Saturday, 5 December 2015

Prayers needed for Mother Angelica, a heroine who has always defended the Faith

I was very upset by the news that Mother Angelica has been put on a feeding tube, it's sort of the same feeling we had in the days leading up to Pope Benedict's abdication.  The photo below was taken at EWTN headquarters in Irondale, Alabama where a beautiful portrait of Mother Angelica hangs in pride of place.  Over at The Catholic Herald, I did an article on Mother Angelica's extraordinary story

‘Jesus had to hit me on the head and make me suffer,’ declared Mother Angelica when she appeared on the Journey Home, where she told viewers, ‘it was good for me that my dad left my mother when I was six.’  Mother Angelica explained, without a trace of self-pity, that her own pain taught her that there are two options when we suffer, we can bury ourselves in the world or turn to God.

Born Rita Rizzo, Mother Angelica’s parents divorced when she was 6, and she was ostracised by the other kids because she was the only one from a broken home who had to subsist in grinding poverty. Not naturally academic, Mother Angelic had an incident with a teacher who spent an entire lesson lecturing the class about, ‘one person who could do so much better’.  After the lesson the teacher said to the then Rita, ‘that person was you, what are you going to do about it?’ Defiantly, young Rita shot back, ‘Nothing. I don’t like you.’ 

As a young woman, she tried to get into various religious orders, but was refused because she had done so badly in school. She said this ‘crushed’ her, but she kept looking until she found an order that would take her.

Who would have thought that she would become the founder of the most successful Catholic television network of all time?  Currently, EWTN is available to over 150 million households and broadcast in more than 140 countries and territories.  Who would have thought that this young woman who was not from a ‘good’ background, was rejected by her father, was not considered bright, and had never been popular, would go on to become the most beloved Catholic nun in the history of television? 

Catholics all over the world have a great affection for Mother Angelica. Her upbringing gave her a very tough skin and a rapier wit which she used to charm Morley Safer when she appeared on 60 Minutes.

Personally, I owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to Mother Angelica.  I appeared on a TV show entitled Extraordinary Faith, and after the first episode was broadcast on EWTN, I came to the attention of John Carmichael who asked me to edit his memoir, Drunks and Monks.

Those of us who love Mother Angelica find it a source of sorrow to learn this week that Mother Angelica’s health is reportedly in decline.  She has been fitted with a feeding tube and the statement said that she has ‘suffered a great deal’ recently.

(The photos below were take in Hanceville, Alabama, at the monastery where Mother Angelica lives and is cared for by the other nuns.)

Whenever I have felt like a Catholic and pro-life untouchable, it has buoyed my spirits to think that we have a friend in Mother Angelica because she has continuously stood up for Catholic values in an uncompromising, unapologetic way.

I feel it my duty to offer Mother Angelica’s intentions in the Rosary and as often as possible at Mass. I suggest as many of us as possible offer a novena to St Clare, the patroness of television expressly for the intention that Mother Angelica is able to make the most of her time left on earth and that she gets the strength to do what she needs to preserve her legacy.  

Readers who are joining the novena might consider posting the novena on their Facebook pages, as well as other social networking sites to encourage others to pray for Mother Angelica.  T’would be a fitting gift to this saintly, feisty nun to offer a bouquet of prayers as she may be approaching her last agony.

Mother Angelica's tea is on sale in the gift shop at Hanceville, Alabama. 

The photo above and the one below is of the grounds around the Monastery where Mother Angelica lives. 

One last photo, to give more evidence of my narcissism.  Here I am in the gift shop, looking vainly pleased with myself at finding a book that matches my outfit... It was a pleasant surprise to find the book on Pope Francis to which I contributed a few lines. 

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

A feast fit for a Prince of the Church, our dinner with Cardinal Burke

The Latin Mass Society very kindly invited me to the dinner at the Royal Overseas Club on the 13th of November to celebrate the occasion of Cardinal Raymond Burke's visit to London. 

His Eminence has a packed schedule as evidenced by the photos that our intrepid Chairman, Joe Shaw took.  Cardinal Burke also granted an interview to my editor, Dylan Parry, for The Mass of Ages with the sparkling line:

"I think Catholics should simply say that ‘I cannot accept this teaching as it goes against what the Church has always taught and practiced.’ I don’t think that Catholics should permit themselves to be driven away from the Church by those who are not upholding the Church’s teaching."

