cover image FULL OF GRACE: An Oral Biography of John  Cardinal O'Connor

FULL OF GRACE: An Oral Biography of John Cardinal O'Connor

Terry Golway, . . Pocket Books, $22 (256pp) ISBN 978-0-7434-4430-9

At first blush, this appears to be a rather ordinary book of vignettes from the life of a Catholic priest who rose from humble beginnings to the top of his church's hierarchy. The recollections about the late New York Cardinal John O'Connor do not seem particularly profound and are often plainly spoken. However, like their subject, they are deceptive in their simplicity; taken together, they present an extraordinary portrait of the man. Golway, a columnist and city editor for the New York Observer, collected the oral reminiscences of more than 50 people whose paths crossed with the cardinal's over the years, and assembled them into this charming memoir. The speakers range from the celebrated to the obscure, and include members of the cardinal's family and staff as well as priests, nuns and New Yorkers. Interestingly, some of the most memorable stories come from Jews, with whom the late cardinal enjoyed a special relationship because of his defense of the state of Israel and his respect for Judaism as the religion that had given birth to his own. Many of the remembrances recall the private moments behind O'Connor's public persona: the times he showed up for a wedding or a funeral or visited someone's relative in the hospital, revealing his greatness in ordinary gestures. Since, as Golway says, O'Connor was "the public face, the public voice, and the public conscience of the American Catholic Church," this book should have broad appeal to readers inside and outside the church. (Nov.)