As the host of EWTN's World Over as well as bestselling author, and journalist, Raymond Arroyo is a man who requires no introduction. I would like to preface this interview with a sincere thank you to Mr. Arroyo for taking the time out of his extraordinarily busy schedule to answer all my questions.
I also have to add something about his latest book...We recently bought Of Thee I Zing (co-authored with Laura Ingraham) for the Kindle, and it's currently making the rounds of the house. Everyone loves it! Humor with a message is a powerful thing indeed. I should also make mention of his amazing biography of Mother Angelica entitled Mother Angelica, The Remarkable Story of a Nun, Her Nerve, and a Network of Miracles. It's an eloquently written and thoroughly researched book. I have not been able to put it down since I started it. It's a deeply moving and engaging story of one astonishing nun's mission to spread the saving message of Jesus Christ far and wide. I hope you will be sure to read it!
1. You are a bestselling author, journalist, producer, as well as actor. Is there one role you find the most satisfying?
Being a father and husband is probably the most satisfying. At the end of the day no matter how many television shows I produce or how many books I write, it is the children that my wife and I have been blessed with that will most reflect who we are and carry on whatever we have learned. For me, there is no higher calling or more humbling responsibility.
2. As a lifelong Catholic, was there a moment you can point to in your life when you experienced a critical turning point or a “Second Conversion,” a conscious decision to follow Christ and the teachings of the Catholic Church? Did you ever struggle with your faith as a young person?
What do you mean "as a young person"? Like everybody else, I'm struggling right now! Conversion is an ongoing process. This is why I never give up hope on anybody. None of us are lost so long as we breathe and have life. The critical turning point that you mention, to my mind, is the moment upon me right now. Until they lower me into the ground, I will always be faced with the possibility of making good choices or lousy ones--just like you. I attempt to make the good ones.
3. Is there a saint or two for whom you have a special affinity or appreciation?
My patron saint it Saint Anthony. He was a wonder worker, a gifted preacher and a Franciscan. And when you lose anything from your wallet to your car nobody is a better friend! St. Raymond is another saint I can identify with. He was such a loud mouth (and so effective) that they sewed his lips shut with leather cords--and he miraculously continued to preach. The lesson: there is no way to shut up an inspired Raymond.
4. I like your blog title: Seen and Unseen. What sparked your choice of those words from the Nicene Creed? Was there a reason they were especially important to you?
I knew it would resonate with everyone and I like the notion that there are things hidden that we can reveal.
5. As a writer also exploring the mystery genre for the first time, I’d love to hear about your new mystery series. Is it too early to share any details?
Yes, it is too early. I can tell you that it will be set in New Orleans and that my detective is a charmer. I have been working on this mystery series in my spare time (ha!) for about 8 years while doing other projects. I think people will love this detective. I have known her for 8 years now and can't wait to finish the first book myself.
6. Two recurring themes of Mother Angelica, The Remarkable Story of a Nun, Her Nerve, and a Network of Miracles are the great importance and meaning of redemptive suffering as well as the need to pray without ceasing (also very much a part of Mother Angelica's Private and Pithy Lessons from the Scriptures). How have you applied redemptive suffering and praying without ceasing to your own life?
I think every moment of life, everything we do can be a prayer. The trick it to offer it to God. Even if the task is unpleasant I sort of press on knowing that it has some spiritual value and power beyond the task at hand. At times I offer up a work for the intentions of a friend or family member. Like Mother Angelica, I also make deals with God from time to time. I promise to finish some project if he helps me with a certain situation--- it works. As for the redemptive suffering, I think some are called to that particular path with God. I have known many saintly people who have literally moved mountains through their pain and the oblation of their suffering. It is a mysterious and humbling thing to behold up close.
7. What was it that sparked your decision to write the biography of Rita Rizzo (Mother Angelica)? Did you have any inkling at the beginning how huge an undertaking it would become? Were there moments when you were discouraged with the size and scope of the work needing to be done?
I was inspired to write the biography following many conversations with Mother about her personal life that I knew the public had never heard before. Had I known it would take 5 years to complete the project I probably wouldn't have started down the path. But you could say that about anything of value. I was constantly overwhelmed by the scope of the project, but decided early on that I could only do one thing at a time. So I did all my research up front, then organized it, wrote a hundred and fifty page outline and then wrote the book. The writing was actually the easiest part. It was the wind up that was the heavy lift. I recently reread the biography for a speech I was preparing and found myself pulled into the story all over again. I'm very proud of that book and obviously of the woman that led me to it.
8. What was something you discovered in your research and interviews concerning Mother Angelica that surprised or shocked you the most--e.g. her terribly painful childhood in Canton, Ohio?
I always look for visual stories that provide some insight into character whether I am writing a fictional or non-fictional work. One of the most revealing stories Mother shared with me was her memory of sitting at a kitchen table as a young girl. Her uncle began bad mouthing her mother. Rita (Mother Angelica) sat in silence through the rant and then at one point picked up a kitchen knife and hurled it at her uncle's head. It thankfully lodged in the wall behind him. That told me everything I needed to know about the deep love she had for her mother, her fighting spirit, and (as she later confided to me) the anger that she would struggle to control as she grew older. It's a great story and I feel honored to have been the person that Mother felt comfortable sharing it with (along with not a few others).
9. I really enjoyed reading your humorous and yet insightful new bestseller, Of Thee I Zing, co-written with celebrated radio personality Laura Ingraham. What are a couple of the most important messages you hope the reader will bring away from this book?
The overall message is that Laura Ingraham and I have very cruel but honest eyes. I'm kidding. The message is that we are in big trouble as a culture and of all things we worry about (the economy, politics, celebrities, etc.) nothing has a greater influence on our daily lives than the culture. The way we dress, behave, our habits, manners all shape the future. We are trying to sensitize people to the horrors around us and hopefully inspire them to make a change for the better. It is funny to chronicle the tragedy of the muffin topped, flip-flop mob, but after the laughs, it is still a tragedy. Lets hope its short-lived.
10. Was it necessary in the writing and editing process to leave out much material you had hoped to use? Is there a particular section in the book that’s your favorite?
Oh there were tons of things that we threw out for good reason. I love the manners section of the book because it touches on the abysmal slips of decency that we encounter each day. The other day I actually saw a rather saggy 60-plus year old woman in super mini shorts and a mid drift. You might have thought I had wandered into a red light retirement district. I was at the supermarket! As Mother Angelica once said, "You old gals, please-- Cover it up!" I couldn't agree more.
11. Father Corapi was a source of great encouragement after we became Catholic. The controversy surrounding him of late has been deeply disheartening. Is there a particular lesson as Catholics that we can take from this situation?
As you know I knew Father Corapi personally and found his preaching arresting. It is a sad and for many a painfully disappointing story. But let's see how this story ends before we try to draw lessons from it...
12. What’s the next big project on the horizon for you?
At this point I am working feverishly on a series of books for children and I have a date with a certain detective on my dance card down the road. From there we will see. I am always a little reluctant to answer such questions as something else always comes up that causes me to delay whatever project is before me. So I'll put it this way: until a better inspiration hits me I'll be working on these projects and producing the World Over and live events and whatever else I feel called to pursue... You've got to be receptive in each "present moment," right?