INTERVIEW: George Weigel

Q. What made you decide to write City of Saints?

Kraków is one of the world’s great cities; but it’s not as well known as Prague, among the east central European cities, and I thought something should be done about that. More importantly, Kraków is also one of the pivot-points of modern history – the place where the twentieth century happened, in a unique way. Revisiting that drama through the life of Karol Wojtyła, who came from Krakow, became Pope John Paul II, and changed the course of modern history seemed a good idea.

Q. What was the research/writing process like for this book?

Add it all up, and I’ve probably spent more than a year and a half in Kraków since 1991, so I knew a lot of the story, and what I didn’t know was ably filled in by Carrie Gress, who did the historical notes for the book. The writing was a pleasure: it’s always fun to tell the story of a place and a man you love, so that others may love them, too.


Q. You’ve spent a significant amount of time in Kraków researching your books, teaching, and speaking at academic symposiums. Of all the locales mentioned in the book, do you have a favorite?

It’s hard to pick out one, although the Main Market Square is certainly a favorite – a crossroads of culture and conversation where an enormous mix of humanity….well, mixes. Wawel Cathedral is thick with history, and I never tire of going back there.


Q. World Youth Day 2016 will take place in Kraków, the longtime home of its founder St. John Paul II. Can you talk a bit about the significance of this event particularly as it relates to your book?

I thought the participants of World Youth Day-2016 deserved a book that was something more than the usual guidebook: something that got you into the texture of the city through the rich texture of John Paul II’s remarkable life. That’s what I’ve tried to provide. The book also serves, in a way I hadn’t anticipated when I first thought of it, as a kind of introduction to my two-volume biography of John Paul II, Witness to Hope and The End and the Beginning.


Q. How would you like to see this book used?

I hope it will introduce readers to the great story of a city and a man who refused the accept the tyranny of the possible, and by standing firm for truth helped bend the curve of history in a more human direction. There are lessons in that for all of us.

BLOG TOUR: The Gospel of Happiness


What is true happiness? How can you experience it? Can you live it wholeheartedly in your day-to-day life? And does Christianity provide happiness in a way that other paths cannot?

In his new book, The Gospel of Happiness, Dr. Christopher Kaczor suggests answers to these and other questions about how to be happier, highlighting seven ways in which positive psychology and Christian practice can lead to personal and spiritual transformation, resulting in a fuller, happier life.

We invite you to join us for The Gospel of Happiness blog tour (Sept. 3 – 10).  We’re grateful to our blogging friends for sharing their thoughts and hosting stops on the tour. We encourage you to visit their sites (links below) and read their reviews. Follow along on the tour to learn more about true happiness and how you can achieve it!

Sept. 5 – Seasons of Grace

Sept. 7 – Quiet, Dignity and Grace

Sept. 8 – Simplemama

Sept. 9 – Catholic Vote

Sept. 9 –Catholic Book Blogger 

Sept. 10 – Blog of the Courtier

Sept. 13- Catholic Book Blogger



BLOG TOUR: The Choice of the Family


In The Choice of the Family: A Call to Wholeness, Abundant Life, and Enduring Happiness, Bishop Jean Laffitte, secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Family at the Vatican and organizer of the 2015 World Meeting of Families, takes a look at the importance of the family in the twenty-first century.

In this series of interviews and reflections, Bishop Laffitte “invites readers to understand in a more profound way the experience of his or her own family, and in so doing to acquire a new, joyful embrace of family life,” notes Carl A. Anderson, Supreme Knight, Knights of Columbus.

Not only is The Choice of the Family an excellent resource for anyone wanting to better understand church teaching on issues concerning marriage and family life, but it is an especially valuable resource for those wishing to understand the vision behind the upcoming World Meeting of Families to be held in Philadelphia in September 2015, which will coincide with Pope Francis’s first visit to the United States.

We invite you to join us for a blog tour featuring The Choice of the Family by Bishop Jean Laffitte (Aug. 26 – Sept. 2). This virtual book tour will feature honest reviews from Catholic bloggers as they reflect on Bishop Laffitte’s practical insights on how to deepen our relationships with our parents, children, brothers and sisters, and, ultimately, God.

Follow along on the tour to learn more about this insightful book and how you might apply its teachings to your own family life.

We’re grateful to our blogging friends for sharing their thoughts and hosting stops on the tour. We encourage you to visit their sites (links below) and read their reviews.

