Monday, January 7, 2019

Pope Francis Owns a Copy of Kelegeen!

There are unexpected benefits to working for the Church.  One is that the office I work in, the Diocesan Tribunal, is across the hall from the Office of the Bishop.  Our offices interact frequently and I see the bishop on a fairly regular basis.  After my debut novel,
Kelegeen, was released in March of 2018, I presented a signed copy to Bishop McManus.  Since one of the main characters is a priest, I thought he might enjoy it.

Apparently, I was correct.  For the next week every time I saw him he gave me an update on what was happening in the story.  One day he even complained that he hoped he would finish it soon because it was keeping him up at night.  “I was reading your book and I looked at the clock and was stunned to see it was four o’clock in the morning but I just couldn’t put it down!” he told me.

So when I heard that he would be traveling to Rome in October for a meeting with a group of cardinals at the Vatican, I asked if he would mind bringing a signed copy of Kelegeen with him to give to the pope and he readily agreed.  I packaged it up nicely in a gift bag, included a short, personal letter to His Holiness and gave it to Bishop McManus to take with him.

Bishops tend to have extremely full schedules.  Hardly a day goes by when he does not have to be at some event, celebrating a special Mass, attending a conference, or chairing one of many committee meetings.  Immediately before his trip to Rome, he had a conference to attend in Texas.  Everything was being done in the usual rush and flurry of getting from one place to the next to the next.  Finally, the date I knew he was taking off for Rome arrived and I imagined my novel on its way to the Holy Father.

Shortly after his return, Bishop McManus appeared at my desk looking a bit sheepish.  “I have a confession to make,” he said.  

I resisted the temptation to voice any of the multitude of jokes that statement brought to mind.  

“I was so busy with all the things I had to do before leaving for Rome,” he continued, “that I completely forgot to pack your book.”  I tried not to appear as crestfallen as I felt, though I’m not sure I succeeded.  

“However,” he continued, “Monsignor Kelly will be visiting from Rome in November.  I will ask him to take it with him when he returns.”  

ll, I thought, patience is a virtue.  I’ll just have to wait a bit longer.

Perhaps the bishop’s forgetfulness was an act of divine intervention.  You see, Bishop McManus was not expecting to see the pope in person on this particular trip so he would only have been able to hand the book to someone in the Vatican with the request that they make sure it got passed on to the pope.  Heaven only knows what long chain of relays that might have involved.  However, Monsignor Kelly works at the Vatican and has access to the pope on a regular basis.  This could work out even better.

And so it did.  

In mid-November the bishop informed me that Monsignor Kelly had indeed taken the book and my letter with him upon his return to Rome and had emailed him to let him know that he had brought the book directly to the pope’s residence.  I could not have hoped for better than that!

In early December a letter arrived in the mail.  Upon opening it, I was delighted to note the Vatican letterhead.  It was a thank you letter written by Monsignor Paolo Borgia on behalf of Pope Francis.

Me holding the letter from the Vatican

In my letter to the pope, I wrote: The character of Father Brian O’Malley is based on a composite of the many wonderful priests I’ve had the good fortune to know and work alongside.  It was my intention to embody the sincere holiness and humanness I see every day in the dedicated, faith-filled priests of our diocese.  I hope I have accomplished that in the character of Father O’Malley.

Apparently, His Holiness was pleased by this affirmation in a time when the Church is beset by the evil of the sex abuse scandals, an issue I am sure tears at his heart every day.  But my words were sincere.  I have worked for the Diocese of Worcester for over eleven years and have been very active in my church and in Catholic education for even longer.  My own experience with the priests I’ve encountered and worked alongside has been overwhelmingly a witness of very good, dedicated, devout men who, though imperfect, strive to give their best to God and their fellow human beings.

As an added blessing, the date at the top of the letter reads 26 November 2018.  November 26th just happens to be my birthday.  A good omen, I’d say!

I realize that English is not one of the languages in which Pope Francis is fluent, though watching him on television when he visited the United States, I thought he held his own with it quite well.  I do hope he will be able to read and enjoy Kelegeen.  I am thrilled just knowing he owns a copy of it.  I would be tremendously honored to know he found enjoyment in reading it.

Letter from the Vatican

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