Monday, August 18, 2014

7 Questions: Mary Stommes, editor of Give Us This Day

     Mary Stommes joined Liturgical Press as managing editor in 2006 and became editor of Give Us This Day in 2010.  You can obtain a free sample copy by visiting their website.

1)      First off, thank you for taking the time to answer these questions.  How did you come to work for Liturgical Press, in particular your work on the personal prayer periodical Give Us this Day?

You are welcome. Thank you for asking.  The short answer to both questions: God’s providence. While working in a parish religious education setting, I took a Scripture course taught by Father Daniel Durken, a monk of Saint John’s Abbey (Liturgical Press is an apostolate of this Benedictine abbey). Father Daniel encouraged me to get my degree in theology, which I did. Realizing early on that I loved both writing and theology/Scripture, I added English as a second major.

Father Daniel had been former director of Liturgical Press and was a senior editor here at the time. Neither he nor I would have guessed that I would land here after completing my undergraduate work. I began in 2006 as managing editor in our book publishing division. In that capacity I was part of the research and development team for Give Us This Day. “If we launch this, I want you to be editor,” Peter Dwyer (publisher and director of Liturgical Press) said. Here I am.

2)      Could you give a little of the history of GUTD?  

In a very real sense, Give Us This Day has its roots in the liturgical pioneer Father Virgil Michel, OSB, who founded Liturgical Press in 1926. Father Virgil insisted that liturgy was not just for priests and religious, and not just for academics. His vision was to provide resources that would help all Catholicsclergy and religious, as well as laypeople--discover the riches of the Churchs liturgical life. Liturgical Presss current mission statement is, in part, to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ to a richly diverse Church. People long for that, long to be drawn in, to enter more deeply into Liturgy, Scripture, and the sacramental life. It is a hunger and longing for communion with God and with others.
Not long after I came to Liturgical Press, and drawing on years of earlier research and planning, we began more intense research and development on what would become Give Us This Day. Listen, begins the Rule of St. Benedict. We listened to thousands of people across the countryfrom bishops and priests to religious and, of course, laypeopleto develop the resource you hold in your hands today. We launched in August 2011 and are celebrating our third anniversary of publication. I think Fr. Virgil must surely be pleased.

3) For my readers who are not familiar with GUTD, what would someone expect to find in each monthly edition?

            Daily content includes short prayer for morning, followed by a short profile of a saintly witness (Robert Ellsberg writes these pieces), the complete Mass texts, a short reflection (many are newly commissioned pieces, and about 1/3 are previously published texts, both ancient and contemporary), and then prayer for evening. Additionally, there is a popular weekly feature, “Within the Word,” that takes us more deeply into a person or theme in the week’s Lectionary. Each issue opens with a feature essay, followed by Father James Martin’s “Teach Us to Pray” column, and a section of prayers and blessings. The Order of Mass is included each month, as well as a section of hymns.

4)      The unique Morning and Evening Prayers for each day are modeled after the Liturgy of the Hours, but not as long.  How are these organized, particularly in the choosing of a Psalm and Scripture passage for each Morning and Evening prayer?

Sr. Irene Nowell, a Benedictine from Atchison, Kansas, selects the Psalm and Scripture passages. Psalms are cyclical, giving readers a broader selection than they are accustomed to hearing in the Lectionary. The Scripture texts are selected with an eye and ear on the Lectionary texts, allowing readers to pray thematically from morning to night.

5)      Could you talk a little bit about the impressive list of advisors and contributors to the periodical, most notably Fr. Jim Martin, Sr. Irene Nowell, and Fr. Ronald Rolheiser?

Our editorial advisors and contributors are a blessing, not just to us but to the entire Church. To a person, they love the Church, they love Scripture, they love Jesus!
Our contributors are passionate about the mission and vision of Give Us This Day. They are excited to be part of something they see to be so important: leading others more deeply into communion with God and each other through the practice of daily prayer, to help people realize the need to “come away and rest awhile.” None of our writers would want to be put on a pedestal. They, like John the Baptist, simply want to point the way to Christ.