Sorry that I have been late blogging about this and posting my photos, it is high dinner party season and I have been giving quite a few in my West London flat as well as tearing around London to attend not a few wintry parties. John Carmichael and I are also working hard promoting the paperback edition of Drunks and Monks

I tried to look my best for the dinner in honour of Cardinal Burke.  A friend of mine who works in fashion is on the look-out for red dresses for me and this one came from London Fashion week, it came hot off a fashion model's back and had a whiff of peppery perfume about it. My hair was meant to be thick ringlets, but the gale-force windy weather made it more fuzzy instead. 

The cardinal was greeted with popping champagne corks, as we all enjoyed a glass of bubbles before sitting down to a scrumptious meal. The first toast, where we all solemnly stopped eating and raised our wine glasses was to Her Majesty the Queen. Then there was a toast to our esteemed guest, Cardinal Burke. 

Our starter was celeriac and apple soup, followed by salmon and golden glazed potato gratin.  I quipped that this would be the menu I'd chose for my last meal on earth.  My friend, Fr Tim Fiinigan recorded my delight on Twitter by posting this pic.

Something quite funny happened after Cardinal Burke posed for a photo with me - he asked if one of the young men standing near me was my husband. The young man replied, 'shouldn't there be a list of what a Catholic girl ought to be before a man proposes marriage?'   I think that I'd fall very short of the list!

Another confusion that had to be cleared up; I was quick to reassure Cardinal Burke that just because I wear red does not mean I am out to pinch his job. 

When I had the chance to chat to Cardinal Burke, I gave him a hard-copy of my interview with Archbishop Cordileone, who during the interview praised Cardinal Burke as, 'very gentle and gracious, wise and holy'.  

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

A prophecy for our times

Me, aged 13
'You’re a lesbian,’ hissed my classmate before she scrunched up her nose at me. We were 13 to 14 years of age, and she had been grilling me on how far I had gone. It was not the first time that I’d been labelled ‘lessie’ or ‘frigid’ because I’d never let one of the pimply boys kiss or grope me. I was not devout and had hardly any prayer life, so it wasn’t for fear of sinning that I didn’t bend to such peer pressure. It was an all girls’ school, and I knew that if I declared myself willing, I would be invited along to meet up with the boys after school.  My reason for not yielding to this manipulation was that I had no friends at the school and knew that if I gave in, I would fit in for a time, but I would have given the other girl power over me and  next time I’d have to go further to prove to her that I was heterosexual.

The very same girl called me a lesbian led a two-faced existence.  She egged on other young teens to get blind drunk and be the playthings of boys drenched in cheap cologne. Then she put on airs of being very devout before her mother at Mass. The message that I I absorbed was that holiness was the good mask of the manipulator.  

An older girl did have a baby and was rewarded with the insult, ‘stupid girl’. As I said, I wasn’t pious, but it dawned on me there was a wicked chorus of devilish taunting that bullied girls as young as 13: the only way to avoid being called ‘freak’ or ‘frigid’ was to do as the others did, and the only way to avoid being lectured, ‘you were too stupid to use a condom’ was to take the Morning After Pill or later pay for your baby to be dumped in a clinic bucket.  Life has never been worse for kids, I thought to myself.

Still we were arrogantly told that we were so ‘privileged’ to be ‘Celtic Tiger cubs’ and that, ‘life has never been better for kids.’  I never dared answer back, life has never been worse.  

Then some years back, I had a chance encounter with an Irish mammy from Cork who was taking her fifteen year old to London for an abortion.  Having first-hand knowledge of the type of peer pressure the pregnant girl had been under, I tried to intervene and persuade them against the abortion. The Irish mammy would not listen to a word. Paying for her grandchild to be obliterated was about covering up bad parenting. The Irish mammy hadn’t thought it very cool to teach her daughter to stand up to sexual pressure and had turned a blind eye to her early binge drinking.  I never found out if the girl remembered getting pregnant. So, she marched her daughter to the clinic. I remember thinking of the 15 year old kid who was born in the 1990s that, life has never been worse for girls her age.

