Monday, August 31, 2020

Blast from the past: A song I co-wrote in 1995 is coming out on Steve Wynn's boxed set

Future "Survivor" host Jeff Probst introduces me on the FX Network's "Sound FX," March 16, 1995

A nugget from my past that I thought would be forever buried is coming to light for the first time this October, thanks to the great singer and songwriter Steve Wynn, his reissue producer Pat Thomas, and Real Gone Music. Steve reached out to me a few weeks ago to let me know that he and Thomas were going through recordings from his catalog and found a demo he made circa 1995 of a song he and I wrote together, "Bait and Switch." Together they decided to put it on Steve's upcoming 11-CD boxed set, Decade, which will cover his albums and the best of his unreleased recordings from 1995-2005.

I am amazed and grateful beyond words that Steve's demo is finally being released. "Bait and Switch" began life as a song I wrote in 1994 or so titled "No Dice" (as a nod to the Badfinger album of the same name). The chorus went, "I call your name, you don't look twice, you just walk idly by/I know your game, but it's no dice, you just walk idly by."

Then, in 1995, Steve asked me if I'd like to write a song with him. We'd been acquainted since 1983, when I was fourteen; his Dream Syndicate was the first band I'd ever seen in a nightclub. But given our age difference and that he lived on the West Coast and I lived out east, we only began to become friends after he moved to Manhattan in 1994. A few years earlier, during one of his trips to New York, I'd given him a recording of a song I wrote, "You Did Me Wrong." He found it charming and, once he was living out East, he suggested we write something together.

It really says something about Steve's character as well as his ear, that he would encourage me as a songwriter based on hearing "You Did Me Wrong," as it's not exactly Jimmy Webb. But he heard something in it, and I was over the moon at the thought of writing with him. So I gave him a guitar-and-voice recording of "No Dice" and the next thing I knew, a cassette of his demo of my "No Dice" redone with new lyrics as "Bait and Switch" arrived in the mail.

I remember how impressed I was with Steve's arrangement of our song. He multi-tracked his vocals so he could sing overlapping melody lines, overlaying the verse atop the final chorus. Given that the verse's and chorus's melodies were complementary, combining them made perfect sense, but I wouldn't have thought of it myself.

So now, twenty-five years later, "Bait and Switch" will finally greet the world when Decade comes out on October 23. Needless to say, I can't wait! As soon as it appears on YouTube, I'll post it here, so stay tuned.

Saturday, August 29, 2020

New translations of my books coming in France and Holland

I recently received the wonderful news that two of my books are being published in new foreign-language editions. In Holland, Betsaida plans to publish a Dutch translation of the Catholic edition of The Thrill of the Chaste, and in France, Éditions Pierre Téqui/Éditions Saint-Paul are set to publish a French translation of My Peace I Give You: Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints.

Although these translations are in different countries, they have something in common with regard to their genesis. Each is coming about because a Catholic layman who appreciated a book of mine went to great effort to find a publisher to publish that work in his home country. In Holland, it was Rene Potman who found a publisher for The Thrill of the Chaste, and in France it was Étienne Vasdeboncoeur who found a publisher for My Peace I Give You. My gratitude goes out to both of them. I am really touched by their kindness and in awe of the goodness of God, that each of these men would independently be inspired to have my work published in his native language.

Once the pandemic is past, I am eager to embark upon a speaking tour of France and Holland, as well as other European countries where my books have been published (particularly Hungary, where I was slated to tour this summer).

On that note, I thought it would be fun to post an updated list of the different languages into which my books have been, or are about to be, published in translation:

  • The Thrill of the Chaste, first edition: Spanish, Chinese, Polish, and Slovak
  • The Thrill of the Chaste, Catholic edition: Dutch
  • My Peace I Give You: Spanish, Polish, Slovak, Italian, Hungarian, and French
  • Remembering God's Mercy: Spanish and Polish

  • I feel like I must be forgetting something, but those are all the translations I can think of. It is really amazing to see how many there are, especially of My Peace I Give You, which is now published in seven languages all together (including the original English).

    Only my most recent book, Sunday Will Never Be the Same, which is my memoir, has not been translated. I am still holding out hope that someone will make it into a movie. 

    Tuesday, August 11, 2020

    Are COVID-conscious Catholics cowards? Not according to St. Thomas Aquinas, I write in America magazine

    I have a new article on America magazine's website responding to arguments by Catholics who argue that the proper response to the coronavirus pandemic is to man up and stand down against public-health precautions. (Yes, there really are people who argue this, both in major Catholic publications and in social media.) In "Would St. Thomas Aquinas wear a mask to Mass?," I look at how the Angelic Doctor would correct those who say that pushing the boundaries of precautions is the only way to avoid cowering in fear. I believe he would respond with a lesson about the true nature of fortitude—the principal act of which is not aggression but rather endurance.

    Monday, July 13, 2020

    My spiritual daughter Clare is feeding the poor in Uganda during the pandemic--and you can help!

    Meet Clare Syeunda.

