I have in my file and reproduce here two letters that I believe were sent by the Holy Spirit. I will give the background to each letter and share its significance.
In February 1973 at prayer one day I thought I heard the Holy Spirit say that he wanted me to move to Ann Arbor and become the editor of New Covenant magazine. (At the time I was teaching history at Grand Valley State College near Grand Rapids. And I was serving as the chairman of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal Service Committee.) That word excited me as I could see myself as becoming more directly involved in the renewal. But I checked my eagerness because I thought I may be hearing my own spirit and not the Holy Spirit. So I told the Lord that I would not tell anyone, not even my wife, what I had heard. And I also said that I would have to hear from someone else that I was called to become editor of New Covenant.
Nothing happened for about six weeks and I began to doubt that I had heard from the Spirit. But in mid-April I received a letter from Steve Clark. After discussing some Service Committee business, he concluded the letter saying that he and Ralph Martin wanted me to seriously consider moving to Ann Arbor and becoming the editor for New Covenant.
At first it did not seem right or best for my family or the Grand Haven prayer group for us to move to Ann Arbor. But by August after prayer and careful deliberations, with Mary Lou’s agreement, I accepted the invitation and we moved to Ann Arbor in the Fall. And in 1974 I became the editor of New Covenant magazine, a position I held for eleven years.
In Winter 1995 I was serving as the Editorial Director of Servant Publications. At the February meeting of the editorial team, we learned that a devotional by Pope John Paul II had sold 10,000 copies in January. Impressed by that amazing sale, I said that we needed to publish another JPII book by September as the pope was coming in October for a visit to the US. In the excitement of the moment I had an inspired idea and said: “We should publish Breakfast with the Pope.” The team did not share my enthusiasm and passed on the idea. But I raised the idea again in March. I pushed it forward over objections. And we decided to do it. I hired 8 freelance editors to provide popular and inspirational selections from the pope’s audiences and homilies. By the end of March I had a manuscript of 120 excerpts from JPII’s writings. And Breakfast with the Pope was underway.
Early in the process our very careful president expressed concern about Vatican permissions to quote the pope’s writings. I assured him that all papal publications were in the public domain. He asked me to check to be sure. Greg Erlandson, who was publishing The Pope Speaks, affirmed that all the pope wrote was okay to quote without permission. But the publisher wanted Vatican assurances. So I opened communication with Archbishop John Foley, President of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications. After an initial exchange of letters in which the Archbishop assured us that our selections were in the public domain if handled in a proper context. So I wrote him on June 30, 1995 asking if we were using the pope’s material appropriately.
Breakfast with the Pope had to go to the printer in mid-July. As I did not get an immediate response from Archbishop Foley, I grew increasingly concerned and impatient. I worried that he had gone on summer vacation and might not respond till August. At my morning prayer on July 10 a sense of urgency got to me. And I said to the Lord, “I need to hear from the Archbishop today. I want his letter to come off my fax when I’m done praying.” I concluded my prayer time and as I was walking to my office I heard the fax. And there arriving at my desk was Archbishop Foley’s letter assuring me that our use of the pope’s material was appropriate!
Thanks to the intervention of the Holy Spirit, Breakfast with the Pope appeared on schedule in September. And within a year fifty-five thousand people had bought a copy.