6) Those who use the other popular prayer devotional Magnificat will notice some similarities between the two publications.  What would you say makes GUTD unique in comparison between the two?  

There are a number of other popular prayer devotionals, each with distinctive features. What readers tell us they most appreciate about Give Us This Day is the wide range of voices each month. Additionally, Give Us This Day is very much influenced by Benedictine spirituality, encouraging readers to establish the practice of lectio divina. There is no end to the ways in which God speaks to us if we sit with Scripture and let it speak the words we most need to hear.

7) How has been being a part of this publication, and I assume using it yourself each day, helped you in your own personal daily prayer?

This is a very good question. One of my hesitations in accepting the editor’s position was that it would “interfere” with my established practice of daily prayer. That is, I wondered if having seen all these texts in various stages of editing and proofreading, if working simultaneously in many seasons—if all of that would be a deafening cyclone of words. But God is good! I have for years prayed with the daily Lectionary texts. That hasn’t changed.  In praying with Give Us This Day, I discovered that morning prayer is a helpful addition, particularly since it serves as another entry point to the daily Mass texts. Moreover, morning and evening prayer have made me appreciate even more how the psalms “say it all.” What else? The daily “Blessed Among Us,” together with the wide range of reflection writers, makes me keenly aware of how we are all in this Body of Christ together. Each day brings something new and helpful and hopeful. Each day there is a word of challenge and comfort, a call to conversion and the assurance of God’s unfailing love in Christ.

Extra question: GUTD is current available in both regular and large print paper editions, as well as being accessible to subscribers on the website.  Is there any thought to creating a mobile App which would make accessing GUTD even easier?

More than a thought, our mobile App is in development and coming along nicely! We hope to launch it later this year. (I think Father Virgil Michel would be pleased about that too. Our publisher thinks Father Virgil would have had the app out sooner!)


David Garcia said...

I still have a really hard time understanding why magazines like this one, and Magnificat, and others can't just use the same prayers as the LOTH? Even if they are condensed, at least use the same Psalms and Scripture readings so when people who can't pray the entire LOTH decide they want to try and pray 'part' of it, that by using GOTD or Magnificat, at least they will still be praying the same prayers as the rest of the Catholic relgious world. Why produce magazines based on the LOTH and yet put totally different prayers and Psalms each day? Makes no sense to me!

Anonymous said...

Wow, can't believe it's been three years since GUTH was first published. I've been a charter subscriber since it's release. After using other lectionary based devotionals I can state that I find GUTH well suited to my needs. Why, because it is strongly scripturally based. The daily reflections are tied in to the Gospel of the day and in many circumstances give aids in how to apply the message into one's daily life. My favorite section is the weekly "within the word". This feature either comments on a theme or particular Gospel message. This feature has led me to delve more deeply into the scriptures. For example this weeks "within the word" discusses Ezekiel's dry bones text (37:1-14). Earlier in the month while the first reading at Mass was from Jeremiah the "within the word" feature discussed Hananiah and how he as a prophet fits in with Jeremiah.
As for the morning and evening prayer I use them as prayer starters to help settle me prior to praying the LOTH.
Since subscribing to GUTH I have torn out several pages and inserted them in my study bible for further readings.

All in all GUTH is in my humble opinion a great daily aid to prayer and scripture study.

Continued success for the publication and their staff for producing a wonderful periodical.


Chris said...

Using a resource such as Give Us This Day provides much richer Scriptural fare because in addition to morning, evening and night prayer we are given the daily Mass readings. I have just about every edition of the Liturgy of the Hours and quite frankly still find that the LOH are best prayed in communal settings. Give Us This Day was intentionally designed for personal prayer and I love the excellent commentary and how it relates to the daily readings and prayers. Give Us This Day has plenty of material to keep me spiritually nourished while fitting into my daily time frame.