TAN Books Sees Summer as Golden Time to Shed Light on the Truths of the Faith
New editor Patrick O’Hearn is poised to continue traditional resurgence.
Summer is usually a slow season for publishers, but TAN Books has made efforts to reverse that trend. In addition to print classics, the Gastonia, N.C.-based company has been adding new books, audiobooks and even a home-school academy.
TAN has also added a new editor, who seems to be just the right fit. Patrick O’Hearn had a book of his own, Parents of the Saints, published by TAN a few months ago and may have more of his writings published there in the future. The majority of the 37-year-old’s editorial efforts now, however, are directed toward getting the works of other authors out to more souls.
O’Hearn, who spent most of his childhood in Illinois and completed it in Ohio, earned a master’s degree in education from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2013. He recently spoke with the Register concerning Catholic publishing, parenting, monastic life, sports, unexpected deaths, and more.
You not only became the editor of TAN in January, you also had a book released shortly thereafter.
Yes, Parents of the Saints was the first book I wrote, but not the first book I published. It took several years to write, and, sometimes, I wondered if it would come to fruition.
I had always loved reading the lives of the saints, but I did not always love writing. Yet I knew, especially after I got married in 2014, that fathers and mothers raising saints (and thus becoming saints themselves) is a vital topic. In fact, it is the very heart of what marriage is.
Parents of the Saints starts with Assunta Goretti being present at the canonization of her daughter, St. Maria Goretti, in 1950. That’s as dramatic as you can get, if you think about it: What Catholic parent would not dream of such a thing? And, yet, Assunta was the first ever to be bodily present at it.
Most parents die before the Church officially recognizes the holiness of their children, but the parents I wrote about had more than enough faith to be assured their efforts at raising saints would bear fruit at some point. In the book, there are family stories involving Alphonsus Liguori, Thérèse of Lisieux, John Vianney, André Bessette, Faustina Kowalska, Maximilian Kolbe, Padre Pio, Josemaría Escrivá, and more.
A lot could be said about Parents of the Saints, but, overall, it shows how to raise children in virtue, even while things around us are collapsing. This is a theme more relevant than ever for Catholics. The book focuses on seven hallmarks present in the lives of saintly parents, which they passed on to their children: sacramental life, surrender, sacrificial love, suffering, simplicity, solitude and sacredness of life.
In November of last year, Andrew Walther, president of EWTN News, died of leukemia at 45; Nick Thomm, Ave Maria Radio executive producer, died of brain cancer at 41; and then, in December, John Moorehouse, editor of TAN Books, died at 51 of a heart attack. Did you know these men?
It seems like every sector of Catholic media has suffered the loss of fairly young leaders recently. It has been a sad time, but I think there are already signs that death is not the end and that these men are still part of the body of Christ.
I wasn’t associated with Andrew Walther while he was part of the Church militant, but I was associated with Nick Thomm and John Moorehouse — sometimes even when I was unaware of it. My two older brothers, Brian and Jeffrey, went to high school with Nick — Alleman in Rock Island, Illinois.
Nick went on to double major with honors in communications and theology at Franciscan, graduating in 2001. I went to Franciscan, too, but that was for a master’s degree in education, which was completed in 2013.
Over the years I heard about Nick’s inspiring work on Kresta in the Afternoon, which has some of the best analysis on Catholic radio. Nick had to leave his post as a producer, but he didn’t complain of his condition. It would have been totally understandable to be angry, but he accepted declining health as God’s will.
Nick’s graceful acceptance was along the lines of TAN’s Trustful Surrender to Divine Providence, which encourages readers to, in our language, “Let go and let God.” That classic, written by St. Claude de la Colombiere — who was St. Margaret Mary’s spiritual director — and Father Jean Baptiste Saint-Jure, is one of my favorite books.
That brings me to John Moorehouse. John had run Catholic Men’s Quarterly before becoming the editor at TAN, and I was in somewhat of a similar position with my own little start-up called Contemplative Hearts Press.
I really liked being able to get good books out to readers. One example is the children’s tale Nissim: The Young Shepherd of Bethlehem. It’s the story of a shepherd who meets Christ at both Bethlehem and Calvary. However, I wanted to engage in Catholic publishing full time, which would be much easier to do at an established company, rather than by attempting a grand expansion of Contemplative Hearts Press.
I started praying a novena for the feast of the Immaculate Conception on Nov. 30 of last year specifically to find substantial work related to writing. After the novena ended on the 8th of December, I was contacted by Conor Gallagher, the CEO and publisher at TAN, who told me that John had died and that his enormous role needed to be filled. There are no coincidences in God’s providence.
