Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver Colorado recently addressed a group gathered in Sydney, Australia. The topic was, “Mission Possible: This Double Life Will Self-Destruct.” In a chillingly honest fashion, Archbishop Chaput shares his thoughts on our lives today, as Catholics, and how we ought to realize our need to live wholly and completely for Christ:
We can’t live a half-way Christianity. The organizers of tonight’s event were right [those who named it "Mission Possible: This Double Life Will Self-Destruct"]. Every double life will inevitably self-destruct. The question then becomes: How are we going to live in this world? How can we lead a Christian life in a secular age? We can’t really answer that question until we get some things straight about what it means to be a Christian. And that means first getting some things straight about Jesus Christ.
This is another one of the by-products of our secular age: we don’t really quite know what to think about Jesus anymore. A few years before he became Pope Benedict XVI, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger wrote something that is unfortunately very true. He wrote: “Today in broad circles, even among believers, an image has prevailed of a Jesus who demands nothing, never scolds, who accepts everyone and everything, who no longer does anything but affirm us…. The figure is transformed from the ‘Lord’ (a word that is avoided) into a man who is nothing more than the advocate of all men.”
We all know people — friends or family members or both — who think about Jesus in these terms. It’s hard to avoid. Our culture has given Jesus a make-over. We’ve remade him in the image and likeness of secular compassion. Today he’s not the Lord, the Son of God, but more like an enlightened humanist nice guy.
This is, very much, the message in Catholic radio host, author, and speaker Teresa Tomeo’s new book, Newsflash! My Surprising Journey from Secular Anchor to Media Evangelist. Teresa did her best to live a half-way Christianity and found the great many ways in which such a life will self-destruct.
Newsflash! is Teresa’s powerful testimony, in which she shares her public and private tragedies and triumphs. Like Archbishop Chaput’s message, Teresa’s isn’t for the faint of heart: she calls each and every Catholic to live out his or her baptismal vows in a more conscientious way. As Teresa pointedly admits, “Being a Catholic isn’t for wimps!”
Teresa begins by sharing a key event behind the telling of her story: the suicide death of a friend and former colleague. Teresa then takes her reader behind the scenes of the life of glitz and glamour that is secular television, to give the reader a sense of what this dear sister-in-Christ had experienced. Once behind the scene, Teresa tells of her own very public fall from fame, when she was unceremoniously fired as a secular anchor, and then the ensuing road to recognizing and accepting God’s graces.
With great honestly and humility, Teresa puts herself, her world, her decisions, and her attitude under the lens of an extreme close-up camera. Revealing her own determined nature, both before and after the public debacle of her job loss, she reveals the fragility of her marriage, which almost succumbed to her very ambitious career goals and the proverbial brass ring for which she was reaching. She speaks openly about her prideful behavior and has since learned to boast about her public humiliations, recognizing them as God’s love and mercy. Teresa is forthright in her recognition that despite our best intentions, not one among us can remain unaffected by the media-saturated world in which we live and thus must live intentionally and with awareness of what is at stake, which, as she boldly admits, is our very souls. Teresa’s intimate sharing of her own life, as catechized first in the Church and then in this environment, is quite effective in opening the reader’s heart and eyes to the Truth that is found in the Catholic Church.
Teresa speaks about her commitment to pro-life issues while also sharing with the reader circumstances that led to her own life as a spiritual mother when God did not make her a biological mother. She really doesn’t leave any stone unturned in her zeal to make each and every one of us more aware of our treasures as Catholics and our call to honor God in whatever circumstances we find ourselves, whether they are our own doing or His.
Teresa, herself an effervescent personality, encourages us all to embrace the story of our lives. Each of the ten chapters begins with a news slogan that Teresa then applies to the reader as a Catholic. For instance, one of the first chapters is titled “Newsflash” where Teresa gives a brief definition: A NEWS BULLETIN OR BRIEF ITEM OF URGENT NEWS, OFTEN BROADCAST AT SHORT NOTICE INTERRUPTING A SCHEDULED PROGRAM. The chapter then unfolds as Teresa shares the “scheduled program” she is running: her own life. She candidly reveals how God interrupted that program and then, in the back of the book, has a corresponding reflection section for the reader to become a reporter, so to speak, and identify the scheduled program he or she is running and contemplate ways in which God may be trying to interrupt the program. The way in which the news items have been played upon makes the book a lot of fun to read and apply while really driving home Teresa’s message that we must subject ourselves to an extreme close-up if we are to work effectively for God.
Throughout the book, Teresa expertly uses quotes from papal encyclicals, the Catechism, and Scripture to continually draw the reader back to the abundant Truth found in such writings. It is quite inspirational and it is no wonder that more than a dozen people have endorsed the book: From Monsignor Mangan of Italy to Jerry Usher of Catholic Answers Live, Catholics understanding what Catholics need or want in their reading have offered great words of support for Newsflash!
Al Kresta, host of Catholic radio’s “Kresta in the Afternoon” and President and CEO of Ave Maria radio wrote:
Many of Teresa Tomeo’s friends and fans have been after her to put her story in book form. At last we have it and it’s been worth the wait. Her tale for our times moves briskly, sped along by her distinct voice and personality. You will feel the amphetamine of media competition as it euthanizes her Catholic girlhood. When her career takes off, expectations grow extravagant, compromises creep in, rewarding relationships grow feeble. She turns her back on her God and neglects the love of her husband. The seduction then complete, the glamorous world of journalism itself grows fickle. But she mysteriously changes even “as the news-world turns”. Christ slips back into her life to destroy the work of the devil. Years of misplaced love and loyalty are restored. Bad news gives way to the Good News and a new apostolate is born.
Teresa’s story has and will continue to shout hope to many women entangled by the contradictory and impossible promises of the world. She is as instructive as she is colorful. Her portrayal of ongoing conversion is pointed and realistic and she doesn’t mislead by glittering promises of “just believe and everything will be fixed.” Throughout God is off-camera ready and able to break through at any moment. When He does we get a taste of the glory, the greatness of “Woman,: that mere celebrity can never seriously offer. I am humbled by the small role I’ve played in such a wonderful story of redemptive love.
We all need to see how God’s hand is upon our lives and Teresa’s testimony does just that; it shows us that God cares about all the details and will participate in our journeys when we give control over to Him, or using Teresa’s media lingo, master control. What Teresa does beautifully is to share with her reader a journey in which she had to participate; she had to learn how to listen, how to respond. As Al points out, it isn’t all about “just believe and everything will be fixed.” That is, after all, simply another brass ring which we sometimes attempt to grab.
Newsflash! isn’t a simple autobiography, even though it is the story of Teresa Tomeo. Nor is it just another book of inspiration, even though it offers reflections for the reader to use in contemplation or prayer. It also isn’t just about catechesis, even though the entire book is filled with references to Catholic documents and Catholic saints. Newsflash! is really a book by a Catholic whose life has been lived in the public eye for almost three decades and who is here to say, “We can’t live a half-way Christianity!”
Newsflash! is due out September 1st; pre-orders are currently being accepted with free S&H for all orders placed prior to September 1. Visit http://www.bezalelbooks.com/ to place your order today!