Now I don’t just think this – I believe it to be true.  400 years before that poor 15 year old girl was born Our Lady of Good Success warned that children of our times would have an exceptionally soul-rotting time. 
Appearing to Mother Mariana, Our Lady entrusted her with prophecies concerning my generation (Mother Mariana was a Spanish nun who was an abbess in Quito).  Being very precise, Our Lady said that, ‘some time after the second half of the 20th Century’ Satan would rule almost completely over society, and that his minions ‘will focus principally on the children to sustain the general corruption. Woe to the children of these times!’  Our Lady asked Mother Mariana to offer sacrifices and to pray for the children born during this time in history.  

Our Lady of Good Success explained why vocations would be scarce, ‘During these unfortunate times, evil will assault childhood innocence. In this way, vocations to the priesthood will be lost, which will be the true calamity.’  Our Lady said that ‘secular education’ would be ‘one reason for the dearth of priestly and religious vocations’. 

Young parents that I’ve met at Latin Masses have said to me that they experienced the same taunting of ‘you’re gay’ if they were not sexually active at a young age and that the reason they home-school is so they will not be putting their child into the same pressure-cooker that they were so badly burned in. Sometimes young home-schooling parents have a hard time explaining to their parents why they are home-schooling their kids. Maybe it is telling that the grandparents of the children who are being home-schooled do not always understand – they may have been born in the 50s and early 60s before things got truly as bad as Our Lady prophesied to Mother Mariana when she said, ‘the Devil will glory in dining upon the exquisite delicacy of the hearts of children.’

Hundreds of years before we were born, Our Lady had made sure that a gift of prayers were being offered for us and our peers. There are a number of reasons to be hopeful, for Our Lady of Good Success assured the good and kind-hearted Mother Mariana that, ‘to test this faith and confidence of the just, there will be occasions when everything will seem to be lost and paralysed. This, then, will be the happy beginning of the complete restoration.’ Our Lady of Good Success, pray for us. 

I wrote this column for the Winter Edition of The Mass of Ages, the quarterly magazine of England and Wales' Latin Mass Society.  You may read the full magazine here.  

The photo below shows the incorrupt body of Mother Mariana, who received the prophecies from Our Lady. 

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

A 12 year old murder victim teaches us how to forgive. A note on how to avoid 'the bitterness trap'

Presently America has the honour of having the relics of St Maria Goretti tour from church to church, the virgin-martyr born 125 years ago this month.
125 years ago this month, Maria Goretti was born in Italy. Poverty had a vice-like grip on her family. When she was six, her parents lost their farm and had to up sticks and earn a meagre living working for other farmers. Following the untimely death of her father, Maria, her mother and siblings moved again, and not begin able to afford a house of their own, had to share with the Serenelli family, which is where little Maria Goretti got to know their son, Alessandro.
Three years later, the 18 year old Alessandro started lusting after 12 year old Maria. One afternoon while her mother was working in the fields, Alessandro sexually harassed little Maria. She stood up to him, warned him his salvation would be in jeopardy if he defiled her, and cried out, “No! It is a sin! God does not want it!” Enraged by her refusal to submit to him (and probably because she pricked his conscience) Alessandro lost all inhibitions and stabbed Maria 14 times.
While Maria lay on her death-bed, she forgave Alessandro. Alessandro was jailed, but remained unremorseful, indifferent to the grief he had caused Maria’s mother.
A few years after her death, Maria Goretti appeared to Alessandro in a dream, assured him that she forgave him and put lilies into his hands. Alessandro broke down and admitted that he was wholly guilty of her death. On being released from prison, he sought out Maria’s mother and begged her forgiveness. Copying her daughter’s example, Maria Goretti’s mum told Alessandro that she readily forgave him.
St Maria Goretti’s capacity and desire to forgive puts most of us to shame. Those of us who find it agonising to forgive small slights have only to compare our reluctance to forgive with St Maria Goretti’s total, unconditional willingness to forgive, and it shows us how far off the mark we are.
Her example seems so simple, and yet is crushingly hard to emulate. St Maria Goretti showed no hesitation in forgiving Alessandro. There is a lesson here for us, it is easier to set your will to forgive no matter what, instead of letting in the doubt of “will-I-forgive-or-won’t-I”. Our will is like a block of wood, and debating as to whether we are to forgive or not is like a sharp metal wedge that divides the will between bitterness and forgiveness, weakening the will to the extent that only half its power is dedicated to forgiveness.
Alessandro offers an essential lesson in asking for forgiveness. Admittedly, Alessandro was a child murderer and the vast majority of people are not guilty of so heinous an evil act. Thus, most people would take umbrage at being told that if Alessandro Serenelli can ask to be forgiven, then so can they. Yet those who have been hurt, even in small ways deserve the soothing balm of a sincere apology so they may heal.
Forgiveness is not a feeling, and some people may still feel angry and traumatised even after they have forgiven someone. The scars of trauma are like that from surgery, they need time to fade. I see Christians grow impatient with fellow Christians and non-Christians, who have suffered at the hands of others, telling them that they are “bitter” and “not living like Jesus”, if they have difficulty recovering. This is bad for both parties: there is little emphasis on asking the perpetrator to ask for forgiveness so the victim is less likely to enjoy healing, and without being told precisely how their actions have hurt others, the perpetrator may imperviously hurt others in the same way.
The Bitterness Trap
Bullies often berate their victims by calling them bitter and taunting the victim’s apparent inability to forgive – as a way of control freakery. The victim feels under pressure to prove they are not bitter by allowing the bully into their lives again.
I wrote this blog for The Catholic Herald on-line. To see all my work for the Herald to date, visit my author archive

