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Gratitude to Those Who Let Me Write Print E-mail
By Austin Ruse   
Friday, 25 July 2014

We walked along Park Avenue that spring day in 1996 and Father Perricone told me about an upcoming Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the first Tridentine Mass there since it was put aside thirty years before.

“Father, that sounds like news. Are you sending around press releases?”

“Why don’t you do that,” he said. Like many requests from the ordained, there was no question mark.

So, I put together a simple press release with the headline: “Once Banned Mass Comes to St. Patrick’s Cathedral” and sent it around to journalists, including Peter Steinfels, whose story about it landed on the front page of the New York Times the day before the Mass.

From there the news of the Mass went out over news radio all over the East Coast. Folks got into their cars and drove all night to get there. They say 4,000 people came to the Mass that Mother’s Day Sunday. Moreover, so many news crews came that I had to set up not one, but two press pits inside the Cathedral.

Publisher Roger McCaffrey asked Father Perricone who had handled the press. Father told him and Roger invited me to write articles for his now defunct Sursum Corda magazine.

Roger asked me to write in-depth stories about Catholic communities that had sprung up around the nation; Steubenville, Front Royal, Star of the Sea Village in Arkansas. I did things like hire a plane to take me over State of the Sea Village so I could describe it.

It was at Front Royal, walking through the massive new building owned by Human Life International that I wondered, “Why can’t I work at a place like this?”

Part of my work for Father Perricone was helping him get speaking engagements. One of them was in Canada that turned out to be providential because it brought a young lady to our lunch table one day after Mass.

“What are you doing in town?”         

“I work for Human Life International-Canada, and we’ve raised money to open up a pro-life lobbying group at the U. N.” I believe I heard bells ringing.

Even though I had never even been to the U.N., and I had never done a lick of pro-life work, somehow I knew this was exactly why I had walked away from the prestige and the perks of the big-time magazine business.


        Austin and his family

“That is my job”, I said to her.  And six weeks later, it was and, at least tangentially, I was working for Human Life International. Funny thing how even our thoughts can be taken as prayers by Him who matters.

It was in the magazine business selling advertising where I first began learning how to write – simply, clearly and with a purpose. Some of those smarty-pants PhD’s poke fun at my Dick-and-Jane prose, and that’s fine. Their linguistic curlicues are not for me.

But it was at C-Fam that I learned the discipline of writing. To this day, we publish two news stories a week, 500 words each, week in and week out, every week for seventeen years now. For years I did that all by myself.

Among our first projects at C-Fam was a series of lectures at the U.N. on the natural law. This gave me the opportunity to call some people I had admired from afar – George Marlin, Michael Uhlman, Hadley Arkes, and Robert Royal. Each agreed to lecture at the U. N.

Besides wowing the U. N. diplomats, who hadn’t heard such lectures there since Jacques Maritain helped found the place, meeting these guys was like finding a family. I have never known such loyal brothers, willing without fuss or hesitation to defend you, even when you’re wrong. This was among the most momentous meetings of my life.

Almost immediately, Bob Royal joined my board and has been a fast friend and valued colleague ever since. When Bob got the idea of producing a website of Catholic commentary, I jumped at the invitation and I am proud that the title “Catholic Thing” --- though taken from Father Neuhaus’s regular usage – came from me. I said it aloud that founding day as we all sat together brainstorming and Michael Novak said, “Yes, that’s it.” It was the name of a magazine I wanted to start in my “traditionalist” phase. 

Bob gave me the chance to write fortnightly – almost 200 columns now – and this has made all the difference. Writing no more than 1,000 words at a time makes for remarkable discipline.

Bob has only turned down three of my columns. One was on the current day sex practices of Hugh Hefner; another was on the then-pending conversion of Hadley Arkes, and another about a priest friend on a journey from the priesthood to married life. Needless to say, they were corkers. [Editor’s Note: Opinions differ on this.]

Bob is simply the best and most elegant editor I have ever worked with. We live in an online journal age when nothing is really edited any more. I don’t believe I have ever argued with him about his edits. [Editor’s Note: Memories differ on this.] I hardly notice what he’s done and each has made the pieces better.

Why do I write this column? I am not dying. But for now, it will be my last for The Catholic Thing. Very much because of my work here, my other writing chores have exploded. Moreover, based on a series of articles I wrote for TCT – on the “Littlest Suffering Souls” – I have keen interest from a big time agent to write a book about them.

I hope Bob will let me come back from time to time. I will miss these pages.  I will miss Grump and Jack from Connecticut and the rest in the comment boxes, and most of all Bob’s fine guidance and editing.

Roger McCaffrey gave me my first break but Bob Royal made my writing career. I am grateful now and forever.

 
Austin Ruse is the President of the New York and Washington, D.C.-based Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute (C-FAM), a research institute that focuses exclusively on international social policy. The opinions expressed here are Mr. Ruse’s alone and do not necessarily reflect the policies or positions of C-FAM.
 
 
The Catholic Thing is a forum for intelligent Catholic commentary. Opinions expressed by writers are solely their own.