Blog Tour Schedule:

Aug. 26 – National Catholic Register

Aug. 27 – Quite, Dignity and Grace

Aug. 28 – Stuart’s Study

Aug. 29 – Abigail Benjamin

Aug. 30 –Simple Mama

Aug. 31 – The Catholic Book Blogger

Sept. 1 – Catholic Bibles

Sept. 2 – Amazing Catechists



INTERVIEW: Dr. Christopher Kaczor

Q. Why did you write The Gospel of Happiness?

This book arose through personal experience.  After a serious set-back, I had a few years of feeling very unhappy and searching for something that could remedy the blues.  In looking into becoming happier myself, I discovered “positive psychology,” a branch of psychology focusing on optimism, well-being, and flourishing.  I had previously read both philosophical and theological treatments of happiness, but this psychology approach was new to me.  As I read I was amazed at the overlap between what positive psychologists found and the teachings of Christian spiritual guides, such as the founder of the Jesuits St. Ignatius Loyola.


Q. Early in the book you mention that your only personal experience in psychological counseling had not been positive and that you had always viewed psychology as an alternative to religion. Can you tell us a little bit about how your thoughts on the matter changed when you discovered “positive psychology”?

In my mind, I thought of psychology and spirituality as two alternative ways to pursue happiness.  What I discovered was that these two approaches are often complementary, and in deed can be mutually reinforcing.  Positive psychology provides empirical confirmation of the happiness producing effects of Christian practices, such as serving others, giving thanks, and forgiving others.  Moreover, psychology also indicates ways to enhance Christian spiritual practices. At the same time, Christian wisdom enhances and deepens recommendations found in positive psychology.  So, rather than think it is either psychology or spirituality, ideally it can be both psychology and spirituality.


Q. For the purpose of this book, how do you define happiness? How do you measure it?

In this work, I think about happiness in terms of positive emotion, engagement, relationships, meaning, and achievement (PERMA, as Martin Seligman calls it).  Part of happiness is positive emotion, such as joy, optimism, and excitement. But happiness is more than just ‘feeling good.’ It also includes engagement with the flow of life when we are so caught up in our hobbies, work or activity that an hour or two feels like ten minutes.  At the heart of happiness is good relationships with people.  The findings of positive psychology reinforce the ancient teachings of Aristotle that no one can be happy without friends.  Likewise, happiness requires meaning which is making a positive difference beyond the self such as to family, church, community, neighborhood, or school. The final aspect of happiness is seeking achievement of various goals-personal, social, spiritual, and professional.


Q. In The Gospel of Happiness, you highlight the many ways in which positive psychology and Christian practice overlap. You offer helpful suggestions on how to become happier in everyday life and how to deepen Christian practice based on contemporary psychological insights.  Do you have a favorite activity that combines positive psychology and Christian practice? 

The very first practice I learned from positive psychology is called the “Three Blessings Exercise.” At the end of the day, simply think over how the day went looking for whatever went well—a tasty nectarine at lunch, a funny conversation with a neighbor, a task finally off the “to do” list, or a moment of relaxation with hot coffee.  Once you’ve come up with three things, you write down what happened and why it happened. Research indicated that “Three Blessings Exercise” reduces depression and helps increase happiness by making us more aware of the good things that are already in our lives to which we may have not paid much attention. Centuries ago in his Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius Loyola recommended something like “Three Blessing Exercise” in what is called the Examin.  When we look for what is good we are more likely to find and celebrate what is good. When we thank God for the joys we find in life, our gratitude is enhanced.


Q. What do you hope folks will gain from reading The Gospel of Happiness?

First, I hope readers become happier!  We all want happiness, and The Gospel of Happiness provides empirical evidence for what does and does not deliver on the promise of human flourishing.  I also hope readers find an encouragement for faith.  I found much evidence in psychology for the wisdom of the teachings of Jesus encouraging forgiveness, service, prayer, gratitude, and hope. Thirdly, I hope that people find practical suggestions for doing what can be challenging, such as forgiving others and doing the right but more difficult thing in the face of temptation.  Finally, I hope that readers can see the beautiful harmony that can exist between faith and reason, between spirituality and psychology. We can learn much from the rich interaction between them.


Q. Is there anything else you’d like to add?

One of the most interesting parts of the book, I think, is the final chapter about weakness of will. Good people want to do the right thing, but sometimes they actually do what is bad.  St. Paul said, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do, I do not do, but what I hate, I do.” Oscar Wilde echoed the sentiment, “I can resist anything but temptation.” Fortunately, contemporary psychologists offer ways to strengthen willpower.  These discoveries—many of which were discovered centuries earlier by saints—can help people live the message of Jesus more consistently.


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