Raymond Arroyo, Known the World Over
Posted by Ian on 30 September 2012 06:56 PM
I have a confession to make. I don't watch EWTN. I don't watch The World Over. Our family has never had a cable or even a basic television connection. I actually find it refreshing to not know what is going on in the latest sitcoms. I have on occasion watched Raymond Arroyo on The World Over at my parents' home and my inlaws' home and he is a refreshing, upbeat news anchor. He always seems to be smiling - And not in a creepy "I want to suck your blood" kind of way.
When I saw that Raymond Arroyo was on the list for Catholic Speakers' Month, I was intrigued. I didn't realize that he actually did speaking engagements. I guess it does fit with his current and past work. Raymond Arroyo graduated from the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University and still managed to become a normal person, in spite of both a career in acting and directing before he started The World Over television show on EWTN and the EWTN News department in 1996. His show is probably one of the most viewed Catholic shows in the world. With over 150,000,000 viewers, he is watched by more people than the populations of the 9-most populous US states.
An interesting bit of trivia that I didn't know before researching this post was that his family used to live in New Orleans where his father owned an Italian restaurant, Tony Angelo's. The restaurant and the Arroyo's home were both destroyed by hurricane Katrina.
He also is a prolific author and if Mother Angelica's name ever comes up for canonization he will be the go-to-guy for documentation. Apart from her biography, Mother Angelica - The Remarkable Story of a Nun, Her Nerve and a Network of Miracles, Raymond has written three other books with Mother Angelica:
If you haven't had a chance to listen to his audio reading of Mother Angelica's biography, you really need to. He has managed to get her voice down to a "T" and could probably do the audio versions of her other books as her without anyone knowing it.
If you don't watch EWTN, you can still catch him co-hosting the Art and Soul segment on the Laura Ingraham show. The two of them together are a very entertaining duo.
If you want Raymond Arroyo to come and speak at your event or to your organization, you can arrange a talk on Habits of a Cloistered CEO: The Business Wisdom of Mother Angelica.
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Q&A With Anthony deStefano, Author of Angels All Around Us
Posted by Ian on 26 September 2012 10:25 AM
Anthony deStefano is the best-selling author of A Travel Guide to Heaven and Ten Prayers God Always Says "Yes" To. He has worked with Father Pavone on pro-life issues and is a member of the Knights of Malta.
He also likes to fly vintage planes for the Civil Air Patrol.
Q&A provided by Image Books.
Q: Angels All Around Us is a book about understanding angels, demons, and the spiritual realities that surround us. In a world that is so visual, why tackle such a murky subject?
A: That’s really the whole point. What I tried to do in this book was attempt to render that spiritual world a bit less murky and a bit clearer for people. My hope is that, by doing this, these invisible realities won’t seem so unfamiliar in the future. And the more familiar they are, the easier it will be to understand them and to have absolute faith in their existence.
Q: Unseen spiritual realities are rarely analyzed from a Christian point of view. What is the reason?
A: I think there are some Christian books on the market that focus on invisible realities, but not many of them are written in a way that speaks to the general public. In other words, there are books on God, the angels, demons, grace, etc., but unfortunately, most of them are heavy theological works that are rather long and dull. I think the reason for this is that Christians sometimes forget that theology can be exciting and compelling and wonderfully interesting for everyone—not just scholars, academics, and theologians.
Q: If we are going to explore the invisible spiritual realm, how can we tell the phony from the authentically supernatural? Is there a way to be sure about what is real and what is superstition or even fraud?
A: It’s very difficult because the topic is so subjective. That’s why, in my book, I don’t indulge in wild speculation or relate hundreds of anecdotes and stories that may or may not be true. I stick to what has been revealed in Scripture and the authentic teaching of Christianity over twenty centuries. I feel strongly that, if I didn’t stay within these parameters, it would be too easy to drift into the worst kind of make believe.
Q: Angels have captured our imagination in a special way. Why do you think that is?
