On a hilltop in Arona, Italy stands a giant statue of Saint Charles Borromeo. For two hundred years, from the day of its completion in 1698, it stood proudly as the tallest statue in the world. Built of copper and granite, it had been commissioned by a collection of admirers. From within the statue one can climb to windows in the eyes and ears and see the surrounding countryside of Arona and the beautiful Lage Maggiore.
The Shrine of San Carlo lies a few meters away. Within the shrine St. Borromeo’s relics are conserved in a carved wooden showcase besides an altar. Behind the altar is a reconstruction of his original room—a room modest and unpretentious. He was a humble man; the only cardinal to have refused the papacy when it was offered to him. So revered even in his own day, he was quickly (for any age) canonized by Pope Paul V in 1610.
Evidence of the love Milanese felt for this man is evident in the statue and shrine. His continuing popularity can be found today in well over fifty schools, seminaries, cities, and counties that carry his name around the world.
The fact that Charles Borromeo was a cardinal before he was ordained a deacon, priest, and bishop was normal in the 16th century for a nephew of the pope. In those days the title “cardinal” was honorific in the Church although a salary often came with it. The last non-priest cardinal died in 1899. To ensure that lay cardinals did not return, the 1917 Code of Canon Law decreed that from then on only those who were priests or bishops could be chosen as cardinals.
It is difficult to judge people from another age. Yet, the nepotism of the middle 16th century which seems so strange is not so uncommon today: President John F. Kennedy made his brother-in-law, Sargent Shriver, the first director of the Peace Corps and his brother, Robert F. Kennedy, Attorney General.
Borromeo’s story is told in detail in my novel The Hidden Saint: The 16th Century Church in Crisis which will be released in March, 2017 by eLectio Publishing.
When the emperor Septimius Severus decided to launch a military campaign in the province of Africa in 202, Quintus Maecius Laetus, the prefect of the province of Egypt, supported the effort by demanding public worship of pagan gods by Christians on penalty of death. This action went well beyond the decree issued by the emperor five years earlier. Severus had forbidden conversions to Christianity or Judaism. The decree did not originally affect those already Christians or Jews or their offspring, only non-Christian catechumens.
In order to identify which Christians were actually obeying this demand, Laetus decided that Christians must worship Roman gods in public. This would calm the non-Christian population and reduce the number of riots in Alexandria. As a result, many Christians refused to sacrifice to the Roman gods and were martyred. Among those martyred was Origen’s father, Leonides. This proved to be important because Origen became the director of the famous Catechetical School of Alexandria, the primary teacher of Christianity in the world. Origen would do more for the Living Tradition of the Church than any Christian theologian up to that time and some might say up to the present.
My upcoming text book, Rock of the Apostles: A Brief History of the Catholic Church, will have many instances such as this as to why the Church makes the decisions it does.
St. Hildegard of Bingen (1098–1179) is considered the founder of scientific natural history in Germany. The founder and abbess of several monasteries, Hildegard had gained significant practical skills in diagnoses, prognosis, and treatment of patients in her infirmary. She described those skills in lengthy Latin books for general use. They included writings on the scientific and medicinal properties of various plants, fish, reptiles, and animals, the physiology of the human body, and the causes and cures of various diseases.
She also wrote an extensive number of musical compositions and three great volumes of visionary theology. St. Hildegard preached publicly in Germany about the Tradition of the Church, denouncing clerical corruption and calling for reform. A Doctor of the Church, she is one of only four women given that title by the Roman Catholic Church. Can you name the other three?
My latest manuscript Rock of the Apostles: A Brief History of Catholic Tradition is currently making the usual rounds of publishers. We expect it to be released in the coming year.
Our first non-fiction book, Rock of the Apostles, is now being offered to publishers. We expect our audience to be those with an interest in how the Catholic Church arrives at its positions on social and cultural positions. How did the Bishops, Doctors of the Church and the Ecumenical Councils arrive at such head-scratching positions on abortion, abortafacients, prohibitions on divorce, unmarried priests, and a fair balance between Capital and Labor? We believe this book will appeal to students of every age. Each chapter includes questions and projects allowing it to be used as a text book for CCD classes, home schooling, and high school or college classes.
Because this book deals with questions of Catholic religion and morals, it required an imprimatur from the Most Reverent William E. Lori, D.D. of the Archdiocese of Baltimore in accordance with canons 827 and 830. After almost nine months of negotiations, we obtained such an imprimatur on September 15, 2016. It applies only to the printed work and may not be used for any electronic publication because of the ease with which such media can and often is changed. The imprimatur is granted with the understanding that there is nothing within the work that is contrary to the faith and morals of the Roman Catholic Church as it is proposed by the ecclesiastical magisterium. All theories or hypotheses within the work and the truthfulness of the citations are solely those of the author.
The release date of this work is not expected until sometime in 2017 or 2018.
