While having lunch last spring with good friend David Ford of WFDD, I told him about the time my wife and I — during our honeymoon in 1984 — witnessed the charismatic aura of Pope John PaulII while visiting the Vatican. Ford liked the story so much that we headed straight back to the studio to record it, unscripted. It aired right around the time of the former pope’s canonization. You can hear the recording here.
On the occasion of Pope Francis canonizing two of his beloved predecessors in April 2014, Zach Everson at AOL Travel asked if I would write about story about the spectacle of canonization in Rome from the perspective of someone who had a good reason in 2005 to attend one. I was glad to do it. The story is here.
Excerpt: “On that memorable day, my family and I –- more than 60 of us from America, each of us bursting with pride –- crowded into St. Peter’s Square for what was Benedict’s first canonization ceremony. Rome goes crazy for these events. Stores and restaurants, not to mention buses and cars, are festooned with posters of the saints-to-be. Everywhere we looked in the vicinity of the Vatican, we saw our family name and cousin’s gentle smile. We felt like special guests at a giddy global block party.”
If not for this three-minute commentary on National Public Radio’s Morning Edition on Oct. 20, 2005, the book shown here would not exist. While my commentary aired, Randi Murray, a literary agent in San Francisco, listened in her driveway. She told me that when she finished crying, she dashed into her house, looked me up on the internet and sent me an email, which said in essence, “There’s a book in that commentary if you’re interested, and I’d like to represent you.” I spoke with Randi after returning from Italy with my family after the canonization. She coached me through the process of producing a 50-page book proposal over the next few months. And in March 2006, she negotiated a contract for me with a division of HarperCollins. When I look back on all that — how it started and what it produced — I’m left with only one reasonable explanation: It was a miracle.