Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Q & A on Bear Lent Book

Active bloggers may request review copies direct from Bear at st.corbinians.bear@gmail.com. (Please include your link.)

NOTE: If you have made an advance purchase through PayPal as of 8 p.m. CST February 12, and have NOT received your file, what we have here is a failure to communicate. Please let Bear know in that case.

UPDATE: Price for ebook is $9.99. Paperback is $18.99. The ebook is available right now at Amazon. The paperback will be printed on Ash Wednesday. (Bears aren't known for planning ahead.)

If you want an autographed copy, but also want to accompany the Bear from day one of Lent, use the PayPal (DONATE) link in the sidebar to send $18.99. Be sure to provide instructions about how you would like it autographed. When the Bear receives his copies (10-15 days from today) he will mail them to advance buyers and even cover the cost of shipping single copies in the U.S.

All advance buyers of the paperback will get all front matter and beginning chapters in a PDF format upon receipt of payment. The Bear will make sure you are taken care of until you have the paperback in your hands.

Bears are all about having their cake and eating it too, so you can have your autographed copy and not miss a single day of ursine accompaniment through Lent.

Please consider it part of your Lenten discipline to read one chapter per day, and only one. Not only does it follow the rhythms of Lent, but it is a story, after all, and you don't want to spoil it.

Q: I don't have time to read a bunch of Bear guff. What's the bottom line?

If you like the Bear, you'll enjoy the book. 

Most of the Lent stories that have appeared here have had a very positive reaction. (If you remember some darker and more dramatic ones, don't worry. Those aren't included.)

The short chapters are written in a simple style meant to be entertaining and memorable. You could even read them to children. (Possibly not, however, to a little girl with the complete My Pretty Pony collection.) It might be fun to entertain them with stories about a funny talking bear, then discuss things like prayer and making Jesus happy on their level. Young adults ought to be able to get value from it on their own. 

The 40 chapters form a single continuous arc describing a Lenten adventure as the Bear learns one lesson after another with the help of Father Corbinian. The authors hope you can resist gulping it down in one evening because the Bear wants to accompany you on each day of Lent. For example, at the midway point, the Bear panics because Lent is halfway done and he's still a Bear. That is one of the things that makes this Lenten Companion unique.

Consider limiting your reading to a chapter a day part of your Lenten discipline.

There are study questions at the end of each chapter. Most of them are open, designed with the cunning of a trial lawyer on cross-examination to force you to confront yourself honestly. Others provide additional relevant information.

Ragan and Kathryn
Q: Why didn't you write it on your own?

Kathryn (whom the Bear calls "Red Death, his driver, bodyguard and factotum," or "the Shepherdess") collaborated because she is far more virtuous than the first-named author.

Ragan is a working commercial artist better at drawing bears.

Q:  Why did you write it for "all Christians" instead of just Catholics?

There were several reasons. For one, it is more true than not to answer there aren't any "just Catholics" anymore. It would serve no purpose to stir up controversy by elaborating.

One of the spiritual dangers Christians face today is a loss of confidence in the institutions of the faith. One of the unique aspects of this book is that while we don't explain the challenges of our time, we wrote with an awareness of them. Let's be honest. Appeals to authority are not as helpful they once were for reasons most readers of this blog will know.

Also, as we worked on it, we found ourselves expressing the spiritual style with which we were familiar as Benedictine oblates. You can be a Benedictine oblate without being Catholic. We saw no reason to set ourselves up as superior to our model and tinker with it.

Benedictine spirituality works for any Christian for the simple fact that it is wise, doable and has centuries of experience behind it. For example, there are five duties of oblates. We work those into the book. They are bedrock Christianity, to be distinguished from the watered-down Catholicism one sometimes sees today. We did not compromise on the truth, but neither did we set out to include all of it in a book with a very specific purpose.

Finally, we were motivated by a sincere desire to help as many people as we could become better Christians. There is plenty of common ground to explore apart from our unfortunate differences. We took a similar approach as C.S. Lewis did in The Screwtape Letters and his other writings. 

We believe unseen spiritual realities are objective facts.

Q: It sounds like you are just being ecumenical and afraid to hurt anyone's feelings. Hasn't the Bear made fun of that sort of thing hundreds of times?

Do you really think the Bear would lend his splendi'frous name to that? We could have played it safe and made a narrow audience happy. We took the risk of including some things that might not appeal to everyone. The beauty of it is that readers may draw their own lessons from the 40 stories featuring the Bear. Most of the study questions are open. They are designed to challenge readers to confront themselves, not to hammer home the lessons of the stories. Many have no right or wrong answer.