On September 12, 2016, we entered into a contract with eLectio Publishing for our new book The Hidden Saint: The 16th Century Church in Crisis. The motto of eLecio Publishing is First century principles, A twenty-first century approach. I spent an hour and a half on the phone with both its Chief Operating Officer, Christopher Dixon, and my literary agent, Natalie Hanemann, discussing the agreement. As the motto suggests, this is a Christian publisher who initially intended to publish world-wide solely through electronic media. After about a decade in business, they realized that paper format books were not going the way of the usual old technology. Changing course, eLectio decided to publish their author’s manuscripts so that they could be read either as an ebook in digital format or in a print version. They now publish over fifty books a year and distribute them world-wide. The release date for The Hidden Saint is scheduled for March 7, 2017.
We are excited that the true story of the Roman Catholic Church and the problems it faced in the 16th century can now be told from an Italian perspective. The Church faced four major challenges: a Muslim invasion; dissent over forcible conversions in the Americas; clashes with the new Protestant movement; and immoral behavior from members of the clergy. The Council of Trent countered these threats by laying out the fundamental beliefs of the Catholic Church and listing punishments up to and including excommunication for inappropriate behavior.
Roberto Vecchi narrates the story as the bodyguard to Carlo Borromeo, nephew to Pope Pius IV, and son of the Count of Arona. Carlo wishes to follow a religious career and has been assigned responsibility for implementing the decisions of the council. Roberto prefers a comfortable future to labors in an apathetic church, assuming he lives long enough to have a future. Roberto’s devastating skill with a sword causes him to find a ready partner in Ernesto Mancini of the Orsini clan only to be restrained from dueling by Carlo with the threat of excommunication.
Our story takes place primarily in Rome and Milan, but we find an unwilling Roberto off to the famous Colegio de San Gregorio in Spain which had such a great influence on the encomenderos of Latin America, and to Lepanto where the deciding sea battle takes place between the Catholic Fleet and the Muslim Fleet. When the restraining influence of Carlos over Roberto begins to lose its power, the lovely maid, Celia Bartolini, enters the scene and reminds Roberto that his soul is not the only thing he might lose should he unsheathe his sword.
Watch for the release of this historical fiction novel about another critical time in the life of the Catholic Church and how it affected not only its followers, but the entire Christian community.
A couple of years ago, my wife Carmen and I went to New York to see and enjoy the musical Jersey Boys. It was terrific. We danced all night long to this type of music when we were younger. Imagine my surprise when I saw this UTube video of a Navy band offering a free concert only forty miles from my home with selections from Jersey Boys. It was even better for the joy and the pleasure in both the performers and the audience were very real. I hope you love this ten minute video as much as we do.
Natalie Hanemann as been selected as the editor for two of my new books: Rock of the Apostles: A Brief History of Catholic Tradition and The Schiavona, a novel on the life of St. Charles Borromeo and the Council of Trent. Rock of the Apostles is intended as a text book for high school students, while Schiavona is a story of the turbulent times of the 16th century. Natalie was the former chief acquisitions editor for the largest Christian publisher in the world (Thomas Nelson Publishers) and the lead editor for Tuscany Press, a Catholic Publisher. Currently, in addition to editing books, she teaches CCD in her parish in Tennessee. We look forward to working with Natalie and sending our new books on to a publisher later this spring. An imprimatur is currently being sought for the textbook from the Archdiocese of Baltimore with the aid of the Chancellor there.
A full year after I met with Vice President Biden in the White House, he sent me the attached photo. Of course, I goofed and congratulated him for being born in one state when he was actually born in another. He quickly corrected me and added that his wife was born in the state I mentioned. Oh, well. The national commander of the Catholic War Veterans is also shown. I’ve lost thirty pounds since that picture was taken.
On Veterans Day, November 11, 2015, I was interviewed by WMET (1160 AM) in Washington DC. The radio station thought that its listeners might enjoy hearing about the experiences of a Catholic who served in our country’s military. In particular it wanted to know how the experiences of military life affect one after discharge. Does it make one more successful or less successful? Does one retain his Catholic beliefs or reject them? In my case, I found military service focused my attention on developing goals in life and then working to achieve them. It was most definitely a valuable life experience and one I heartily recommend to all young men. Aim High!
On July 21 through July 24, the Catholic Marketing Network held its 19th Annual International Trade Show at the Garden State Exhibition Center in New Jersey. Over 150 exhibitors displayed religious medals, statues, publications, art works, jewelry, etc. designed and manufactured around the world. Hundreds of religious stores in the United States sent purchasers to view and order the available items wholesale so that they might resell them at retail.
The Catholic Writers Guild held its convention in conjunction with the CMN trade show. Published authors from around the United States met to discuss writing techniques and marketing possibilities. As a member of the CWG, I was able to take advantage not only of the common 40% discounts offered by the CMN, but also to promote my books. In addition, I met such Catholic luminaries as Fr. Frank Pavone of Priests for Life and other well-known members of the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN). The photographer who took the picture on the left of Fr. Pavone and myself thought he saw a halo around our heads, but it was just wall lights–unfortunately.