Thursday, December 5, 2013
"Kerman Derman and the Relic of Perilous Falls" my First Book for Middle Readers coming in 2014. New Imprint Created to Launch Series
And if you'd like me to visit your school, library, or museum (a museum figures very prominently in this series) during the book tour next year, invite Kerman and me at email@example.com. Put "Book Tour" in the subject line, include your contact info. and we'll be in touch.
Now Charlie Brown in the Peanuts gang are joining Kerman and me at Regnery. "It's the Great Publisher, Charile Brown."
Monday, July 8, 2013
I spent a good ten minutes studying the writing desk that served Charles Dickens for so many years. It was on this self-designed desk where he scratched out Great Expectations and The Tale of Two Cities. Within the walls of his Doughty Street house in London, now occupied by the Charles Dickens Museum, he wrote Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickleby by hand. To stand in his office and spend some time near that tiny desk was humbling and a little sad.
Just think of his legacy: A Christmas Carol, The Pickwick Papers, The Old Curiosity Shop... All of it coming from time he spent alone shaping the raw material he gathered from the teeming city around him. Dickens wrote "I never could have done what I have done without the habits of punctuality, order, and diligence, without the determination to concentrate myself on one subject at a time." Dickens routine was to write undisturbed between breakfast and lunch. He would then spend the afternoon attending to his philanthropic work and later honing dramatic readings of his masterpieces.
But this enduring output was reliant on the life and culture around him. He took time to wander the streets of town picking up story ideas, cadences and the passions of his era. Dickens attended everything from public hangings to grand theatre premieres. Today one wonders what Dickens would find on those same streets were he to wander them today. I just went for a stroll myself (in the DC area admittedly) and found a menagerie of loners: People entirely cut off from one another--tethered to ear buds, trapped in an audio universe of their own construction. When they do look up it's usually to avoid walking into an oncoming vehicle or to check a text on their smart phones. The only dialogue I heard on my 20 minute walk were either people cursing each other out, or people cursing loudly into cell phones. Not exactly the raw matter of the next David Copperfield...
For all our connectivity we are more isolated today than at any time in human history. The recent book Going Solo cites the staggering statistic that in 1950 22% of American adults were single, today that number has risen to 50%. 31 million Americans are soloists. We are (to borrow that old song title) alone together. Without real interaction--the human clash-- drama, music, film, television and literature withers. It leads to a pop culture and arts scene drained of life-- tired and recycled. It falls back on what was and what worked before. Is it any wonder that our cineplexes are featuring yet another Lone Ranger reboot, after another Superman reboot, after another Star Trek reboot, all overwhelmed by one more sequel appropriately called: Despicable Me 2!
The arts are usually an accurate reflection of where we are as a people. And it seems a pretty Bleak House from this vantage point. Culturally speaking you might even call it Hard Times. Perhaps Dickens' captured it best in 1842, following his first tour of America, when he wrote to his friend William Macready: "This is not the republic I came to see; this is not the republic of my imagination." I think we all know how he must have felt.
|Original Oliver Twist|
Friday, May 3, 2013
What follows is the tale of a deflated unicorn and the lasting mark of the choices we make on a whim. For those with friends or kids contemplating marking themselves with a tattoo or in more profound ways, read this and be warned:
Friday, April 12, 2013
April 20th will mark the 90th birthday of dear Mother Angelica. To commemorate the occasion, my publisher, Image and I are giving away 90 copies of my biography of Mother throughout the month. To qualify, go to the top of my homepage (above) and click on the "Happy 90th Birthday Mother Angelica" banner. There you can sign up to enter yourself in our giveaway. Additionally, I am giving away some copies of the audio version of the Mother Angelica biography. To get one of those, send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Tell me how Mother has changed your life or the life of someone you know. Put Mother Angelica in the subject line. Keep your story pithy and I may read a few of the letters on air next week and share the best ones with Mother and the nuns.
Remember the entire Mother Angelica canon of books (the biography, Mother Angelica's Little Book of Life Lessons, Mother Angelica's Private and Pithy Lessons from the Scriptures, and the Prayers and Personal Devotions of Mother Angelica) are available online and at bookstores everywhere. Click "Books" to the left to get your own copies. Thanks for visiting and Happy Birthday Mother!
