Last weekend, I went down to Illinois for my cousin’s wedding. My grandfather was with us, and he was very concerned about whether my cousin was marrying another Catholic. After he asked some nosy questions and was assured that the couple were both Catholic, he relaxed — even after I expressed my confusion about the fact that the ceremony would be an outdoor wedding — which the Catholic Church usually won’t officially bless.
At the reception, my parents and I found ourselves assigned to the same table as Rev. Cronan, the priest who had performed the ceremony. My mom, who is one of the most talkative introverts I know, immediately struck up a conversation with him. He explained that, although he was ordained a Catholic priest, he now belongs to a “reform” Church group, where he ministers to people in the Catholic tradition, even though he resigned as a Catholic priest due to disagreements with some official Church teachings.
Seated at the other end of the table, I could only catch this conversation in bits and pieces, but I could hear enough to know that this was a priest after my own heart — one who loved his church too much to stand by when it doesn’t live up to its own teachings.
I leaned over and whispered to my dad, “Mom should be plugging my book!”
He said, “You should be plugging your book.”
But an introvert who is still squeamish about all this promotion stuff is not a good candidate to plug a book from across the long-end of a table, or even to get up and interrupt a fruitful conversation. So instead, my dad offered to switch spots with me, so that I could more organically become part of the conversation (it helped that I had already caught my mom make several references to “my daughter,” who I assumed was me, since her other two daughters are not explicitly involved in Catholic issues).
From my new seat, I was able to enter into a fascinating conversation about Church justice work, and introduce Hungering and Thirsting for Justice quite organically. From that, I learned that Rev. Cronan had also done some work in Catholic publishing, and that he had written a prayer devotional book for a publisher that was run by “official” church leadership. In the midst of that experience, he was told not to use the word “justice” anywhere within the course of the book.
Writing reflections on the Bible, the Gospels, and Jesus’s message to us … but without ever once using the word “justice,” which, apparently, is just too controversial. (A similar thread came up in Kate’s and my interview with Daniel Horan.) It made me realize again how lucky we were to work with ACTA Publications, who not only plastered the word “justice” on the cover, but who let us use words like, “women’s ordination” and “reproductive rights” and “feminist” — without deprecating any of those things. I suggested that, if he ever wanted to try his hand at spiritual writing again, and maybe even use the word justice, he might check out ACTA as well.
In the end, I gave him the copy of the book I’d brought to show some family members. He accepted graciously, and even told me that it will be helpful for him in a project he’s about to undertake working with young adults who are interested in joining the Catholic Church. I was glad I got the opportunity to share about the book, but even more, I was inspired to meet someone else who cares deeply about the same issues that I do. I was reminded again that this is ultimately why I write, and why publication is important. My priority isn’t selling books (which probably means I’ll always have a “day job”), but in forging these connections, in bridging these gaps between one soul and another, and another, and more of whom I may never meet.
When I received my box of five contributor copies at the end of September, I wondered what the best home might be for them. I kept one, gave one to my family, plan to send one to my old parish in Duluth, and gave one to Reverand Cronan. That leaves one more, which I originally meant to give away on Goodreads. Now I’m not so sure. I might wait for the right connection to come up instead.