    I have known Clare since 2016, when a mutual friend—the sister of a Ugandan-born Chicago priest—put us in touch. At the time, I was about to graduate the University of St. Mary of the Lake as the first woman in the school's history to receive a doctorate in sacred theology. Since I'd received so much, my hope was to pay it forward by funding the university education of a woman in Uganda.

    Clare has become a true spiritual daughter to me, and I am overjoyed to witness her desire to help the poorest of the poor.

    After she graduated last year from Uganda Martyrs University with a bachelor's degree in development studies, Clare was interning for an aid organization and preparing to take her GRE exam for entrance into an M.A. program, when the pandemic hit.

    As Uganda shut down, Clare decided that now was the time to use what she learned in college. She started an NGO, Help the Needy Neighbor, to help desperately impoverished ill, orphaned, and disabled members of her community survive during the pandemic.

    In May, Clare approached local authorities to ask them who most needed assistance. They introduced her to sixteen people who were at risk of starvation if they did not receive help. These included widows, orphans, and other poor individuals who had previously received support from friends and family but were no longer receiving such assistance due to the pandemic restrictions.

    I started a GoFundMe for Help the Needy Neighbor in June. Thanks to the generosity of donors, on July 4, Clare and her volunteers were able to begin making twice-monthly food distributions to the needy. Here is a video taken just yesterday, during the second distribution; you can hear Clare narrate as her volunteers deliver rice, posho (maize), and other necessities to a family that includes a delighted little boy.

    I can't describe what it means to me to see Clare doing such amazing work in her community, bringing love and sustenance at time when the people of her country, like so much of the world, face great stress.

    Below are photos of Clare and other volunteers for Help the Needy Neighbor making their first distribution of food, salt, and soap during the July 4 weekend. They want to keep feeding their clients through January of next year. But to do that, they need your help. Right now, they only have enough funds to last through next month's distributions. If you would like to join me in supporting Help the Needy Neighbor's mission, please visit their GoFundMe page. And whether or not you are able to support their work monetarily, I know that Clare and her volunteers would be grateful for your prayers for them and their clients. Thank you so much and God bless you.

    Here you see Clare with volunteers as they make their deliveries to Help the Needy Neighbor's clients.

    I love seeing how radiant Clare looks as she distributes donations to Help the Needy Neighbor's clients. She sits with them and brings them the love of Christ.

    Wednesday, June 17, 2020

    Part 2 of my critical analysis of In Sinu Jesu appears on Where Peter Is

    Today Where Peter Is published part 2 of my critical analysis of In Sinu Jesu. In it, I further examine how the book came to be written, with a special focus upon the unusual circumstances under which it received approval from the censor appointed by the then-bishop of the Diocese of Meath. Parts 3 and 4 will appear tomorrow morning and Friday morning, respectively.

    Where Peter Is publishes my critical analysis of In Sinu Jesu

    When the popular spiritual work In Sinu Jesu was published in late 2016, I paged through it in a bookshop and thought it was a pleasant, if rather intense, apologia for Eucharistic devotion. Recently, however, a conversation with a priest friend led me to take a second look at the book of alleged private revelations given to an anonymous "Benedictine Monk."

    The priest told me about some serious pastoral issues occurring in his diocese; the bishop had disciplined a few priests who were promoting spiritually harmful practices. I asked whether the priests involved were reading a particular book, and was told that they were. It was In Sinu Jesu.

    I therefore decided to read the book in depth. What I found led me to conclude that a critical analysis of it was necessary so that those who might be attracted to its Eucharistic spirituality would be able to distinguish between what is true and laudable and what is erroneous and potentially dangerous.

    My analysis of In Sinu Jesu will appear in four parts on Where Peter Is. Yesterday part 1 appeared; each day this week is to see a new installment until the fourth and final one appears on Friday. I pray that this analysis begins a needed theological and pastoral discussion of the work.

    Monday, April 20, 2020

    What is "definitive suffering"? Find out in Episode 8 of my reading course on JP2's teachings on suffering

    I'm grateful to share with you a new episode of my reading course on Salvifici doloris, Pope St. John Paul II's apostolic letter on the Christian meaning of human suffering. This episode covers sections 13 and 14, where John Paul distinguishes between temporal suffering and "definitive suffering." If you have missed any episodes, they are all available via the YouTube playlist "Reading Pope John Paul II's Salvifici Doloris."

    Tuesday, April 14, 2020

    Watch now: Episode 7 of my reading course on JP2's letter on the Christian meaning of suffering

    Happy Easter! On Easter Sunday, after an absence caused in part by technical difficulties and by a health issue—I've had a low-grade fever for a week—I was finally able to record a new episode of my reading course on Salvifici doloris, Pope St. John Paul II's apostolic letter on the Christian meaning of human suffering.

    This episode looks at John Paul's summation of his reflections on the Book of Job. The sections of the letter that it covers are no. 11 through no. 13. If you have missed any episodes, they are all available via the YouTube playlist "Reading Pope John Paul II's Salvifici Doloris."