Saturday, March 16, 2013
“During the election, I was seated next to the Archbishop Emeritus of São Paolo and Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for the Clergy, Cardinal Claudio Hummes: a good friend, a good friend! When things were looking dangerous, he encouraged me. And when the votes reached two thirds, there was the usual applause, because the Pope had been elected. And he gave me a hug and a kiss, and said: “Don't forget the poor!” And those words came to me: the poor, the poor. Then, right away, thinking of the poor, I thought of Francis of Assisi. Then I thought of all the wars, as the votes were still being counted, till the end. Francis is also the man of peace. That is how the name came into my heart: Francis of Assisi. For me, he is the man of poverty, the man of peace, the man who loves and protects creation; these days we do not have a very good relationship with creation, do we? He is the man who gives us this spirit of peace, the poor man … How I would like a Church which is poor and for the poor! Afterwards, people were joking with me. “But you should call yourself Hadrian, because Hadrian VI was the reformer, we need a reform…” And someone else said to me: “No, no: your name should be Clement”. “But why?” “Clement XV: thus you pay back Clement XIV who suppressed the Society of Jesus!” These were jokes.”
Some Jesuits listening might have missed the humor. The reference to Cardinal Hummes was an interesting one. There are rumors that the Pope may name the 78-year-old retired Hummes Secretary of State. Given his age, I find that story difficult to swallow. But who foresaw a Jesuit, older Pope from Latin America? We’ll see how this plays out. Here’s what we do know: on Saturday the Pope reappointed the entire curia to their former positions. Now the all important replacement process begins.
There was one moment at the end of the audience which caused a number of journalists confusion. The Pope said he was going to give the assembled his blessing. Then he announced this in Spanish: “I told you I was cordially imparting my blessing. Since many of you are not members of the Catholic Church, and others are not believers, I cordially give this blessing silently, to each of you, respecting the conscience of each, but in the knowledge that each of you is a child of God. May God bless you!”
With that he waved and left the audience hall. On our way out a non-Catholic, American TV anchor asked me, “Did he give the blessing? Was that it?” The Pope did not raise his hand to make the sign of the cross, which caused much confusion. Few of us had ever witnessed a silent papal blessing, but I guess we did today. At a media event it seemed a missed opportunity. Gesture is important not only in the Church but in the media. And while the Pope’s sensitivity was well taken, by not making a gesture of blessing he denied the press a great image to accompany their stories—mainly that the Pope had blessed the media.
The coming days will be important ones for Pope Francis. Monday he will sit down with the President of Argentina with whom he has crossed swords for years. As Cardinal Archbishop of Buenos Aires he opposed President Christina Fernandez’s efforts to legalize gay marriage and distribute free contraceptives. Now in his first diplomatic meeting, he will sit across the table from Fernandez as Pope. For Madame Presidente it will likely be an uncomfortable encounter. It’s one thing to defy an archbishop. Openly defying a pope, in person, requires a political fortitude that is hard to come by.
Tomorrow the Pope will celebrate Mass at the Vatican’s parish church of Santa Anna. It is an interesting choice. My suspicion is that the Pope is again underscoring--as he did with the visit to the image of Mary, Salvation of the Roman People the other day, and while standing on the loggia of St. Peter’s—that he is the bishop of Rome. It is a facet of the papacy that Francis seems to take seriously and one that is perhaps easier for him to embrace during these early days. In some ways it is like an Archbishop changing dioceses. But in time, he will no doubt confront the full scope of his awesome responsibility as Supreme Pastor-- nothing less than the care and direction of the global Catholic Church.
The major networks have all but pulled out of Rome. Following Pope Francis’ election the story was over for them. They will give cursory coverage to the inaugural Mass on Tuesday and that will be that. The most important work in these early days will take place out of public sight—in his meetings with curial officials and trusted advisors.
I am actually looking forward to seeing images of the face to face between Benedict XVI and Pope Francis next Saturday at Castelgondolfo. Ah to be a papal fly on the wall… What must Benedict think of all this? Of the new Pope? Of the new arrangement? This will be one for the history books… stay tuned.
I’ll be going to Mass with Cardinal Timothy Dolan in the morning and I will be praying particularly for my first born who will be 13 on St. Patrick’s day. Happy Birthday Alexander. I’ll be home soon.
Remember that you can sign up for my e-blast (it’s near the bottom of my homepage at Raymondarroyo.com). Once you sign up, I’ll send you the latest installment of my Rome Diary each day.
To walk into a church and to be confronted with the artistry of Caravaggio still amazes me. Such beauty and power. This is the Vocation of St. Matthew, one of the painter's masterpieces.
