We recently had the opportunity to interview well-known Catholic author Amy Welborn, one of our favorite authors writing today, about her new book Come Meet Jesus which has just been released by Word Among Us Press.
Amy is the author of 17 books on prayer, the saints, apologetics, and church history. She's also one of the most popular and well-respected Catholic blogger/columnists in the U.S., not to mention being the mother of five wonderful children. Not only are all of her accomplishments inspiring and amazing, but she just does everything she does so darn well!
Our interview with Amy:
Many of our customers know your name from the many wonderful books you have written. Can you give our readers/customers some information about your background?
Thanks so much for the kind words and for all the support Aquinas & More gives to me and other Catholic authors. I entered into writing mostly via teaching. I started writing columns for the Catholic press (The Florida Catholic, Catholic News Service and Our Sunday Visitor) back in 1988. I worked as a parish DRE and Catholic high school religion teacher during that time. In 1998, I left teaching to try my hand at writing full time. Our Sunday Visitor had asked another author to write an apologetics book for teens, but wasn't happy with the result, so they asked me to give it a shot – the result is the Prove It series. About the same time, Loyola Press asked me to write a children's book of saints, and the result of that was The Loyola Kids' Book of Saints. I have a B.A. in history from the University of Tennessee and an M.A. in Religion (Church History) from Vanderbilt University. I have five children, and I'm living in Birmingham, Alabama. My husband Michael Dubruiel passed away about a year ago, on February 3, 2009.
Our readers/customers are always interested in the process of writing a book. Can you tell us both about the process you went through to write “Come Meet Jesus” and your motivation to write the book.
I had written Mary and the Christian Life for Word Among Us Press, and they asked me to write another book for them. They had a topic in mind, a topic that didn't appeal to me very much, so I suggested a book on some aspect of Pope Benedict's thought. They were open to it, asked me to come up with a proposal and outline, and eventually agreed to the idea.
Pope Benedict XVI's thought and witness has been very important to me. I didn't know a lot about him when he was elected, but was immediately intrigued and taken by his first homily as Pope. I started exploring his body of work, and quickly saw what many more Ratzinger fans had known for years – the Holy Father has a profound understanding of every aspect of Catholicism, as well as a deep understanding of the human heart and human life in the 21st century. He is also a clear and lucid writer. Through my little corner of the blogosphere, I tried to spread the word, encouraging others to read the Holy Father, and also tried to do my bit to overcome the ignorant caricatures of him that were prevalent, even among Catholics. I hoped this book would contribute, in whatever small way, to that cause.
I decided to focus the book on the Christo-centric nature of the Holy Father's work, and further, to limit my exploration to his words as Pope – to try to tackle his whole decades-old corpus of work would be too much. I saw this as a little book of popularization, encouraging people to just begin with this book and then go further into the rest of the Holy Father's work.
My process was just to immerse myself in his writings as Pope, pull out the most powerful quotes as I went along, organize them according to chapters on my computer, print them out, use colored highlighters to mark the best, and then build the book around that.
In your new book you describe some of the many ways of “meeting Jesus” – some of which we may not frequently, or ever, think about. Why is it important for us to know these many ways?
Because faith in Jesus Christ is not limited to one sphere of life or one area of the human person. It is our whole selves that are linked to Christ in baptism – our whole selves, for now and forever. The challenge of the Christian life in a busy, demanding world, is to keep our awareness of Christ's presence at the forefront, all the time.
Please tell us about the “Pope Benedict XVI” connection to meeting Jesus in your new book.
Well, as I have followed the Holy Father's work, it has struck me that Jesus is truly front and center. This may seem obvious, and shouldn't even need to be said, but the Holy Father clearly sees our need to focus on Christ. It seems to express itself in his pastoral communications in two basic directions.
