New e-book featuring “The Flock” provides Advent preparation

by Joan Kurkowski-Gillen

North Texas Catholic

12/3/2016

This is the cover of "Advent Waiting...With The Flock," by longtime NTC contributor Jean Denton. (Courtesy The Pastoral Center)

"Advent Waiting...With The Flock" by Jean Denton. eResource. The Pastoral Center (Alameda, California, 2016). 8 pp., $14.00.

Two simply drawn sheep, gazing at the sky with hopeful anticipation, is the perfect introduction to Advent Waiting…with The Flock.

Designed to help parishioners look beyond the commercial hype surrounding Christmas and spiritually prepare for Christ’s birth, the reproducible e-resource material pairs a clever cartoon strip with one of the day’s scripture readings and a thought-provoking reflection.

“It’s a light approach to the serious matter of preparing for the coming of the Lord,” explains Jean Denton. The journalist, illustrator, and former North Texas Catholic correspondent authored the guide which features her cartoon series, “The Flock.” Centered around a cast of pensive but always quirky sheep, “The Flock” made its 1997 debut in the North Texas Catholic and has been featured in other U.S. diocesan newspapers over the years. A collection of the cartoons was published in 2007 under the title, Well-Drawn Faith.

The Pastoral Center, a California-based online ministry, is offering Advent Waiting…with The Flock as part of its Advent and Christmas inventory.

 “It can be used on a parish’s Facebook page, inserted in a bulletin, or emailed to parishioners,” says Denton who now lives in Roanoke, Virginia. “A lot of parishes are providing Christian formation online because it’s more affordable.”

A convert to Catholicism who credits yearly Jesuit retreats for enriching her faith life, the journalist draws inspiration for “The Flock” from her own experiences and struggles with discipleship. After trying to develop several other comic strips, the self-taught illustrator began toying with the idea of using sheep — a popular metaphor in the Bible — to express humanity’s sometimes complicated relationship with God.

“Sheep are the perfect character because they are very shallow, self-absorbed, and very much want to follow,” Denton continued. “In the same way we want to follow Christ but we’re very imperfect in the way we do it.”

Beatrice, the strip’s main character, represents the cartoonist’s alter ego.

“Obviously, the sheep in ‘The Flock’ are drawn from my own weaknesses and failings in trying to follow Jesus — as well as revelations of God’s patient and merciful love,” Denton admits. “It’s been a blessing and certainly gave me some ‘ah-ha’ moments.”

She refers to a cartoon in which Bernice calls the rest of the flock to gather and witness her crowning act of humility. The contradiction of “celebrating” humility struck a chord with the successful journalist.

“That one really was humbling,” she confesses.

Advent Waiting…with The Flock is available at www.pastoralcenter.com. Denton also contributes to Word to Life, a weekly scripture commentary distributed by Catholic New Service.

Two simply drawn sheep, gazing at the sky with hopeful anticipation, is the perfect introduction to Advent Waiting…with The Flock.

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