found, have indeed had frequent reason to repent their curiosity.” I’ve had that experience..."

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February 16, 2017

From the academy, books that think (and a few that sell)

"Each year, 9,000 professors of religion and biblical studies attend the joint meeting of the American Academy of Religion and the Society of Biblical Literature, held on the weekend before Thanksgiving. It is a major opportunity for book publishers to meet with potential authors and to market what is new to one of their core audiences. That is why I was there..."

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October 27, 2016

Why we need Catholics telling stories in every possible way

"I was in the archives at the University of Notre Dame looking through boxes of correspondence when I came across the following letter, dated Sept. 4, 1968, from a 40-year-old priest named Andrew Greeley to Philip Scharper, the editorial director at Sheed & Ward..."

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Jon's review of Marco Politi's new book:

June 14, 2016

Papal politics and perils

"Catholic progressives love to read Marco Politi. Four years ago he published a book about Pope Benedict XVI in Italian. The narrative became a familiar one: Benedict was a theologian first and a leader second. Politi wrote speculatively about the 2005 conclave that elected Cardinal Ratzinger, and in this book he speculates about the conclave that elected Ratzinger’s replacement. His account is more revealing than anything yet published in book form about what happened among the cardinals in the Sistine Chapel on those days in March 2013..."

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2016 interview with The Irish Times in Dublin:

April 21, 2016

The untold story of St Francis

"One of the first of many surprises when Pope Francis was elected head of the Church was that he chose the name Francis, after St Francis of Assisi, because he was “the man of poverty, the man of peace, the man who loves and protects creation”. Taking that name alone was a sign of what to expect from his pontificate. But what do we really know of St Francis, beyond the brown habit and the images of him with animals? Many of us..."

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A review of The Enthusiast:

April 10, 2016

The Enthusiast by Jon M. Sweeney

"This is a biography of St. Francis of Assisi "through the lens of the relationship that most consoled him", with Brother Elias of Cortona. Elias is called "Francis's friend, confidant, and source of strength." Elias often played the role of social buffer for iconoclast Francis, and many other traits of the men melded well so that Elias could be called Francis's soul mate. The reader gets a front row seat for the conflict in the real medieval world between an idealist and a realist, Francis the idealist, Elias the realist. Today's pilgrims to Assisi know mainly the monuments created by the realist to honor the idealist, even if the basilicas in Assisi are the last things Francis would have wanted built..."

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Talk, Oblate School of Theology, San Antonio, March 2016:

March 31, 2016

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Award: Honorable mention, Excellence for nonfiction religion book, 2016 Religion News Association, for Phyllis Tickle: Essential Spiritual Writings:

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Talk, St. Francis College, Brooklyn, October 2015:

October 8, 2015

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The article Jon write about Phyllis Tickle, after her death, for National Catholic Reporter:

October 5, 2015

Poet, prophet, portable pastor: remembering Phyllis Tickle

"On a beautiful fall evening in November 2007, Phyllis Tickle, 73, was standing at a podium, a familiar posture for her. She wouldn't remain behind it for long; she never did. She moved around the dais, taking it as her responsibility to make the most of the moment she'd been given. She learned from her father that a lecture was an opportunity never to be squandered, an occasion to influence minds and hearts. She was dressed in a worn, dark, wool skirt, a plain blouse, and a floppy gray wool jacket. Back in the early 1990s at Publishers Weekly..."

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Interview with Jon on Ave Maria Radio from 2014:

December 11, 2014

Lisa Hendey and Jon Sweeney

"Ken talks with Lisa Hendey the author of “The Grace of Yes: Eight Virtues for Generous Living” and Jon Sweeney author of “When Saint Francis Saved the Church: How a Converted Medieval Troubadour Created a Spiritual Vision for the Ages” (both published by Ave Maria Press) Lisa talks about pivotal moments of her own spiritual journey, and reflects candidly on real-life struggles, and the profound lingering grief she confronted at a Rwandan genocide memorial and the astounding willingness of survivors there to forgive..."

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Richard Rohr, OFM, in one of the frequent mentions Inventing Hell in his daily meditations:

December 2, 2014

Do Not Be Afraid

"Kathleen Dowling Singh, an inspired author and hospice worker, says that many times those who, in the last hours of life, fight death the most are very religious people. Fear of God and fear of death are the same thing. When it’s all a matter of counting, earning, meriting, and achieving by various performance principles, you’re afraid of death and also afraid of God. Why wouldn’t you be? Until..."