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Comments (17)Add Comment
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written by myshkin, July 25, 2014
Thanks for fighting the good fight! May God bless your endeavors!
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written by Jack,CT, July 25, 2014
Mr Ruse, I will miss you as well and look forward
to your visits here from time to time.
Best wishes
to you and yours,
Jack
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written by Chris in Maryland, July 25, 2014
I will miss you Austin. You are a courageous witness. God bless your work and your family, and our Holy Church.
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written by schm0e, July 25, 2014
Always leave them wanting more.
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written by Dave, July 25, 2014
Thank you, Austin, for your many columns here and for your standard-bearing throughout the world. You are an inspiration to many.
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written by Lee McKenna, July 25, 2014
Thank you sir for your wonderful columns which never failed to educate, enlighten, inspire and inform. God Bless You and your lovely family.
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written by Rich in MN, July 25, 2014
Austin, thank you so very much for all you have given, and all the very best to you in the future.
As our society loses sight of its ultimate purpose, our true destiny, we quickly drift from being rational creatures to becoming rationalizing creatures. As Ed Feser summarizes: "[Without God,] our understanding of our lives in the hear and now, including our understanding of morality, becomes massively distorted.... Worldly pleasures and projects become overvalued. Difficult moral obligations... come to seem impossible.... Harms and injustices... suddenly become unendurable. This is one reason secularists are often totally obsessed with politics and prone to utopian fantasies. They... insist that heaven, or some reasonable facsimile, simply must be possible here and now if only we hit upon the right socio-economic-political structures" (Feeer, "The Last Superstition," p. 153).
As you continue your fight against soldiers of this "counter-religion," as Feser calls it, may you remain steadfast in exercising your powerful voice at the microphone. We, for our part, will continue to pray for the world and Christ's Church and do what we each are called to do in our situations in life. Our brothers and sisters who work for GLAAD, LAMBDA, NARAL, Planned Parenthood, etc. are traveling on the wrong path because they have been given defective compasses and poorly drawn maps.
May we all together continue our fight to win converts, and may we all -- including our brothers and sisters now shouting vociferously against us -- one day reach the fulfillment which "eye has not seen, ear has not heard."

Peace to you, Sir.

-- Rich Rivers
(in Minnesota, of course)
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written by Deacon Ed Peitler, July 25, 2014
God's speed, Austin!
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written by grump, July 25, 2014
Say it isn't so, Austin! Well, good luck with the book. Let me say that thanks to you and others who write for TCT, I have kept from backsliding altogether and remain hopeful of returning to the fold someday.

I, for one, enjoyed your essays mostly when they cut again the grain. As an opining journalist for many years, I always tried to live up to Mencken's advice to "comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable."

Bob Royal has no choice but to let you back now and then. In the meantime, I extend warmest wishes for every success. And don't forget to wear your life jacket!
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written by Maria Tierney Koehn, July 25, 2014
God Bless. We will be praying for you. Keep writing. Sorry if I over wrote.

One request: Get Meriam to speak at the UN and EWTN to broadcast it :)
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written by Angie, July 25, 2014
God bless you and your good works, Austin!
From a very grateful reader of TCT from Canada.
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written by Seanachie, July 25, 2014
Farewell and good luck, Austin...I shall look forward to any future articles...congratulations on work well done.
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written by Fr. Kloster, July 25, 2014
I'm sorry I never met you as I was the chaplain at Star of the Sea in Arkansas. I was with the FSSP at that time and said the Traditional Latin Mass at St. Michael's parish in Cherokee Village. I was only there for one year, but have good memories saying the TLM in Little Rock, Mountain Home, and Cherokee Village 1999-2000.

I hope your literary pursuits keep you published and in the arena to make a solid impact on all those who read your words.

In XP, Fr. Kloster
revfrkloster@yahoo.com
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written by Thomas C. Coleman, Jr., July 25, 2014
Thank you for all of the enlightening and thought provoking columns, Austin. You will be missed at this site, but I'm sure that will we get some tastes of your delightful style and inspiriing devoution to HOly Mother Church from to time here and in other venues. O this sad occassion I almost feel that it is inppropriate to be my usual eristic self, but I believe it would be wrong to overlook something that could be miscontrued, even if some might find it indecorous or gratuitous. You referred to the Extraoridnry Form as having been banned, but it is my understanding that the commission that St. John Paul II appointed to examine that question concluded that it had not been banned. That conlusion, I blieve, was what motivated St. JPII to ask bishops to be generous in granting the indult to celebrate the Old Rite. Many of the same bishops who had claimed that the Old Rite had been banned flat out ingored the Pope's request for generosity, and that intransigence is what caused Pope Benedict XVI to withdraw the authority from bishops to grant or deny indults. I think that it is important for people to know that the EF had never been banned and that some bishops either did not know that or were practicing deception. It is not wrong for us to wonder what the causes were for this and for the bishops' refusal of the Pope's call for generosity. What were they afriad of. I don't know about the bishops, but I do believe that there are many lay people who are scared of the Old Rite because they fear that the priest will mount the pulpit and remind them that contraception is a mortal sin. Perhpas in your regular life you do not meet amny adult Cathoics who have never heard of offering up suffering for the souls in Purgatory, but I assure there are many Catholics in America who have never hear of of Purgatory at all. I wish you great success in the future.
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written by Beth, July 25, 2014
Thank you--I've learned much from you. My best to you and yours--Beth
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written by Stanley Anderson, July 27, 2014
I typically read The Catholic Thing every day, but somehow I missed seeing this column on Friday and didn't see it until today (Sunday). Hope the book goes well and hope to see an occasional guest piece here!
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written by lukas, July 27, 2014
Thank you, Mr. Ruse, also from Slovakia (Europe). We have read your texts and it was very important for us, especially points on UN. God bless you!

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