I discovered the tomb of painter, Fra Angelico in the Santa Maria sopra Minerva this afternoon. Very moving to be there.
Friday, March 15, 2013
The media is captivated by Pope Francis. And why shouldn’t they be? The humble Pope with a heart for the poor is a powerful image. One minute he paying his own bill at the priest’s house where he resided before the conclave, the next he is dashing down the stairs with his bags in hand.
Security officials tell me they have been chuckling to themselves as Pope Francis gently vetoes their procedures for moving a pope from one location to another. Others in the Vatican are not chuckling at all. These tiny gestures-- the subverting of business as usual here; the resistance to Vatican protocol--are sending a striking message to those who work in the curia. This is a pope with his own ideas and change is coming- big change. There is another perspective on this, however. A very wise priest pointed out to me the other night that the Petrine office is more than the man occupying it and there are good and established reasons for the traditions and protocols surrounding a Holy Father. Whether it is the review of texts, security, or various liturgical customs, all these things exist to protect the Pope and to advance his mission. We’ll see how the new Pope reconciles his old ways with this new environment. But in the meantime, Pope Francis’s independent spirit is fun to watch and could become increasingly important in the days ahead.
One question that I have been pondering all day is this: If the justification for Benedict XVI’s retirement was to make way for a younger more vibrant man, why did the cardinals elect a 76-year-old, slow moving man with one lung? (The Pope lost his other lung following an infection as a teenager ). During his address to the cardinals today the Pope seemed to answer this question indirectly.
In a speech that was partially written, partially improvised Pope Francis said: "Dear Brother, take strength!... Half of us are in old age: old age is - I like to say so - the seat of wisdom. Old people have walked into the wisdom of life, such as the aged Simeon, the aged Anna at the Temple. And that wisdom made them recognize Jesus. We give this wisdom to the young people: good wine, which over the years becomes good, we give young people the knowledge of life. I am reminded of what a German poet of old said: 'Es ist ruhig, das Alter, und fromm'' it is the time of peace and prayer. And also to give young people this wisdom. You will now return to your sees to continue your ministry enriched by the experience of these days, so full of faith and of ecclesial communion. Such a unique and incomparable experience, has allowed us to deeply understand the beauty of the Church and that it is a reflection of the splendor of the Risen Christ: one day we'll look at that beautiful face of the Risen Christ. "
The speech today had shades of the impromptu homily offered during his first papal Mass in the Sistine Chapel yesterday. The Gospel reading contained one of my favorite lines in Scripture: “The stone rejected by the builders has become the corner stone…” For Pope Francis there is great biographical resonance in those lines. When he attempted to reform the Jesuits as provincial in Argentina in the 1970’s he encountered severe resistance from within and was exiled to northern Argentina for his efforts. Later he would become a bishop and eventually Archbishop of Buenos Aires. Bergoglio has suffered for advancing reform and still he pressed forward. We are likely to see him move to reform of the curia in similar fashion, heedless of the consequences. Some members of the Jesuit order are reportedly trembling over his ascension for obvious reasons. There were a few powerful lines at the end of the homily that I think capture Francis’ agenda: “I would like that everyone, after these days of grace, should have the courage, truly the courage, to walk in the presence of the Lord, with the cross of the Lord; to build up the Church upon the blood of the Lord that was shed upon the cross; and to confess the only glory: Christ crucified. And in this way the Church will move forward.”
We had a fantastic World Over last night: Cardinal Francis George of Chicago was perceptive and fascinating as always. During the show he alluded to the fact that Bergoglio’s name bubbled up during the voting in the Sistine Chapel and was not on many lists before the conclave. Cardinal Edwin O’Brien, said Pope Francis’ candidacy just “came about out of the blue” and his vote count kept rising. Many cardinals I have spoken with have referenced Bergoglio’s brief address during the General Congregations as a decisive moment for them. Whatever he said, it left an impression. Here is a link to this week’s World Over in case you missed it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ikB_8o9psE
Mary Matalin, Msgr. Christopher Nalty, Kathryn Lopez, a few other pals and myself had a quick snack last night. Mary made the very sage point that Francis by reviving the faith of Latin America could, like John Paul, reverse the horrible political situation in so many of those countries. Marxism has persisted for decades in various iterations there. Perhaps a spiritual renaissance is the answer to the problems that have long dogged the south. It is a fascinating thought in any event.
It is late here, nearly one AM. I have to get up early to attend the Pope’s audience with journalists, so I should get some sleep. I will carry all of you in my heart as I enter the Paul VI Hall tomorrow and send my impressions along in the next diary entry.