A: I think part of the fascination is that, while angels are completely different from us, i.e., they’re pure spiritual beings, they are also right here with us on Earth, helping us, guiding us, and protecting us. In other words, we are intrigued by angels because they are powerful and wonderful creatures, but also because part of their job is to really get involved in our lives—to really “get their hands dirty,’’ so to speak, in the affairs of human beings. Angels are mysterious and strange and invisible, but they’re also our fellow creatures—and they’re essentially living part of their lives on earth in order to help us. So although they’re very far away from us, they’re also very close. It’s the proximity that is fascinating, I think.
Q: You also explore the idea of the devil. “The devil made me do it,” is a cliché that people often use with humor. Can it be true? How does the devil actually tempt us?
A: Of course it’s true. The devil does tempt us. And the devil really exists. He is spoken about many times in Scripture. He’s not a “theological construct,” as some academics have theorized. He’s a real being. As far as how he goes about tempting us, as the movie The Exorcist correctly says, “The attack is psychological.” And moreover, it usually involves deception. Satan, says Scripture, is a liar and the father of all lies. Understanding lying is the key to understanding the nature of the Evil One and the nature of spiritual warfare. Think about it. If God is Truth, and the devil hates everything about God, then naturally the devil is going to want to mess with the truth. What could be more offensive to God than to get us to act in a way that completely contradicts God’s identity? What could be more insulting than for us to be persuaded to act in a way that is diametrically opposed to everything God stands for? That’s why the devil is always trying to deceive us. Not only is it an extremely effective tactic for trapping us, but it also mocks God at the same time. So deception is the foundation of all demonic strategy—it’s the devil’s modus operandi.
Q: If the devil and the demons are so powerful, how can we ever hope to combat them?
A: It’s very simple. In order to protect yourself from spiritual realities that are harmful or evil, all you have to do is unite yourself to God. Union with God is the ultimate and absolute defense mechanism against all spiritual attacks. In the presence of grace, evil runs, hides, flees. That’s a fundamental spiritual law.
Q: And how can we invite positive spiritual forces into our lives?
A: One of the very best ways is to pray. Prayer puts you in direct contact with the creator of everything, including the whole spiritual realm. It’s like being plugged into an electrical generator. Prayer is the great spiritual conduit. A super-highway to Heaven! Prayers go up to God, and he sends spiritual graces of all kinds down to us. The best thing he sends to us, of course, is himself!
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Q&A With Colleen Carroll Campbell About My Sisters the Saints
Posted by Ian on 24 September 2012 07:00 AM
Many years ago in Colorado Springs I was on the St. Mary's Forensics team. Also on that team was Colleen Carroll. We both competed in humor and she always beat me. If you ever get the chance, ask her to do her Carol Burnett impression.
Since then she has been a speech writer for President Bush and a host on EWTN. Several years ago she wrote a book called The New Faithful which was a look at the rise of a new generation of orthodox, enthusiastic Catholics. My Sisters the Saints comes out in October and in it Colleen will take you on a spiritual journey through her life and how the saints have helped her through some great hardships.
This Q&A was supplied by the great folks at Image Books.
Your writing career until now has been focused mostly on journalistic and political endeavors – as a news and editorial writer, op-ed columnist, presidential speechwriter and author of The New Faithful, a journalistic study of a religious phenomenon. What inspired you to take such a personal turn in this new book?
The truth is, I was forced into it. I was drawn to writing about the themes at the heart of this book – the tensions between our human desires for both freedom and commitment, spiritual growth and worldly success, avoidance of suffering and the wisdom that comes only through trials. I was especially drawn to writing about how these tensions play out in the lives of women struggling to reconcile their Christian faith with contemporary feminism. And in the end, I found myself agreeing with Flannery O’Connor: “A story is a way to say something that can’t be said any other way … You tell a story because a statement would be inadequate.” It just so happened that the story I needed to tell was my own – mine, and those of six women saints.
The personal struggles you describe and issues you confront in this book are quite contemporary, from disillusionment with the hook-up culture to difficulties finding work-life balance and moral dilemmas over hi-tech fertility treatments. Yet most of the saints you cite as guides were contemplatives and many were cloistered nuns. Did it surprise you that you could relate to these women?