Readers of this blog may nonetheless find a few sly Bear winks at some very timely issues. (One chapter is titled "The Use and Abuse of Mercy.") We were not afraid to acknowledge times have changed. Nonetheless, again, it is based on bedrock Christianity, and does not preach a watered-down Catholicism. 

Q: So this is a sort of handbook of Benedictine spirituality?

Not really. We are Benedictine oblates, though. It is natural we wanted to share things we have found valuable. It seemed sensible not to try to come up with something original. The originality is in the presentation.

Q: What else is different about it, besides a talking Bear?

We believe too often Lent is "all about me." My discipline, my sins, my relationship to God. Although these things are important, we have tried to continually help the reader think about Lent as a time of growing in love toward others. Part of the bona opera of Lent should be turning outward toward those around us.

Q: That all sounds great, but I've read the Bear's ephemeris for years. He doesn't seem very holy.

He isn't. That's why we didn't base it on ideas and practices we invented. We should not have to say it, but, the Bear and the first-named author are about as far from saints as you can get. We decided that did not disqualify us from presenting timeless truths in an original way, with an eye to what is happening right now. 

You know, it is very humbling to write a book like this. The first-named author, at any rate, is feeling like a fraud at the moment for the very reason you bring up. He couldn't avoid realizing his own failures with every lesson. However, it is those failures - or Bearishness, if you will - that made the exercise possible. One of the chapter titles is "A Season of Failure."

It has been a wonderful exercise. Perhaps we'll try harder to cooperate with the grace of God, now. It sounds corny, but we'll be including readers in our own prayer intentions. Especially that we cause no harm.

We won't make a video, though. 


One again, excerpts from the description written for the back cover:

Maybe you’re not learned. Maybe you’re not holy. Maybe you’re not even entirely human. That’s okay. A 1300-year-old talking bear is here to be your daily companion during Lent.

Saint Corbinian was moved to share Lent with the Bear- perhaps to protect the local pony population. In 40 stories that follow the authors’ own Lenten experiences and rhythms, the sincere, but simple Bear learns one lesson after another. Sometimes humorous, sometimes poignant, but always memorable, together they form a grand adventure.

A Bear begins Lent, but what kind of creature shall see its end?

The authors draw in part upon their experience as Benedictine oblates to transmit timeless truths for all Christians in this charming story. The tales are told with deceptive simplicity. After each chapter, the authors ask questions designed to help you think about the lessons the Bear has learned. They are not always the right ones. Bears sometimes serve best as bad examples. 

You may be surprised to find much of yourself in the Bear. But that’s okay. If a Bear can make it through Lent and learn a thing or two, you can, too.

This is a Lenten Companion unlike any other, designed for even the most Bearish Humans.


  1. Owl knows Great Bear is stupidly busy so Owl will keep this short.

    Thank you.

    1. Selling books is a lot more fun than the several days leading up to the release, Bear must say! Bear trusts you are all set, then. Enjoy the front matter and Chapter 1 tomorrow, The Tower of Lent.

  2. Hi, I've been lurking for some time now. I'm an OSB monk and really appreciate the Bear! Judging Angels is still rolling around in my mind months after reading it, so I'm excited about this new adventure.
    Thanks for your writing!

    1. Thank you! Bear just heard the audiobook of Judging Angels for the first time today, and he couldn't be more excited.

      Bear owes much to wise Father Benedict. Or would, if he were not so much of a Bear. Benedictine spirituality is pretty simple for oblates. That doesn't mean it's easy.

      The hardest part is that Bears are impulsive and their habits are irregular. Sometimes I pray the LOTH morning, midday, evening and Compline; read the Bible; read the Rule; try to see God in everyday life; and participate in the sacramental life of the Church. Most of the time Bear is shamelessly derelict in his duties.

      Part of it is the nature of creative work. Bears take advantage of inspiration and become very focused for long periods time. Then they are tired and must sleep.

      St. Meinrad Archabbey is beautiful. Bear studied their under Father Damien. The "old monks" are all stepping down into whatever the OSB equivalent of retirement is. Father Damien, Father Meinrad the oblate director... and the abbot is different now, too.

      Bear knows "advertising" one's status as an oblate is discouraged. He could hardly steal all their stuff for his book without giving some credit, though. He hopes everyone realizes he is a terrible oblate and does not judge the OSB by his poor example!

  3. Study questions, hmmm. Exactly how much of this do we need to know for the final judgement?


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