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Surviving ISIS: "At night they would torture me, during the day I was giving these young men advice on their marriage problems"

At my parish of the London Oratory, Fr Douglas Bazi gave a talk in St Wilfrid's hall, the long drawing room with dazzlingly high ceilings.  Aid to the Church in Need have brought Fr Bazi from Iraq. He gave one of the most fascinating talks I've ever heard; it was both inspiring and heartbreaking.  He says that if a young Catholic man in Iraq decides to become a priest, he knows he will be martyred, 'to be a priest in Iraq is a one way mission; you will be killed.'

Fr Bazi knows this viscerally; ISIS terrorists kidnapped him for nine days. He was driving in traffic, when two cars sidled up and blocked him. Chaining his hands, they took him to a toilet where he was kept for several days with the instruction, 'if you open your eyes, we will shoot you.' They starved him and gave him no water for four days.  When he thought things were at their worst, Fr Bazi tried off-beat humour to show them they were not getting to him, and thus make them

Mary O'Regan,  Fr Douglas Bazi

doubt their efforts to hurt him, by saying to the young men of ISIS, 'this is a picnic'. But he concedes that this was, 'a very bad idea' and only motivated the very young Islamic men to torture him more brutally. They went from chaining him to a toilet, to taking a hammer and breaking his back teeth and smashing a disc in his back.  When he was alone, Fr Bazi would use the chains that bound him as a means of saying the Rosary, each link would be used to count Hail Mary's.  Fr Bazi used all his remaining strength to forgive them and this was the secret of his survival:  he didn't grow bitter and cold towards them and when these emotionally disturbed young men needed a friendly ear, they told Fr Bazi their problems.  

Fr Bazi was clear that he readily forgave these unstable young men at every moment. During the day, these jumpy young men who had been lured by promises of being a prince in Heaven (ISIS teaches their wards that if they kill an infidel priest, they will be made princes in the next life) would ask Fr Bazi for advice on their marital problems and their other issues. One complained about his lady saying, 'Fr Bazi, my wife is so picky, I can't please her!' 

At this point in the talk, me and my fellow parishioners surprised ourselves by chuckling at the hapless young men. Fr Bazi said smiling, 'I advised him to be sweeter to his wife, and try a little gentleness.' 

Getting inside the mind of these young men who are desperate to prove themselves, Fr Bazi said, 'I knew that these young men were under orders from their higher-ups, after they had asked me to listen to their problems, they would get new instructions and then torture me at night.'  Fr Bazi tackled the question of forgiveness directly, 'yes, I forgive them, but I can't forget.  And I am not here to tell you to hate them or their religion, but to tell you the reality.' 

After ISIS had let him go, Fr Bazi has dedicated himself to running a refugee camp for persecuted Christian families who are fleeing Mosul.  The families are given this choice, they either convert to Islam or pay taxes. If they don't pay the ransom for their souls, they are hunted out of their homes. Fr Bazi said it is very tempting to harass Christians so that their houses can be seized and looted, once the Christian family have fled their neighbourhood. 

The persecuted families now live cheek-by-jowl in the camp, but 'they never call each other refugees, they call each other relatives.' Conditions are cramped: each family has a tiny container, about five foot by ten foot.  Married men say to Fr Bazi, 'my wife has become like my sister, we never have any privacy.' Fr Bazi says it is difficult on girls and young women, 'who have to wait until night fall to change their clothes.' 

