The Story of a Book

Each of us has dreams that we work to see realized because we believe God has planted them in our souls. We become confused, however, when obstacles arise. We ask ourselves whether these dreams have their source in the Lord or in our own wishes. I had an experience like this that I want to share.

In the summer of 2014, I approached a handful of Catholic publishers with an outline and sample chapters for a book on consecration and devotion to Mary’s Immaculate Heart. The book was to be a fusion of apologetics and devotion, grounding Marian consecration and other expressions of devotion to the Immaculate Heart (eg, the Rosary, wearing the Brown Scapular, First Saturdays) in Scripture: all elements that flow to us from the earthly lives of Jesus and Mary. I had just finished a book on the human prayer of Jesus, and this seemed to be the natural next step in my writing. Plus, if I started working immediately, a publisher would be able to offer it to readers in time for the Fatima centenary in 2017. The only problem was that all of the publishers I contacted were either just releasing books on the Blessed Mother, or my focus wasn’t what they were interested in publishing at the time.

As summer turned to fall, I took these difficulties to prayer. I recall lying in bed one night and saying, “Lord, I felt like this book about the Blessed Mother was something You wanted me to do, but I could be wrong. Maybe You don’t want me to write any more books. And honestly, that’s fine. If You would let me know, though, one way or the other, I would be very grateful.” As I continued to lie in bed, a friend’s words came back to me.

My pal Tony, a coworker, had been reading the Epistle to the Hebrews and dropped by my room every now and then to ask me a question about the text. In the course of our conversations, I shared how, over a decade before, I had developed a five-part study on Hebrews for a prayer group and occasionally thought of turning that into a book. Tony loved the idea and, when he returned the following week with another question he remarked, “Man, I hope you write that book!” As I laid in bed praying, those were the words that popped into my head. I realized that if I did pursue the topic, I would want it to focus upon seven elements in Hebrews instead of my original five. Hmm…was this something the Lord wanted me to pursue?

I received the Lord’s answer two days later, in the form of an email from my friend and collaborator, Dr. Kevin Vost: “In your last email you mentioned St. Thomas, and I seem to recall your special interest in Hebrews. Well, when I ordered the beautiful Latin and English Commentaries on the Letters of Saint Paul, they “accidentally” sent me two copies of St. Thomas’s Commentary on Hebrews and did not request it back. I supposed the other was for you, so I’ve been holding this to give to you if you don’t already have a copy.” Within a week I had contacted Angelico Press with the proposal for The Epistle to the Hebrews and the Seven Core Beliefs of Catholics and received the green light to proceed. The book was released in May, 2016 and was so well received that, by August, Marcus Grodi and I were discussing it on EWTN’s The Journey Home!

I continued to purchase and read books about the Blessed Mother and Marian Consecration, adding to my notes, in the hope that the Lord might still allow me to write on the subject. Again, however, the timing didn’t seem right. Before the end of 2016, the Lord opened the door to publish a book on “marrying” the praying of the Rosary to that of the Divine Mercy Chaplet. I then found myself starting work on a master’s program in theology, and soon thereafter writing a book on the Epistle of James that was released in 2021.

Shortly after its release, my dear friend Michael Vento phoned to say that he had been catching up with an old buddy who had just gone to work as a content manager at TAN Books. Michael knew of my desire to write about a book on Marian Consecration and, thinking that SO would be a good fit, he said he would like to introduce me to this editor.

Perhaps a month later I received an email, completely out of the blue, from a content manager at TAN Books named Patrick O’Hearn. The gentleman who edited my book James for another publisher had been approached by TAN with a special project – updating the entire text of a large, older catechism with footnotes referencing the 1994 Catechism of the Catholic Church. He was not able to take on the job for SO but, for some reason, recommended that they contact me about it. Patrick O’Hearn. . . that sounded like the same name that my friend Michael had mentioned to me. (A quick call to Michael confirmed that it was, but he had not yet had the chance to speak to Patrick about me. Needless to say, I sensed the Lord’s hand.) I emailed Patrick back to say that I was interested in hearing more about the Catechism project and told him how we shared a mutual friend. As Patrick and I began to correspond, I mentioned the book on Marian Consecration and how, once I completed the editing project, I would love to submit a proposal to TAN. He asked me not to wait but to go ahead and send it. Three months later we had signed a contract stating that I would deliver a completed manuscript by December 1, 2022.

Ah, but that was not the end of the story. I went to work on the manuscript in August 2021, and completed my first draft on January 1, 2022 – giving me eleven months to make changes before the due date. I still felt driven to work and completed my content editing by February. I shared the manuscript with a few trusted friends; and as they began reading, I started double-checking my thousands of scriptural citations. Then, completely out of the blue, on March 15, Pope Francis announced his intention to consecrate Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart on the Solemnity of the Annunciation! He asked the world’s bishops and all of the world’s faithful to gather in their parish churches and join him in the consecration. As I was at Mass the weekend before the consecration, the thought occurred to me to contact TAN and see if, since the manuscript was ready, they wanted to move it into production. They did. I had until the end of the week – the same week I was already scheduled to be off work for spring break – to finish checking scriptural citations. TAN immediately went to work and this October, the month of the Rosary, The Biblical Roots of Marian Consecration: Devotion to the Immaculate Heart in Light of Scripture will be released.

I share this story because I want to encourage you: Yes, God truly grants us the deepest desires of our hearts. But He does so in a far better way than we could envision. He is the Lord of time, Who with infinite wisdom moves each piece into position. We walk in the darkness of faith, but with the firm conviction that darkness is not dark to Him; rather, it is as bright as day (Ps 139:12). I do not know the next step or even how many steps I have left in this world, but I know that I have great reason to trust Him – as do you. “He who did not spare his own Son of him but handed him over for us all, how will he not also give us everything else along with him? . . . What will separate us from the love of Christ? Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword? . . . No, in all these things we conquered overwhelmingly through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 8:32-39).

Image: Shutterstock/Bill Perry

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