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Michael Leach: Why I Stay Catholic View Comments
By Barbara Beckwith

Why is this semi-retired publisher so high on being a Catholic? Michael Leach’s Why Stay Catholic? Unexpected Answers to a Life-Changing Question, published by Loyola Press last March, builds on his previous bestseller, I Like Being Catholic, co-edited with Therese J. Borchard. That was a collection of other people’s stories, but his new book reveals his incredibly moving and persuasive personal story.

Mike, now 70, received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Catholic Book Publishers Association in 2007. This Chicago native, who now lives in Greenwich, Connecticut, was ordained a priest in 1966 but requested and received laicization three years later so that he could marry.

Now after 41 years of marriage to Vickie Jacobi, Mike still can’t believe his good fortune in finding a woman whose life theme is gratitude. That’s true even though seven years ago she was diagnosed with early Alzheimer’s. (Mike devotes one of the book’s chapters to her story and refers to her frequently.)

For his first job in the “real” world, Mike turned for advice to Father Andrew Greeley, whom he had met at St. Mary of the Lake Seminary. Mike knew he wanted to work in publishing because “I love books.” Back then, Father Greeley was the prolific author of Catholic nonfiction; more recently,
he’s known for his novels. (Mike devotes a chapter in this book to the priest, now recovering from a head injury.)

So Greeley wrote to a number of publishers on Mike’s behalf, but no one would hire him because he had no experience. But Mike persevered because “Andy believed in me, and Vickie loved me, so I knocked on every door.” Just before his money ran out, he was hired by Seabury Press, owned by the Episcopal Church.

The rest, as they say, is history. Mike went on to become the publisher of The Crossroad Publishing Company and later of Orbis Books (both are Catholic publishing houses). He has published thousands of boo

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Barbara Beckwith is the managing editor of this publication.

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Philip Neri: Philip Neri was a sign of contradiction, combining popularity with piety against the background of a corrupt Rome and a disinterested clergy, the whole post-Renaissance malaise. 
<p>At an early age, he abandoned the chance to become a businessman, moved to Rome from Florence and devoted his life and individuality to God. After three years of philosophy and theology studies, he gave up any thought of ordination. The next 13 years were spent in a vocation unusual at the time—that of a layperson actively engaged in prayer and the apostolate. </p><p>As the Council of Trent (1545-63) was reforming the Church on a doctrinal level, Philip’s appealing personality was winning him friends from all levels of society, from beggars to cardinals. He rapidly gathered around himself a group of laypersons won over by his audacious spirituality. Initially they met as an informal prayer and discussion group, and also served poor people in Rome. </p><p>At the urging of his confessor, he was ordained a priest and soon became an outstanding confessor, gifted with the knack of piercing the pretenses and illusions of others, though always in a charitable manner and often with a joke. He arranged talks, discussions and prayers for his penitents in a room above the church. He sometimes led “excursions” to other churches, often with music and a picnic on the way. </p><p>Some of his followers became priests and lived together in community. This was the beginning of the Oratory, the religious institute he founded. A feature of their life was a daily afternoon service of four informal talks, with vernacular hymns and prayers. Giovanni Palestrina was one of Philip’s followers, and composed music for the services. </p><p>The Oratory was finally approved after suffering through a period of accusations of being an assembly of heretics, where laypersons preached and sang vernacular hymns! (Cardinal Newman founded the first English-speaking house of the Oratory three centuries later.) </p><p>Philip’s advice was sought by many of the prominent figures of his day. He is one of the influential figures of the Counter-Reformation, mainly for converting to personal holiness many of the influential people within the Church itself. His characteristic virtues were humility and gaiety.</p> American Catholic Blog We need do no more than we are doing at present; that is, to love divine Providence and abandon ourselves in his arms and heart.<br />—St. Padre Pio

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