The novena was directed to Our Lady, but she is Queen of angels and saints, so it’s conceivable that she assigned John to pray for me, too. TAN was one of his specialties, so I pray for the grace to continue his excellent work, though no one ever replaces a legend like John. Many of our new releases are dedicated to John by our authors. That is how much they loved him.
I do know, however, that John would want prayers for the repose of his soul. TAN has books dealing with purgatory, the value of Masses offered for the dead, etc., so it would be safer to contribute prayers and good works toward his final destiny, instead of assuming no help is needed. If none is necessary, God certainly knows how to dispense of the graces we obtain for the many souls who are in need.
Have your previous work and schooling experiences helped you thus far at TAN?
Our Lord clearly prepared me for my role at TAN through many great experiences, sufferings and trials. In my teenage years, I dreamed of being a Franciscan friar or a Benedictine monk. I wanted to follow the footsteps of so many saints before me by being forgotten by the world and living completely for Christ.
After graduating from St. Ambrose University in Iowa with a marketing degree in 2005, I spent three years discerning my vocation as a Benedictine monk. Even though it wasn’t my vocation, the foundation for my prayer life began. It became clearer that married life was where God wanted me.
After completing a master’s degree in education at Franciscan University in 2013, I married Amanda the next year. We were blessed with one healthy son followed by the trauma of two miscarriages. During this time, I taught middle-school students with high-functioning autism and then worked in sales for an electrical automation company.
As diverse as they were, every one of those situations has prepared me for my current role at TAN, which is like a calling within a calling. It is an extension of my vocation as a husband and father. I’m truly blessed to be here, especially with such amazing colleagues. We pray the Angelus and St. Michael Prayer every day together and, overall, pray for the Church, our customers and authors.
Working at TAN is the most difficult job I've had, but also the most rewarding, because one book can save a spiritual life. The stakes are high, and the Gallagher family, which took over TAN in 2008, is beautifully guiding our company to become one of the leaders in the resurgence of tradition.
Bestselling author Father Michael Gaitley graduated from Franciscan in 1999, and former TAN editor Todd Aglialoro, now back at Catholic Answers, graduated from FUS in 1993, so they would have been there long before your time. However, do you happen to know Steve Duran, who played soccer there, went on to Lighthouse Catholic Media and then 5 Stones (located in Illinois), whose clients include Ignatius Press, Catholic Answers and the Augustine Institute?
I don’t know Steve, but we have a lot in common, including Illinois, Catholic media, education, collegiate sports and business. In addition to majoring in marketing as an undergrad at St. Ambrose, I also played tennis and then was an assistant tennis coach at Franciscan when pursuing my master’s degree. It sounds like we just missed each other at Franciscan, since he graduated in 2011, which was the year I started my degree.
You would also get along well with former pro tennis player Tim Smyczek, who just graduated from business school and enjoys the little St. Josemaría Escrivá books from Scepter Publishers, just like Virginia basketball coach Brad Soderberg.
Yes, small books and booklets are more important than ever in our fast-paced world. Most people just don’t have the time or don’t want to make the time for extensive reading. They’re used to swiping, pointing, tapping and clicking with immediate results, so the thought of taking on a 500-page book can be seen as daunting at best, utterly impossible at worst. That’s why TAN continues to produce thousands and thousands of copies of booklets on many faith topics.
Maybe we should even do a booklet on the topic of sports, since there can be such a great connection with them and faith. Belmont Abbey seminarian John Cuppett might have said it best in his recent interview, but in order to play sports well, we have to forego fun in other areas of life; we have to learn the rules of the game and play by them as well as possible; we have to bounce back from defeats, and so on. This is so analogous to religion, where there are things to avoid, things to learn and put into practice, and the flame of faith to keep alive, despite strong winds that threaten it.
Maybe even a full-sized book on sports would work.
It very well could, since men would naturally be drawn to it, even if they weren’t necessarily religious. It would get their attention right off the bat.
My father went to Ohio State, and I used to love watching college football, especially the Buckeyes. Being a football recruiter for a college would have been my second dream job, after this one. I loved the idea of finding the best talent — especially players that are overlooked — in order to win a national championship with a coach like Lou Holtz.
Even though my enthusiasm for football has waned, I carry this same type of scouting mindset to my position at TAN. Not only do authors bring their manuscripts to us, but our team relies on the Holy Spirit to provide us with book ideas, which we in turn present to prospective authors.
We try to assemble the best books possible so that we have an “International Championship” team of Catholic classics. One of those soon-to-be classics was completed years ago by Devin Schadt but was only recently released by TAN in this Year of Sat Joseph. The first word of the title is Latin for “Guardian,” and the whole title is Custos: Total Consecration to St. Joseph.