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Jon's review of Grant Wacker's bio of Billy Graham at The Tablet:

October 30, 2014


"Author Jon Sweeney has a gift for making Church history accessible, interesting and relevant for a whole new generation of readers, and his latest book ably bears out that reputation. As he writes at the beginning of the book, it isn’t a history book in the strict sense of the term. Instead, it’s the story of Francis’s spiritual vision: how it came to be, its effect on the world he lived in, and how it has continued importance for us today, people of any faith or no faith..."

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A review of When Saint Francis Saved the Church:

September 30, 2014

Review of Jon M. Sweeney, “When Saint Francis Saved the Church”

"Author Jon Sweeney has a gift for making Church history accessible, interesting and relevant for a whole new generation of readers, and his latest book ably bears out that reputation. As he writes at the beginning of the book, it isn’t a history book in the strict sense of the term. Instead, it’s the story of Francis’s spiritual vision: how it came to be, its effect on the world he lived in, and how it has continued importance for us today, people of any faith or no faith..."

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June 2014 profile by Publishers Weekly:

June 11, 2014

Jon Sweeney: A Life in Books and On the Move

"Jon Sweeney can’t sit still. When not keeping his three-year-old daughter from climbing on bookcases, he's writing a column on hell for the Huffington Post; gathering research or writing a new book; speaking at churches, temples, and colleges on a range of topics, from popes to popular history; or steering a book through the publishing process in his role as publisher at Paraclete Press. Motivated by a love for organized religion and an insatiable desire to always be learning, Sweeney's religious evolution has been as peripatetic as his writing and publishing careers..."

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Praise from Anne Rice on her Facebook page:

May 24, 2014

"Great article on the myth of Hell by Jon M. Sweeney brought to the page by Justin Parke. Thanks, Justin. Sweeney has a new book out, 'Inventing Hell: Dante, the Bible and Eternal Torment.'"

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Jon at The Huffington Post:

May 22, 2014

Hell Is a Myth — Actually, a Bunch of Myths

"If I had the opportunity to meet Paul of Tarsus in the flesh, I’d take it in a heartbeat. I’d meet him on a sunny afternoon in June at one of those lovely places along the Via del Colosseo in Rome. I’d ask him questions about his pre-conversion life. Did you ever attend a gladiator match in the Forum over there? Did Russell Crowe portray it well? Did you ever personally stone a Christian to death, or did you just watch it happen?..."

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A review of Jon's memoir (co-written with Rabbi Michal Woll) at

October 28, 2013

Book Review: Mixed-Up Love

"Jon M. Sweeney and Michal Woll have written an excellent addition to the growing canon of interfaith memoirs, called Mixed-Up Love. It is written with the intent of placing their particular relationship within the larger framework of a society that finds its security less and less through rigidly protected social boundaries and more and more through cross-cultural relationships. In other words, we are all learning that we can thrive only when people who are different from us have a stake in our survival. We accomplish this by having a stake in theirs..."

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Jon on the "Research on Religion" podcast talking about Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life:

December 17, 2012

Jon M. Sweeney on “It’s A Wonderful Life”

"Every December, millions of people tune in to watch the quintessential Christmas classic, It’s A Wonderful Life. The iconic scenes of George Bailey (played by Jimmy Stewart) running through the town of Bedford Falls wishing everyone a Merry Christmas, and the ending where we hear an ornamental bell ringing to tell us that the hard-luck angel Clarence has finally received his wings, are familiar to almost everyone. Some critics have tagged the film with the moniker of “Capra-corn” in reference to its director — Frank Capra — and its over-the-top sentimentality. But is it more than just a movie that shamelessly pulls at our heartstrings? Is there..."

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Short interview with Franciscan Media about The Pope Who Quit:

April 25, 2012

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A review from 2004 of The St. Francis Prayer Book:

The St. Francis Prayer Book

"Francis of Assisi pioneered a Christian life of action and contemplation, notes Episcopalian author Jon Sweeney (Praying with Our Hands: 21 Practices of Embodied Prayer from the World's Spiritual Traditions). This Catholic saint was committed to a daily practice of prayer or fixed-hour prayer, as it is called in liturgical churches today. He communed with God in the presence of others and also spent time in contemplative solitude in woods, caves, and abandoned churches. St. Francis loved to pray in the middle of the night when others were asleep..."

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