Fr Bazi said that when Iraqi Christians meet each other for the first time, they ask each other, 'do you live in a house or a container?'

If the current persecution continues, Christianity will have disappeared from Iraq in five years.  Even more precise details of the plight of the Iraqi Christians is to be found in, Persecuted and Forgotten? A report on the countries worldwide where Christians suffer for their faith. 

After the talk, some red wine was served and Fr Bazi got to mingle with the audience. There was a collection for Aid to the Church in Need. I'm going to get in touch with Fr Bazi and give him a copy of Drunks and Monks, John Carmichael's humour and his amazing conversion story will buoy Fr Bazi's spirits as he works all hours in the refugee camp. 

Neville Kyrke-Smith of ACN and Fr Bazi

A million thanks to Daniel Blackman for taking photos at the talk and putting them on Flickr. See the full album here. 
Neville Kyrke-Smith,  Mary O'Regan

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Such truth in parody: let's re-name Amnesty, Shamnesty

Liam Neeson lent his voice to the Amnesty International video calling for the repeal of the Eight Amendment of the Irish Constitution.   A most patronising piece, it puts forth that Irish women are in 'chains' because the Eight Amendment introduced a constitutional ban on abortion, and that people who are against the mutilation of the unborn are locked in the past.  

Manipulative in that it attempts to evoke the stigma that many Irish people feel when they think of 'poor Catholic Ireland'. I find it very offensive that they think Irish people will be so easily manipulated, apparently the only way Ireland can prove it has gotten over its past, is if abortion is legalised.

The most infuriatingly derisive statement is, 'it is the shadow of the country we'd hoped we'd left behind.'  Working on the assumption that we or all of us share their driving ambition to allow the legalised destruction of babies, evades acknowledging that there are Irish pro-life people who do not want Ireland's pro-life laws scrapped at the behest of pro-abortion lobbyists. 

Ripe for parody, a You-Tube site has been launched with the intention of poking fun at Liam Neeson's patronising pro-abortion posturing.  The Amnesty 
propaganda has Liam Neeson spouting, 'it is the shadow of the country we'd hoped we'd left behind,' the satire responds, 'here my use of the collective pronoun 'we' applies the opinion that this amendment is outdated is shared by everyone'.  

Share the video as widely as you can, and let's re-name Amnesty, Shamnesty. 

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Guest post from John Carmichael on how YOU can discover the secret of the Rosary

The Secret of the Rosary

When my dear friend and editor, Mary O’Regan, asked me to contribute a guest post on the subject of the Rosary, the first thing that came to mind was the old line that, “writing about music is like dancing about architecture.” What I wish I could say about the Rosary seems so often to be beyond language.

Many disciples of Jesus Christ much more advanced than me have had their comment on this great prayer of the Church, but I have found them all wanting.  

Take one for example: Saint Louis de Montfort, a glorious writer on our Blessed Mother. His True Devotion to Mary is for me a transcendent and exhilarating read. So, after having experienced my own startling encounter with the Rosary, I was very much looking forward to reading Saint de Montfort’s The Secret of the Rosary to find out why the Rosary was so powerful.   

Unfortunately I tried several times but could not get through it. There it sits, The Secret of the Rosary does, silently mocking me for my lack of diligence. And such has been the case with each book I have tried to read about the Rosary. Nothing can live up to or fully explain what actually happened in my interior and exterior life when first I began to pray this powerful and mysterious prayer.   

I think the difficulty I have is this: the true secret of the Rosary is revealed to each individual soul by (brace yourselves) actually praying the Rosary. And I do not mean to suggest that this great prayer is in any way gnostic, or that it will provide through some obscure manner a specialized knowledge available only to in-the-know practitioners. No, the Mother of God, given to us so pointedly by God the Son at the Cross, will do what she has always done since the time she was first asked by the hapless figures at the wedding in Cana to intercede about the wine situation. She will direct a soul to her Divine Son, and instruct the soul to do whatever He says.

And in the mysterious scope of God’s economy, such instruction may come by way of signal graces, just one of the many promises made to those who pray the Rosary. How lovely it is to see the few steps ahead lit with the warm glow of an amber light, even though the rest of the landscape so often remains covered in a grey mist.