Yes, it did. The outward circumstances of my life and the lives of these saints were often very different, though there were some striking parallels – such as the dementia that struck St. Therese’s father and my own father. The real basis of my connection to these women was more fundamental, though: our shared search for meaning, longings for both love and liberation, and struggles to overcome temptations and faults. The contemplative dimension of these saints was also their genius, and I learned that the true contemplative does not seek to escape life but to live it more fully and deeply. These women of prayer taught me a lot about how to live as a woman of action in the world.
You write about your attempts to find meaning in your father’s battle with dementia. Why is a spiritual lens helpful when viewing the Alzheimer’s experience?
We live in a culture that judges a person’s worth according to the categories of autonomy, productivity and rationality. By those standards, an Alzheimer’s patient does not count for much. We think nothing of describing dementia patients as mere “shells” of their former selves, as “not really there,” “already gone,” even, according to some ethicists, as non-persons. It’s natural to recoil from the changes that take place in a loved one afflicted by Alzheimer’s – I recoiled from them, too, initially – but looking at this disease through a spiritual lens allows you to see gifts in the person and the trial that you could not otherwise see. For me, this meant coming to see my father not only as still himself and still beloved by God but as a true model of unconditional love and profound trust in God – someone I could still learn from and admire, even amid his decline.
You worked as the sole woman speechwriter to President George W. Bush, a rare opportunity yet one that exposed you to the sort of work-life conflicts that confront women in all walks of life. Why was it important to you to find spiritual meaning in those conflicts and a saint to help you sort through them?
I turned to my faith to sort out those conflicts precisely because I found the secular alternatives so inadequate. On the one hand, I heard from a secular feminist establishment that gave me the “you go, girl” speech – but offered me little help in dealing with my own innate desires for marriage, motherhood and more time with my family. There were antifeminist voices that supported those desires, of course, but they often gave short shrift to my legitimate longing to do meaningful work in the world, treating it as somehow selfish or superficial. So I found myself looking to my faith, and in this case, to St. Faustina, for guidance in balancing these two competing desires – to discern where God was calling me and how I could find love and peace without sacrificing my freedom and all I had worked for.
In writing about your journey through infertility, you mention your frustration at how few books you found that helped you deal with the spiritual side of this trial. What’s missing from the way infertility is often addressed in religious circles?
For starters, compassion. When you are dealing with infertility, you get a lot of unsolicited advice: Just pray! Just relax! Just adopt! But advice is usually the last thing you want. What you really want is a baby. And failing that, you want someone to acknowledge your grief and its validity without giving you a lecture about why you should not take your childlessness so hard or which remedy you should try next. In my case, I had the resources to figure out my medical options and to understand, on an intellectual level, the moral implications of various infertility treatments. What I most needed was a way of making sense of my trial and getting through it. I needed help understanding my value as a woman even if I never bore biological children. Where did I fit in the kingdom of God if this were to be my permanent lot in life? What was the meaning of my marriage if it could not bear fruit in this way? Why had God given me this intense desire to bear a child if he did not intend to fulfill it? Those were the questions that led me to discover the writings of St. Edith Stein, a philosopher who wrote poignantly – and, for me, very helpfully – about the meaning of a woman’s maternal desires and the way those desires can be fulfilled in all walks of life.
There seems to be a renewed interest in the saints in recent years, even beyond the Catholic Church. Why do you think that is, and why should readers – especially non-Catholics – get to know the saints?
Christianity is an incarnational religion. We believe that God became man in a specific town, on a specific day, in the womb of a specific woman. So the personal and specific matters in Christianity, and the personal stories of Christ’s followers matter, too. Each life testifies to some unique aspect of God’s love; each human person bears God’s image in a unique way. Getting to know the saints allows us to get to know Jesus in a new way, to see his qualities magnified through a new lens or situated in a new historical context. I like the way Father Robert Barron put it when I asked him this question on my EWTN show, “Faith & Culture.” He said that looking at Jesus is like looking directly at the sun: His virtues are brilliant, blindingly so, and they give light to everything else. Looking at the saints is like looking at the moon: They reflect the light of Christ, but in a way that’s a little easier for our imperfect eyes to take in. When we’re striving for holiness and intimacy with God, it helps to look at these little moons – to look at the men and women who faced the same struggles as us and emerged victorious.
