Good news!

Faith Meets World coverFaith Meets World: The Gift and Challenge of Catholic Social Teaching has nabbed first place in the General Interest category for the 2014 Excellence in Catholic Publishing Awards! These are awarded annually by the Association of Catholic Publishers.

When I had seen the other finalists in the same category a few weeks ago, I was certain my book had no chance. Brother Mickey McGrath’s Go to Joseph, in particular, is a remarkably beautiful book. So I’m not only excited, but also surprised and — though it sounds hokey maybe — a bit humbled by this.

Thank you to the folks at the ACP and also to my friends at Liguori who publish and support Faith Meets World.

The ACP announcement, with all of t his year’s winners, is here.


To my thousands of O’Hare Airport friends

ORD 5.13.14I want to offer a word of congratulations, respect, and gratitude to the mass of humanity with whom I shared space yesterday at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport.

What turned out to be a minor problem at a radar facility located in a Chicago suburb closed down both O’Hare and Midway Airports for a few hours yesterday. A “ground stop” is what they called it. No flights going in or out for several hours (incoming flights were diverted to other cities). At one of the biggest, busiest airports on the planet, a few hours of that sort of thing causes a hell of a traffic snarl, not only there but around the country.

Anyway, that all started around noon. As it happened, I had landed at O’Hare at around 11:30 am for a layover, expecting to get on a connecting flight home to Minnesota about 90 minutes later. That flight was cancelled, of course, and I was unable to get on another until about 10 pm. (I was lucky. Some folks ended up staying overnight at the airport.)

Especially once flights started coming in with people who all needed new connecting flights, O’Hare was a crowded, teeming mass of tired and inconvenienced people throughout the afternoon and evening hours. You can see a photo I took with my phone around suppertime up there on the right.

And I want to tell you: man, was I impressed with how everyone handled it. I can say that throughout the 11 long and taxing hours I was at O’Hare, I saw only one airline employee snap at a customer and, on another occasion, only one customer get cranky with an airline employee. But that was it. I was among literally thousands of people crammed into that space for those long hours, none of them particularly wanting to be there like that. But with the two small exceptions I mentioned, everyone was kind, respectful, and, more often than not, cheerful.

I saw people offering seats to one another when there were absolutely no free seats to be found in that terminal. I saw people sharing cell phones with those around them whose own phones had dead batteries. I saw people who were standing in very long customer services lines, waiting to reschedule cancelled flights, chatting and sharing food and passing around airline phone numbers to each other so others could call from cell phones rather than stand in line. I overheard two middle aged women, who I’m almost sure did not know each other, joking that maybe they could make a stop at a bar together, have a few drinks, and then find someplace in the airport to get tattoos together. I saw one woman pass another woman going in the opposite direction and shout out, “Hey, I love your hair!” (which clearly delighted the recipient of the comment). I heard a crowd of people gathered in one of the airport bars loudly cheering a basketball game together.

Around 9 pm, I saw one guy approach a gate from which a plane had just left, realizing he had missed his flight because – and I know this because he began to get irate and let everyone in the area know why he had missed it – because he’d been misinformed about the departure time from one of the airline agents. Just as he was really getting going with some loud expletives, a stranger came up to him with a smile and began commiserating and looking over the now-useless boarding ticket. I swear, after a minute, the stranger’s hand was on the guy’s shoulder, and a few minutes later they were laughing together. A few minutes after that – again, I swear this is true – I watched the guy who’d missed his flight walk away from there talking to his wife with a smile on his face.

Oh, and here’s one of my favorites: I saw a crowd of people waiting in a very, very long airline customer service line sing “Happy Birthday” to one of the people in line with them.

For what it’s worth, I’m also happy to mention that I was flying United Airlines this time, and their employees were — both at the airport and on phone as I tried to make new arrangements to get home — nothing but patient, cheerful, helpful, and quick to try to get things back on track. In the midst of what must have been an onslaught of customers wanting new flight arrangements, I was able to talk to a human being within three minutes of dialing their customer service number and had a new flight scheduled within another five minutes.

And so, humanity, or the portion of it who found themselves stuck with me at O’Hare yesterday, here’s to you. I was impressed yesterday. You did good!

It’s not often that you can say…

I finished writing my book today!

To finish a book manuscript is a satisfying and exciting experience. Also rare, unless you’re Stephen King. This morning was one of those times. I have now completed work on my book on John Courtney Murray! That project has been going on for almost three years now, with various interruptions along the way.

(I always start these things thinking they’ll take a few months, maybe a year, but they always go much longer than that. But that’s inevitable, I suppose, when family and the full-time job come first and second on the priority list and the writing takes third. Early mornings are my time for that. I’ve been up around 3:30 or 4:00 each morning this week, for example, because I wanted to get this thing wrapped up this week.)

My working title has been John Courtney Murray: The Most Influential American at Vatican II and His Struggle for the Truth about Religious Freedom. It’s a long subtitle, though, so no telling if it will change. Updates here, of course, as plans for possible publication develop.

I’ve posted here about Fr. Murray (that’s him on the right) from time to time as this project has moved along, because it has been thoroughly enjoyable and fascinating work. Those posts are:

A hell of a story: John Courtney Murray

Progress report: John Courtney Murray

A day at Vatican II: on the road to church teaching on religious freedom

Publication of this book, if it happens, is several months off, of course. In the meantime, while you’re waiting to find out all about his remarkable story, I can think of a few other fine books you might want to consider having by the bedside.

Speaking of bedside, it’s time for bed. I have some sleep to catch up on.


A look at the cover of a great new book


Here’s a look at the cover for Goffredo Boselli’s soon-to-be-published The Spiritual Meaning of the Liturgy: School of Prayer, Source of Life. I translated it from the Italian.

Fr. Goffredo is one of the most highly respected liturgists in Italy today. When you see what’s here, you will understand why. It’s chock full of rich contents that you don’t need a liturgy degree to understand. It’s not difficult reading — but it is both challenging and inspiring.

It will be available in September from Liturgical Press!