Remember that you can sign up for my e-blast (it’s near the bottom of my homepage at Raymondarroyo.com). Once you sign up, I’ll send you the latest installment of my Rome Diary each day.
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
The word going in was that an early vote would mean Pope Scola. So much for the prognostications and even the preconceptions of some Cardinals entering the conclave. As I have often said: the pressure cooker of the conclave dispatches and raises up candidates very quickly--and in real time. According to a 2005 diary leaked to the news media, Cardinal Jorge Maria Bergoglio was the runner up in the last conclave. Tonight he was no runner up. He was elected Pope.
In truth, from the ground level, I have never heard a crowd so quiet at a papal event. The Pope’s tender “Buona Sera” threw the people and he was not who they were expecting. +Dolan, +Scola, +Ouellet were still mentioned before the big reveal. Most in the crowd near me, didn’t know who Cardinal Bergoglio was, even after the election.
By now you know many of the details. He is the first Jesuit pope, the first to take the name Francis. And by all indications he intends to follow the Divine request entrusted to Francis of Assisi: “Rebuild my Church.” (Cardinal Dolan said tonight that the Pope emphatically told the cardinals that he would take the name Francis after Francis of Assisi, not Francis Xavier the Jesuit evangelist).
Having spoken to a number of people who know Pope Bergoglio here is what I have discerned: He is a man of the people. A humble Archbishop who lives in an apartment and takes a bus to work. The new Pope is known to have a heart for the poor. He has repeatedly spoken about the inequities between rich and poor and stressed social justice. Doctrinally he is right in line with Benedict XVI on marriage, abortion, etc.
You’ll remember when the cardinals went into the conclave they insisted that they were seeking a reformer to clean up the curia--the Vatican bureaucracy. Well I am told by an individual who worked with Cardinal Bergoglio in the past that he is the man for the job. “He is an ___-kicker who can fix this place from top to bottom,” the man told me tonight. “He’ll get the right people in place.” As a Jesuit leader in Argentina, he battled his order to restrain the rise of liberation theology and tried to reform the Jesuits from within. So the notion of reform and standing up to status quo is nothing new for Bergoglio.
When I watched the Pope appear on the Loggia tonight, I was most excited for Latins throughout the Americas. You’ll remember I wrote a couple of days ago: “…The Latin American (cardinals) only have 14 votes in the conclave even though they represent 46% of Catholics worldwide. They want the Holy See to give Latin America it's due and seek a Pope who really cares. The Latin swing vote could be decisive.” I think it probably was. Expect the red hats to proliferate in South and Central America. Imagine the reception Pope Francis will receive this summer in Brazil. Better make your hotel reservations now—there may be none available a few weeks from now.
Welcome to the era of Francis. Tomorrow the Pope will visit with Benedict XVI, pray at St. Mary Major, and celebrate a 5PM Mass at the Sistine Chapel with his cardinals. The inauguration Mass is on Tuesday, St. Joseph’s day.
The new Pope has a tender way about him. From the Loggia of St. Peter’s he asked the crowd to bless him, led them in prayers for the former Pope, and after taking the mic from the attendant, reached out to the people with very gentle words. Cardinal Dolan said instead of riding in the limo to the post-election dinner, Pope Francis jumped in a mini-bus with his brother cardinals. Humility is an arresting thing to see in the powerful. And to see a Pope purposely diminishing his profile at the very moment of his ascension is an example for all of us. Like John Paul and Benedict before him, the office and the power of the Holy Spirit will transform Pope Francis into something he is not, even now.
Standing in the rain watching the people stream out of the square tonight, even as the Pope was speaking, it felt like something major was ending and perhaps something even better was beginning. Only time will tell. But that hushed crowd seemed to be withholding its excitement. tempering its applause, waiting to see just what Pope Francis will do and say in the days to come. Many Catholics probably feel the same way.
The Conclave Team and I will be back on air Thursday for the World Over in our normal time slot: 8PM eastern on EWTN. I’ll will have analysis of the new Pope, exclusive interviews and we will answer all your questions. Remember to send your reactions or questions to Raymond@raymondarroyo.com. You can also sign up for my e-blast (it’s near the bottom of my homepage at Raymondarroyo.com). If you sign up for the e-blast, I’ll send you the latest installment of my Rome Diary each day. You wouldn't want to miss that, would you? Buona Sera.