Most of the women saints you highlight lived in modern times and all but one left behind voluminous writings about their own spiritual journeys. Do you see this spiritual memoir as an attempt to follow in their literary footsteps?
Well, I certainly would not claim to have written the next Interior Castle or Story of a Soul, but I do see My Sisters the Saints as part of that long tradition of Christian writers linking their personal stories to the great story of Jesus and his saints. In the contentious, sound-bite age we live in, I think it’s tempting for Christians – and especially Catholics – to get so caught up in debates over doctrine or ecclesial politics that we lose sight of the intensely personal character of Christianity, a religion that is all about a personal God reaching out through the person of his Son to touch the personal lives of his followers. That’s not to say that doctrinal disputes or the public implications of Christian beliefs do not matter; I think anyone who has followed my work knows that I take those things seriously. But at the end of the day, God changes the world one heart, one life and one story at a time. This spiritual memoir is my attempt to share how God used the stories of his saints to change my heart and my life.
COLLEEN CARROLL CAMPBELL is an author, print and broadcast journalist, and former presidential speechwriter. She writes an op-ed column on religion, politics, and women's issues for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, blogs on those subjects for TheNew York Times and The Washington Post; comments about them on such networks as FOX News, CNN, and PBS; and discusses them as host of Faith & Culture, a weekly television and radio show that airs internationally on EWTN, the world's largest religious network, and on Sirius Satellite and Relevant Radio. A former speechwriter to President George W. Bush and the author of The New Faithful: Why Young Adults Are Embracing Christian Orthodoxy, Campbell contributes frequently to national publications and speaks to audiences across America.
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Aquinas and More Interview With Christopher West
Posted by Ian on 24 July 2012 08:55 AM
Christopher West has become a regular name in Theology of the Body circles and recently returned from a year-long sabbatical with a new book, At the Heart of the Gospel. Christopher graciously took the time to do an interview with Aquinas and More.
You have written and spoken extensively about the Theology of the Body for years. Why a new book now?
Well, since John Paul II’s Theology of the Body (TOB) examines infinite mysteries, there is never a lack of something to explore and unfold. More specifically, in recent years people have raised important questions about that nature of the TOB and they’re looking for answers. What did John Paul actually teach? Is it new? Is it all about sex? What is sex all about? How can we best reach our sexually confused culture with the teaching of the Church? Wanting to provide thoughtful answers to these and many other questions is what inspired me to write this book at this time.
You took a long sabbatical from speaking to reflect on your message. What conclusions did you reach?
Teachers of the faith are under a lot of pressure to “be perfect” and sometimes we place that pressure on ourselves. No one can live up to that. I think the greatest fruit of my sabbatical in 2010 was coming to a deeper appreciation of how God’s power is made perfect in our weakness, as St. Paul says. When I started this work almost twenty years ago, I think out of fear of facing some of my own brokenness, I convinced myself that I had some “strength” to offer the Church and the world. The Lord, in his mercy, has been helping me see that all I really have to offer is my weakness. He’s been helping me to see that holiness is not about “getting our act together.” Holiness is about keeping all of our brokenness open to the merciful love of the Father. He loves us as we are – in all of our brokenness – and it’s a deep knowledge of that love that progressively transforms us.
Marriage today is under assault from all sides with cohabitation, the homosexual “marriage” debate and no-fault divorce. How do we bring the teachings of Theology of the Body to our secular society without having it rejected as “just Catholic stuff?”
We might start by remembering ourselves, as Catholics, that the very word “catholic” means “universal.” When we understand Catholic teaching about marriage and sexuality properly, we readily recognize that it is an affirmation of simple, universal truths. The fact that we are created male and female and that there is a very important meaning to the sexual difference is not something the Catholic Church made up. The fact that sex leads to babies and babies’ needs are best met by a mother and father who are faithfully committed to each other is not something the Catholic Church made up. Furthermore, the fact that human sexuality holds great mysteries that point to something transcendent and even divine is both “catholic” in the universal sense and Catholic in the capital C sense.