In my account of conversion, Drunks & Monks, I tried my best to follow the cardinal rule of good literary fiction and memoir: to show the reader and not merely tell about the dramatic experience of what the Rosary is for me. Yet the two most difficult things for me to write about as they pertain to the Catholic Faith are the Rosary and the Eucharist, both of which seem to hover well above the limitations of human language, and represent a true bridge to the supernatural life of grace in the soul.

When first I ventured to pray it, a humble and holy soul from my choir thrust into my hands a fresh copy of The 54 Day Novena Booklet and a little plastic rosary, and bid me pray this grand prayer every day for 54 days. I had no understanding of its history, no knowledge of the promises made to those devoted to the Rosary, no real faith that anything at all would happen.

The spiritually dynamic events that followed included a general confession, deliverance from evil, readmission to the Sacraments and a deep and deepening faith.

There was a vast chasm that separated my young witness to a devout Irish grandmother who had a daily devotion to the Rosary and my own visceral experience of praying the Rosary. I found I cannot borrow my grandmother’s life of prayer, nor can I rely on de Montfort’s True Devotion to Mary. 

Instead, I saw what now seems obvious: that I must bend my own knees and finger my own beads and dare to venture into the deep meditation on the life and mysteries of Christ for myself. It is only then that I begin to truly discover The Secret of the Rosary.

Many Thanks, dear John for writing this beautiful meditation 
on the Feast of the Most Holy Rosary.  

John's masterpiece, Drunks and Monks is available on Amazon, it chronicles John's seven year descent into darkness and brushes with death before embracing renewal through discovery of the means for our salvation. John's physical, psychological and soul-survival are aided by the many denizens of the great swath of Southern California who come alive in the book, but none so well as members of a monastery who help heal the author's spirit and teach him timeless truths. 

John Carmichael's Drunks and Monks

Friday, 2 October 2015

'The author gives credit to grace...'

A reader has given Drunks and Monks a five star rating, and has written that, ‘the vulnerability and honesty of this conversion story give us a profound example of every human's experience to some degree...’

The second part of the review called to my mind, St Thérèse of Lisieux’s truism that everything is grace, ‘the author gives credit to grace and the grace received through the sacraments for his ability to see Truth. Great read.’

It was St Thérèse’s feast day yesterday, and I would like to wish everyone a belated happy feast. 

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Today, Drunks & Monks garnered its 44th review

Drunks and Monks was published on the auspicious day of Tuesday, July 7th, and today September 30th, feast of St Jerome, it garnered a total of 44 reviews. Here are a few tasters.   

Scott Woltze
Scott Woltze, an early and enthusiastic reader has been spreading the word about Drunks and Monks in various places around the internet with apostolic zeal. Scott's review got to the heart of Drunks and Monks:

"Like the other reviewers, I couldn't put this book down. It's a raw and honest book that lays bare the confused and brittle life away from Christ, and the little workings of grace that lead to conversion...The mystery of God's grace and timing is evident as he slowly moves toward conversion while many around him unwittingly seem to sabotage the Lord's work. Demons seemed to be aware of the workings of grace, and took an unusual interest in trying to prevent his conversion...On a personal level, I could relate to his loss of faith (and that of nearly all his peers) after growing up Catholic in the 70s-80s, and his subsequent materialistic, secular creed. I could also relate to his wonderful discovery of the old Latin Mass. Since I'm writing my own book-length conversion story..."

On the contrary, one reviewer, TCannon felt that too much of the book was dedicated to the author's life before finding Christ, "I would recommend this book. It was pretty intense--so much time was spent on the super dark life prior to Christ (over half the book) and that was emotionally draining. I almost gave up the read because I was losing hope with/for the author. But it was still a valuable conversion story, as are all, and displays the power and grace in Christ."

Drunks and Monks may take a warts and all look at life which excludes Christ, but many of the reviewers are able to see mirror images of themselves in the former parts. Testament to the way so few enter by the narrow door, fewer people identify with the latter parts of the memoir that is devoted to being a Catholic convert.  It's not surprising that the review voted the most helpful states: "After reading this book, I can say that it has brought questions to my mind about my own spiritual and sober state. This is a must read for people who are on the fence about their sobriety."

One reader echoed Jennifer Fulwiler, "Drunks and Monks is the spiritual autobiography of a 21st century Thomas Merton."