First, he is saying to the world: I know your yearnings, hopes, dreams and sufferings. All of these are met in Christ. In Christ they are healed, fulfilled and completed. In Christ, you will find who you really are – and when you accept that, and bind yourself to Christ, you embrace a great adventure that leads you to infinite love and life because Christ is Lord.
He is also constantly reminding those of us who are Christians, who are Catholics, to keep Christ at the forefront – you see this when you read his talks to priests, religious, seminarians and laity. The Holy Father, as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, saw first hand, every day, what happens when those of us who call ourselves Christian forget Christ. We allow our theological and pastoral work to go off the rails, to become expressions of our own egos, of our own ideological concerns. We forget about the simple, clear and deep need of the world and those whom we serve to know Christ and his saving presence. We spin our wheels, we build up programs on sand, and we even sin and lead others to sin. He continually calls us to sacrifice our own egos and ideologies and put humbly serving Christ at the center of our energies.
Finally, he is also, I think, trying to help us all – inside and outside the Church – knit back together the great divide that has occurred in many people's minds between “faith” or “spirituality” and “religion.” He wants us to see the fundamental truth that you cannot have Christ without the Church – and not just a local body of believers gathered to pray, but the universal Church, existing past, present and future.
The bibliography of “Come Meet Jesus” includes several pages of homilies and addresses from the Holy Father. What impressions do you get, what thoughts come to mind, after having read so much of what Pope Benedict XVI has been teaching?
My primary impression in reading Pope Benedict XVI has always been gratitude. I am amazed at the clarity and depth of his writing. In him, theology and spiritual writing meet. I get pretty upset at people's misreadings and misrepresentations of him, especially when those people are Catholic. There is so much dithering, distraction and wasted energy in the Catholic world, and I think the Holy Father's words tend to cut through that and get to the point and reveal how profound and attractive that point is.
George Weigel says your book is “a guide to the thought of Pope Benedict XVI” – do you see it that way?
Well, not in any complete way of course – there are theologians who have written very good books that are truly guides to the Holy Father's thought. Mine is an introduction to one part of his thought, and an invitation, I hope, for readers to explore more on their own.
We're approaching the holy season of Lent. How do you think your new book may help Catholics on their “Lenten journey” this year?
During Lent, we fast, give and pray in order to do penance and to clear our lives of what keeps us from God. Sometimes we aren't really clear on why we're doing what we're doing – exploring the Holy Father's words on the joy and hope we find in following Jesus might help some readers focus their Lenten devotions.
One of the chapters in your book is called “Meeting Ourselves.” Can you speak about the importance of “knowing oneself” in the spiritual life?
As the Holy Father explains it, it is vitally important to know that God made us for life in Him – that old opening to the Baltimore Catechism still holds, of course! If we are confused about that – if we think that we are made to experience as much pleasure as possible or attain wealth or please other people in unhealthy ways – or if we think we are worth nothing and there is no purpose to our particular life on earth – it will impact how open we are to Jesus' presence in our lives. Knowing that we are made by the Lord, in His image, for His glory, makes a huge difference and is the start – as the Holy Father says in one of his favorite turns of phrase – of a “great adventure.”
Finally, because you are a favorite author of our customers, can we get a sneak preview at what you are working on next?
I'm working on several things. I have just finished a revision of Prove It God. I'm working on a revision of my late husband Michael Dubruiel's The How to Book on the Mass to incorporate elements of the new Missal translation. I'm working on self-publishing another of his books, The Power of the Cross, that has been put out of print, as well as a self-published edition of Mary and the Christian Life, also out of print.
A British publisher has picked up a children's book related to an aspect of Pope Benedict XVI's work in which I have had a hand, about which I am very excited. I think their plan is to publish it in conjunction with his visit there this fall. There are other projects cooking as well, but I'd rather keep them under wraps for just a bit longer!
All of us at Aquinas and More would like to thank Amy for taking the time out of her busy schedule for this interview. We'd also like to thank her for her dedication to Christ and to His Church!