The dove-tailing of the popularity of Shades of Grey and Magic Mike seem to be a red flag about the brokenness of our society. How can Theology of the Body respond to mainstreaming of porn in America and can we actually pull society back?
I was reading an article in Time Magazine last week about the boatloads of erotic literature being produced and sold to women in the wake of the whole 50 Shades of Gray phenomenon. The author said it’s no wonder women buy these novels by the case. “Where else,” he asked, “are their longings examined with as much fervor, acceptance and compassion?” Good question! Do we, as a church, even have the ability anymore to speak to people’s deepest longings? If all we say is “that’s bad!” or “that’s a sin!” we’re only giving people the negative side of the story. Jesus told the woman caught in adultery to “sin no more,” but he also showed her his tender love, compassion, and mercy. He showed her the love she had been looking for in a misguided way.
If we are to respond effectively to the pornographic culture, we must not be reactionary. We must not simply shout at the darkness. We have to turn the lights on. We must proclaim the splendor and glory and beauty of God’s plan for sexual love. Only then can we be saved from the counterfeit vision promoted by our pornographic culture. That’s where TOB is a tremendous help.
“You see, man strives for eternal joy,” says Pope Benedict, “he would like pleasure in the extreme, would like what is eternal.” But when we take God out of the picture we “must now create something that is fictitious, a false eternity,” he says. That’s what porn is. It’s a false heaven. And, as I say in my book, this “false heaven” ends up creating a living hell.
The unbridled pursuit of pleasure is “a sign of the times,” Pope Benedict tells us, “that should be an urgent challenge to us, especially as Christians.” How should Christians respond to this urgent challenge? “We have to show – and also live this accordingly,” says the Pope, “that the eternity man needs can come only from God ... so that a genuine coin can stand up against the false coin – and in this way the cycle of evil can be broken and stopped.” Porn is the false coin. The Theology of the Body reveals the true coin we’re all looking for.
At the Heart of the Gospel has been chosen as one of the titles for the CatholicSummerReading.com program this year. How would you recommend that readers approach your latest title?
First, let me thank you for including it on the list. I take that as an affirmation that you see how important John Paul II’s TOB is, especially with all the pressing challenges the Church is facing today. I’d recommend that readers approach this title not so much as an intellectual or academic study, but as a journey into the mystical treasures of our faith. Whenever we read a book we use our minds, our intellects – our “heads,” if you will. That’s important, of course. But I would encourage readers to approach this book more with their hearts. Mystical theology is less about thinking and more about drinking.
Well, I always recommend, if you have the aptitude, to read John Paul II’s TOB directly. Go straight to the horse’s mouth. If you find that daunting, as many do, there are lots of great resources available these days by many fine authors that can help unpack it for you. For a guided tour of the Pope’s catechesis from start to finish, you may want to read my commentary called Theology of the Body Explained. There is also the “Cliff Note” version: Theology of the Body for Beginners.
When people are interested in getting involved with your apostolate, how can they stay in touch?
Pennsylvania is beautiful but we know you miss real mountains. When are you moving back to Colorado?
Ah! Colorado is a great place to live. And I do miss the skiing to be sure. But I grew up in PA and there’s no place like home.
Thank you so much for all you have done to spread Blessed John Paul's message.
As Jesus said, when we do what we are asked to do, we should say, “I’m only an unworthy servant.” And so I am.
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Our Interview with Sherry Boas, author of The Lily Trilogy
Posted by jeremy on 04 August 2011 09:30 AM
Can you tell us a little bit about your background?
I grew up in Mexico City, rural Massachusetts and the suburban Arizona desert. I remember loving fiction from a very early age. I think I started writing my first “novel” when I was about 8 years old, swinging in a hammock in the woods near our house, chronicling the adventures of our Cocker Spaniel on the lined pages of a red spiral notebook. Now that I have children of my own and am a home schooling mom, I’m learning that the desire to write fiction is very common in children. Two of mine are working on novels and a good number of their friends are as well.
What was your inspiration for writing the Lily books?
