It's from Paul Lennon, fellow Dubliner who published his story years before me. I think it's a generous and heartfelt review. As Paul says, we both play a similar song on different instruments. I'm taking the liberty of posting it here. Thanks Paul! Funny, how after all these years, our books end up "paired" on Amazon!
I say Buddy Holly because my first impression of Jack was Buddy Holly in a cassock: gangly, with horned-rimmed glasses, who could sing and play the guitar.
This memoir is a must read for the Catholic public, former Legionaries and members of Regnum Christi, their friends and relatives -not to mention priests, bishops, Apostolic Visitators and Commissioners. Let me humbly state that I am one of the people best qualified to write this review. I, too, am a Dubliner, and joined the Legion a year before Jack Keogh. His claim to fame is being the first Irish Legionary to set foot on Mexican soil; mine of being one of the first eight Irishmen to begin Novitiate and take vows in Salamanca, Spain, in what would become the fastest growing and most prestigious order (more precisely "congregations") in the Catholic Church.
Not that Jack and I became bosom buddies. As he explains, Legionaries don't discuss any personal thoughts or feelings among themselves even if they are living side by side. Friendships are not allowed. The memoir shows how every Legionary is an island -of silence, solitude, and secrets- and, for the most part, an island unaware of its own needs. Jack mentions moments of getting in touch with his own Eros -he was more alive than others. Occasionally, Jack pulls back the sunny curtain to reveal sadness, leading us into the mystery of Legionary life. The less enthusiastic and optimistic will find that "Most Legionaries live lives of quiet desperation." Legionaries and Regnum Christi members hide their real selves behind a solid rock happy face façade. "Mom, I'm fine. Everything is wonderful here!" The tragedy is they bury themselves alive.
Former Legionaries can be divided into three groups: those who had a good time/experience with Fr Maciel; those who had a bad time and/or were abused by him in some way; and those with little direct contact with him. Jack belongs to the first group. Marcial Maciel had the uncanny knack of zeroing in on a person's gifts/needs/weaknesses, exploiting them for his own (the Kingdom of Christ's) ends. Jack wanted to figure and do something worthwhile. Maciel sent him to found the Irish Institute in Mexico City among the rich and famous.
Bro. John, our Jack, was always upbeat. I can still recall this gregarious six-footer trying to boost the morale of the troops "in the community", his large frame skipping along the Travertine corridors at Via Aurelia, Rome, as he joined us after one of his expeditions into the outside world, regaling us with a joke, a funny story, or an edifying tidbit about Nuestro Padre. Jack, like the rest of us, tried very hard to be a good Legionary. Everything he says is true. Ours is the same tune, played on different instruments; or wearing different colored glasses, pink, blue, red or black...He the motivational speaker; I the skeptic.
As the "Feeling Introvert" (see Myers-Briggs Type Indicator) I thought a lot about leaving the priesthood, daunted by the practical perspective of life outside the monastery walls. Jack, the "Thinking Extravert" went into action quickly, chose a wife, got married, had a daughter, and entered the business world. We must not minimize the contribution of the woman who joined her life to his at that moment: Collette, an atractive, kind, intelligent, and supportive wife, helping to put "Humpty Dumpty" together again.
Jack is at his best when he drops the breezy debonair, baring his heart; as in the death of his native African friend, Dominique; or good bye to his teenage sweetheart, or his friendship with confreres such as Juan Manuel Amenabar, the ebullient Spanish padre who was director of the Irish Institute without speaking a word of English.
Jack renders a great service by describing what other former members overlook as the obvious but which outsiders ignore and are curious about - the details of daily life -giving a peek into what it is like in a Legion house of formation or apostolate, the various activities, the routines, the rules, the customs of the religious life: our duties as time-keeper, porter, laundry-worker, sacristan, mechanic, driver... He also gives a face to many unknown unselfish Legionaries whose names and stories would have remained in oblivion. Thank you, Jack, for going to the trouble of telling your tale, for taking the risk of sharing your intimacy, for helping to fill in the blanks in the Legion chronicles, and for giving us your personal perspective, for trying to be "objective" and dispassionate about a very passionate subject.
One of the final triggers for Jack's departure from the Legion was when Fr. Maciel cruelly mistreated Jack's fellow exile in Gabon, Luis Lerma. Jack's compassion kicked in and liberated him finally from the yoke around his neck. One of the final triggers of my leaving the Legion was furtively learning -through a mutual lay friend, Angelina - how Maciel mistreated Luis and Jack. Years previously I had picked up on something that destroyed my admiration for Nuestro Padre, and in my mind disqualified the Legion Founder from being a holy man or a saint: Maciel's inhumanity to man (and scorn for women).
J. Paul Lennon, author of Our Father (Maciel) who art in bed, a Naïve and Sentimental Dubliner in the Legion of Christ.