Dr. John Gay
While many book publishers are going under during rocky economic times, a new Canadian Catholic press is entering its fourth year, offering six new book titles.
Justin Press, however, is not a profit-making venture. "That was never our aim," president and co-founder Dr. John Gay, an Ottawa physician, said at a Nov. 14 book launch there. "It was always conceived as an apostolate."
"We're attempting two things: one, to provide an outlet for good Catholic writing and the development of Catholic writers in Canada who can address issues that are particular to the Canadian Church and to develop a Catholic reading public in Canada," he said.
Though there already is a Catholic reading public nourished by Ignatius Press, "they do not address things from a Canadian standpoint and there is no reason why they should," he said. "We hope to fill that role."
Gay said Justin Press aim to publish Canadian Catholic authors who write from within the framework of the teachings of the Catholic Church rather than including authors who dissent from or challenge the magisterium.
So far, Justin Press has published 20 books. "We're making enough to continue publishing," Gay said.
"We've increased in volume of sales every year since we began," he said.
Gay acknowledges Justin Press could not survive if he and others on the board, vice-president Richard Bastien, chief financial officer Bill Craig, secretary Patrick Meagher and director Mark Woermke depended on income from the press for more than publishing books.
"If we were depending in it to live we would have passed away a long time ago," he said.
One secret to Justin Press's success is international bestseller Michael O'Brien, who has written numerous works of fiction as well as books of essays.
"I must say, a quarter of our titles have been written by Michael O'Brien who has been a mainstay of Justin Press; he gave us immediate name recognition that we would not otherwise have had," Gay said. "So we owe great debt to him for what success we've had."
"We've had some other excellent writers too who have benefited from Michael's presence on our list of authors," he said. "They become known to people who come to us seeking Michael. So we're very encouraged by the future."
Justin Press also has the support of the Madonna House apostolate, which distributes its books.
O'Brien acknowledged his debt to Justin Press at the launch of his latest book Arriving Where We Started: Faith and Culture in the Postmodernist Age.
"Without you, I would not be published in my native land," said O'Brien, who lives in Combermere, Ont., not far from Madonna House.
The book is a collection of essays and reviews looking at the "crisis of faith and culture in our times." He noted how Pope Benedict had exhorted the European Union not to forget the Christian roots of Europe, and in his talk warned, "We are losing the basic memory of mankind."
It is the role of culture to exteriorize the big questions in life such as "Who is man? Why do I exist? What is my value in this mysterious cosmos?" he said.
Culture is a language by which man comes to know himself, to know he is capable of virtue, he said.
Father Denis Lemieux, a Madonna House priest, launched his book Going Home that examines the mercy and love in the heart of the Father, using the parable of the prodigal son.
"The philosophy of Jansenism, that God will only love good people, is a hidden factor in much of the present confusion and darkness of our times," Lemieux said.
"If there's no mercy, you can't talk about sin, about the absolute moral law, or an all-knowing, all-seeing God who knows everything you have ever done or said," he said. "The truth would be scary and horrifying if God is not our merciful Father."
Lemieux proposed divine mercy as the antidote for the sad, gloomy Christian; the angry, judgmental Christian; and the mushy, sentimental Christian.