One day, I got to thinking about all the things we would have missed if we had not had the opportunity to adopt our daughter Teresa, who has Down Syndrome and was conceived in rape nine years ago. I thought about all the things the world is missing because 90 percent of people with Down Syndrome are aborted. So, I molded that thought around a completely fictional character named Lily, who has Down Syndrome and goes through life with an abundance of pure love that is life changing to the people around her. Lily is not the main character of each of the three books. Main characters need to change. Lily does not need to change. Everyone else does. Lily is the catalyst for the characters to find what they need -- mercy, healing, faith. In short, God."
What was something you learned during the writing process?
I learned that it is actually possible to occasionally write a complete, coherent sentence while fielding a barrage of unrelated questions such as: “Mommy, are six-year-olds stronger than 9-year-olds if the 6-year-old was born first? Mom, can I download the Narnia soundtrack now? Hey Mommy, what if we all sneezed at one time and blew the windows out and we all went flying out the windows and the boys had jet packs and the girls had parachutes? Mom, are you done with the computer yet, so I can download Narnia? Mom, can I have a piece of chocolate cake for breakfast if I eat three pieces of raw broccoli first? Mom, when you’re done with the computer, can I download Narnia?”
I had no idea, when I finished the first book, Until Lily, that there would be another one. But several of my friends who previewed it for me said the ending left them hanging. They wanted to know what happened to Lily, even though I thought I had well implied what her likely destiny would be. Meanwhile, I realized how much I missed Lily, so I began writing the second book while my agent was trying to find a publisher for the first one. By the time I finished Wherever Lily Goes, there was still no publisher on the horizon. So I silently vowed to write no more until the first book was published. My husband, Phil, unaware of my new reluctance to “waste” any more time on writing books that would never see the light of day, presented me with a beautifully-wrapped box that Christmas and told me “this is for your writing.” I tore the paper off and found a brand new, shiny black laptop, with a fully-functioning keyboard that had not yet had a Tollhouse cookie eaten over top of it or a dribble of coffee sloshed onto its touchpad . It seemed a shame to let it sit idle. Before the new year dawned, I had started the third book, Life Entwined with Lily’s, which has actually turned out to be my personal favorite. It’s the most heart-wrenching of the trilogy, and it offers an ending that I hope really satisfies readers who have invested their time and emotional energy into getting through to the end.
The pro-life theme is fairly prevalent throughout the trilogy. What other important topics are touched upon in these books?
I tried to touch on a great number of issues harmful to the Culture of Life: abortion, euthanasia, sterilization, the breakdown of marriage, infidelity, incest, promiscuity, immodesty, child and elder neglect, illicit drugs and a variety of social injustices. I attempted to do this in a subtle, entertaining and moving way, weaving in some humor to build character and provide some comic relief.
What is the one thing you hope people who read your books take away from these stories?
I hope they will take a different look at the people around them, seeing the Lord at work in everyone, even those who may be resistant to the workings of God. As Plato said, “Be Kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” The undercurrent throughout the Lily Trilogy is mercy, something we are all in great need of. Hopefully, readers will contemplate anew the gift God has given us in the unimaginable depths of His mercy.
Do you have any stories that people have shared with you about how your books have touched their lives?
That has been the most rewarding aspect of having written these books -- hearing about the ways in which Lily has touched people. Maybe they appreciate their own children or their spouse more after reading the books. Or they see the same flaws in themselves that the characters in the books struggle with and Lily has shown them a new way. But the best comment I’ve received -- the one that makes all the work worthwhile -- was one from a reader who said she had not been able to grieve the loss of her unborn children, aborted in her youth, until the day she finished the trilogy. I would spend every minute, all over again, writing the Lily Trilogy just for her.
Are there plans for any more novels in the future?
Absolutely! I am about halfway finished with a new novel, with all new characters, but still written from a Catholic world view. I hope to have that book out before the end of the year. And then, God willing, there will be more. I’m putting that laptop to good use. You can tell by the Tollhouse cookie crumbs embedded in its keyboard.
Sherry, thank you so much for taking the time to participate in this interview, and sharing a little bit about yourself and your books with us and our readers/customers.
You can purchase Sherry Boas' books here!
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