We’ve tried, with all of our books, to present them with attractive covers that summarize what is inside. One acclaimed cover is for Paul Thigpen’s The Biblical Names of Jesus. Another great cover is for the recently released Christ Unfurled: The First 500 Years of Jesus’s Life by Father Vincent Meconi. The catchy subtitle indicates the telling of the story of the early Church, not just as a set of beliefs or a social structure, but as the continuation of the very life of Christ himself.
Father Meconi is a Jesuit steeped in education, so he would appreciate our launch of TAN Homeschool Academy in April, which we hope will catch like wildfire. More and more parents are beginning to embrace their role as the primary teachers of their children. In fact, the events of 2020 drove this ideal home, so to speak, more than anything before had.
Our academy offers an authentically Catholic K-12 curriculum that is trustworthy, simple and affordable. It includes coaching and daily lesson plans, and we will continue to expand the program each year.
St. Alphonsus Liguori had, by the middle of the 20th century, more editions of his books in print than any other author. Mother or Our Savior and Refuge of Sinners Publishing brought his classic, The True Spouse of Jesus Christ, back into print, so does TAN plan on bringing any of his other books back?
We have Visits to the Blessed Sacrament, Sunday Sermons, Twelve Steps to Holiness and Salvation, The Glories of Mary, Preparation for Death, and some booklets of St. Alphonsus. We are planning to add other works from him, including some that have never before appeared in English.
We want to bring back old works from other saints, too, and share these hidden “gems” with our customers. To me, these books are more valuable than finding actual gems, because the truths found in these books will make you fall even more deeply in love with God and his Church. This is a relationship that will last forever, even as stone gems tarnish with time.
Is it true that TAN will no longer have a print catalog?
We have existing relationships with booksellers, parishes and other groups that order online or over the phone, and most individuals tend to order online, so we have, for the moment, suspended the print catalog.
We are still very much into printing books, however. Even though e-books have become more popular, the category that has taken off even more is audio books. Interestingly, our top two audiobooks are a new one and an old one —The Devil and Karl Marx by Paul Kengor and True Devotion to Mary by St. Louis de Montfort. Some other bestselling audiobooks are Uniformity With God’s Will, Story of a Soul and The Anti-Mary Exposed.
Nonetheless, the majority of our sales are still in printed books. This includes traditional Bibles and our staples from St. Alphonsus, St. Francis de Sales, Venerable Mary of Agreda, Venerable Anne Catherine Emmerich and so on, but will also continue to include new works from new authors.
Tell me about your first published book, Nursery of Heaven: Miscarriage, Stillbirth, and Infant Loss in the Lives of the Saints and Today’s Parents.
I co-authored Nursery of Heaven with another Franciscan graduate, Cassie Everts. It’s not a highly precise theological book, but one of personal experiences of child loss. It incorporates several holy people who also lost children. St. Gianna Molla, Sts. Louis and Zelie Martin, and Servant of God Chiara Corbella Petrillo are four examples.
It’s a literally gut-wrenching topic, but I believe the book is helping to bring healing to many Catholics. Like Job learned and St. Alphonsus expanded on in Uniformity with God’s Will, our lot is to accept whatever God sends, not as okay, but as the best possible thing that could happen. As our Heavenly Father, he does know best, even if what we encounter seems worst.
Venerable Louis of Granada wrote beautifully of the Holy Innocents in his Summa of the Christian Life as being among the choirs of angels, despite not having been baptized. He knew that the malice of Herod was not more powerful than the goodness of God, so if that malice inflicted punishment where there was no guilt, God’s goodness gave a reward where there was no merit.
None of us, strictly speaking, deserves heaven, even if we receive Holy Communion every day in the state of grace for a hundred years and do all kinds of penances during that time. In an instant, God can make glorious what seemed disastrous, and, knowing our will to baptize if our children had lived longer here, I can only conclude that heaven already counts two of our children as citizens.
We can still pray the prayer for the dead about perpetual light shining upon them: “May their souls, and all the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.”
The ultimate goal is to rest in peace, but there’s often a battle that precedes that.
Yes, that underscores the importance of producing the right books, which literally can mean the difference between heaven and hell. Many saints have started their journey back to God by reading great books. Add to that the belief that God is not done making saints yet, and we have a strong motivation to keep producing great books.
Now that the TAN dream has come true for me, I want to maximize this opportunity to bring more souls to Christ and more of Christ to souls. I pray that Our Lady uses me and my colleagues to inspire others to faithfully cooperate with the light of grace and thereby shine like the saints God intends us to be.
Register correspondent Trent Beattie writes from Seattle.
His book Fit for Heaven (Dynamic Catholic, 2015)
contains numerous Catholic sports interviews,
most of which have appeared in the Register.
His latest book is Apostolic Athletes.