Jon Sweeney: Finding Comfort and Confidence in the Mess

“I sometimes feel like part of my vocation in the world is to tell people that messiness is normal.”

Season 2, Episode 7 of Messy Jesus Business, hosted by Sister Julia Walsh



In Season 2, Episode 7 of Messy Jesus Business, Sister Julia Walsh talks with author Jon Sweeney about his journey from Evangelical Christianity and the Moody Bible Institute to writing about saints, becoming Catholic and marrying a rabbi. They also explore his thoughts on what Christians need to know and respect about Judaism.

“There’s a lot of things that Christians need to do to be sensitive to their Jewish neighbors,” Sweeney explains. Among them, “to uncover some of the sort-of anti-Jewishness that is actually in the pages sometimes of our scriptures.”

Sister Julia and Jon Sweeney also discuss how the story of St. Francis of Assisi and Franciscanism influence him. “It’s like I need to keep St. Francis really close to remind me that it’s the heart that matters, and it’s not the stuff that I read on a page that matters, and that the two are not necessarily related,” he says.

So, what does he think is messy about living a life of faith? “What’s not messy?” He asks, explaining that the mess is normal. “I am so much more worried about the people who think that there aren’t messes, or who all they want to do is clean up the messes and live in a clean, unmessied place. I am so much more comfortable and frankly confident among the messy.”

Sister Julia and Jon also talk about his new book about Nicholas Black Elk.


Jon M. Sweeney is an award-winning author who has been interviewed in print by a range of publications from the Dallas Morning News to The Irish Catholic, and on television for CBS Saturday Morning and many other programs. His book, “The Pope Who Quit,” was optioned by HBO. He’s also the author of 40 other books including a new biography, “Nicholas Black Elk: Medicine Man, Catechist, Saint;” “The Complete Francis of Assisi;” “Inventing Hell;” “Thomas Merton: An Introduction to His Life and Practices,” forthcoming from St. Martin’s Press; and “The Pope’s Cat” series of books for children.

Jon recently edited and presented two collections of the lectures of Thomas Merton including, “A Course in Christian Mysticism” and his coauthored volumes (with Mark S. Burrows) of Meister Eckhart poems, including Meister Eckhart’s “Book of the Heart,” which has been translated and published in other languages.

In the late 1990s, Jon cofounded a multifaith publishing house, SkyLight Paths Publishing, in Vermont. Today, he is the publisher at Paraclete Press in Massachusetts, speaks regularly at literary and religious conferences, is a Catholic married to a rabbi, and their interfaith marriage has been profiled in national media. He’s active on social media (Twitter @jonmsweeney; Facebook jonmsweeney) and lives in Milwaukee.


Our Contemplative Moment in this episode of Messy Jesus Business is taken from the Prayer for the Canonization of Nicholas Black Elk.

MESSY JESUS BUSINESS is produced and hosted by Sister Julia Walsh and edited by Charish Badzinski.

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Twitter: @messyjesusbiz


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