A Death in the Family - The Difficulty of Saying Goodbye

My Final Register Blog Post

Saying goodbye to anything we love is difficult, painful and causes grief. Life, though, is like that. It's one long series of encounters and goodbyes. After 13 years, this is my Register "goodbye."

I entered Catholic journalism after writing for the secular world. A friend told me, "Getting into Catholic journalism is more difficult than getting into Hollywood." It was.

It was a comment by a priest to this then-newly-minted Catholic that inspired me to pursue writing about the sacred. He made me think about writing in a completely new way.

"Catholic writing is like missionary work," he said. "You may never get to travel to distant places, but you never know who might pick up your work and the effect it might have on a soul."

That was enough for me.

After my conversion to the Catholic Church in 1995, it seemed that Christ and his Church were the only things truly worth writing about.

A simple email to the editor at the National Catholic Register began my career.

"I have a quiver full of story ideas," I told him.

He took a chance, and, for the next decade-plus, I carried on as the newspaper went through circulation highs and lows and highs again, first under the ownership of the Legionaries of Christ and most recently under EWTN.

In many ways, the position was a dream job. For most of my years, I truly loved my work. I was fortunate to meet and interview so many everyday Catholics in the pews, as well as prominent Catholic leaders, religious, politicians and celebrities. I was able to travel to cover World Youth Day in Toronto and Cologne and Sydney. I was able to cover Pope Benedict's trip to Washington and New York and visit Rome.

I've survived through the transition to digital platforms,  witnessed story lengths dwindle from 2,000 words to 800 words per story and participated in the transformation that blogging has brought to journalism.

Yet, the best part of it all was the opportunity to continue learning and writing stories.

For someone who is a writer at heart, there is nothing better than having a good story come to fruition. All stories hearken back to the pre-eminent story, the story of God becoming man, dying for each one of us and rising again. They don't get much better than that.

And each and every day, I was able to learn something new.

So many things run through my mind as I write my last Register blog post.

Some years ago, I gave a talk to the University of St. Thomas’ Catholic studies students on vocation. From my earliest years, I knew that my vocation was one of writing. Yet, for the hundreds of stories I’ve written, I told the students that my very best stories are ones they would never “read.” They are the unique, unrepeatable individuals who are my children, each a creation made in co-partnership between God, my wife and me. What story can ever compare to each one of them?

In addition to grief, I am filled with gratitude. Thank you, dear readers, for sharing the past 13 years with me. I am thankful for you, for your readership, your letters and comments, your criticism and your support, thoughts and prayers. My last day with the National Catholic Register/EWTN is Tuesday, Jan. 22. It is heartening that the great mission of Catholic journalism at the Register will continue, especially under the strong leadership of EWTN.

Still, there's grief. I didn't expect it to be so strong.

Looking back over my years of Register writing, if there has been a consistency, it has been my longing to be a voice for those who have none: the unborn. Threatened myself by abortion in the womb, I realize how narrowly I escaped the same fate that millions of my peers have not. So, when there's been an opportunity to speak or write on their behalf, I have. My own life is a testament to the potential in any life threatened by abortion. One life touches so many others, making so very true the quote made famous by Schindler's List: "If you have saved one life, you have saved the world entire." I've always seen this as my calling, my mission and my purpose in life. If I'm allowed even an iota of pride in my written work, it is that writing of which I am most proud.

Jan. 22, and the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision, is an awful anniversary, for it represents a death in the family — more than 40 million deaths to be specific.

My grief has caused me to reflect on the national grief that we share on what will be my last day with the Register. 40 years ago on that day, our country turned its back on women and their unborn children. The price we have paid has been horrendous and staggering, both numerically and spiritually.

An unelected court gave women the legal right to destroy the children within their wombs. We grieve the loss of so many sisters, brothers, sons, daughters, aunts and uncles, cousins, spouses, classmates and co-workers whom we never got to know this side of heaven. It's a loss we cannot even begin to comprehend.

My departure from the Register feels very much like a death in the family.

As I move on, I would ask that you offer a prayer for all mothers who find themselves in a crisis pregnancy, perhaps utilizing Servant of God Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen's powerful prayer: "Jesus, Mary and Joseph, I love you very much. I beg you to save the life of the unborn baby that I have spiritually adopted and is in danger of abortion."

And please pray for me and my family as we transition to "new life." This is not the place to announce my new position; my new employer will do that in time. Suffice it to say that I have been enriched by the opportunities the Register has provided me, and I hope to continue to apply the many invaluable lessons I’ve learned along the way.

Goodbye, dear and faithful reader.