Thursday, 24 September 2015

John Carmichael's Drunks & Monks, a look behind the scenes

I got to know John Carmichael in April 2014.  He got in touch with me via the comments section here and here after he saw me presenting the pilot episode of the show Extraordinary Faith on EWTN which was set in John’s parish church of Mission San Juan Capistrano in Southern California. John was eager to learn all about my experience as a TV producer – he was the first person that I ever met who truly ‘gets’ the joys and pains of making television.

John Carmichael 
I was fascinated to learn that John is an agile legal eagle whose wings swooped high and low around Hollywood for many years when he represented a number of celebrity clients and handled big cases for film studios and record companies. As he says in the opening of his masterpiece, Drunks and Monks, ‘litigation is blood sport in Hollywood…I’ve seen more of what goes on backstage than I ever wanted.’

After he got to know me a little he told me he was working on a memoir that chronicled his conversion from being an unbelieving cultural Catholic to being a devout, repentant Catholic striving to follow in the footsteps of the saints. He asked me if I would like to read it – he had shared the draft with no one else – and I felt honoured to be asked.  I was quite confident that John was writing a great book. I think that the multitude of emails John has sent me over the past year could be compiled and would make a best-seller. But I didn’t open the file with the opening chapters for some time. 

The truth is that I was scared.

John warned me that there would be a minor exorcism along the way.  I am that same girl who stayed up all night after reading Fr. Malachi Martin's Hostage to the Devil.  My first conversations with John had concerned such cheery topics as demonic possession and exorcism, the thinly veiled hatred that Satanists have for sincere Catholics and how Padre Pio was physically beaten up by the devil.  When I was doing pro-life work in the South Bronx, I met very poor people who would spend their few dollars going to devil worshippers to get ‘favours’.  The raging battle for our souls is not something that is academic and abstract for me – oft times I’ve been burned by the sparks from the clashing swords.

I told John that I would read it when I was sure that I would sleep after reading the opening chapters. So, last winter, on a very frosty evening in central London, I resolved that I could read Drunks and Monks, because a friend and I were going for a hot toddy which I knew would send me to sleep, even if I found the memoir so nerve-shredding that it would render me unable to close my eyes. I only drink whisky a few times a year; those of you who know me well know that I much prefer gin. So, before going for the honey, lemon and scotch drink, I opened the first chapter of Drunks and Monks…


I never thought that I would be the first reader of what I consider to be one of the best books ever written.  Not long after, John invited me to be the editor, and to make suggestions.  If I do nothing else noteworthy in my life, I can say I’ve edited the book that Jennifer Fulwiler called, ‘our generation’s Seven Storey Mountain’.  Jennifer is one bright lady and she invited John onto her show, which you may listen to. John is interviewed at the 43:33mark.  
Thank you, Jennifer for generously inviting all your listeners to buy the book.

Find out if you agree with Awkward Tertle, a young woman who blogged that Drunks and Monks is written in an ‘intoxicatingly beautiful way’ and that John is ‘a modern day Augustine’.

Drunks and Monks

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Dog of the Week

Here I am near Paddington with this charming Chihuahua. You can see a lot of Chihuahuas and 'toy breeds' in the vicinity of Paddington Train Station because they are dogs beloved by commuters who can easily travel with a Chihuahua on their lap in the busiest train carriage at rush-hour. 

I've often been tempted to get a Chihuahua, and become a walking cliché: walking in kitten heels, wearing a cocktail dress on my way to some party with a Chihuahua sticking its fluffy head out of my handbag. The joy of having a Chihuahua is that they are so light they can be carried for long periods of time. They say that a Chihuahua is 'a little dog with a big personality', and Chihuahuas can have very dominant personalities, evidenced by the way many owners need strong dog harnesses to restrain a dog with such a slight build. Chihuahuas can have very mild personalities. Their genetic inheritance dictates the kind of personality they will have, and someone looking for a Chihuahua with an even-temperament needs to ask a lot of questions of the breeder as to the personality traits of Ma and Pa Chihuahua. 

I will resist the urge to get one. My heart belongs to Greyhounds and whenever I go on a date, my friends have started asking me, 'is his place big enough for a Greyhound?!'  An important question indeed.  So far, my favourite Dog of the Week is the the Lady Greyhound, whose paws reached my collar-bone.  

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