Putting First Things First: The Story of Richard John Neuhaus' Vocation to Public Life

Feb 10, 2016
University Club of Chicago
76 E Monroe St
Chicago, IL 60603
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Randy BoyagodaUniversity of St. Michael's College in the University of Toronto


Randy Boyagoda (author of Richard John Neuhaus: A Life in the Public Square)

Cosponsored by First Things, the Chicago Leadership Forum, and Relevant Radio

For all the political controversies that Fr. Richard John Neuhaus was involved in over his four decades in American public life, and these were many, he really understood his work in vocational terms. In other words, he understood his work foremost as the work of a man of God. It’s too simple to dismiss him (or admire him!) as a Republican in a Roman collar, as many of his later critics and fans did. Learn the full story of Fr. Neuhaus’ life, his moving from Lutheran to Catholic and from Left to Right, and discover that a religiously-informed vocation to public life is  as straightforward, triumphant or disappointing as these markers might suggest (depending on your own religious and intellectual politics).


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Reviews of Richard John Neuhaus: A Life in the Public Square (Image, 2015)

“Deeply researched, lucidly written.” – New York Times

“In Richard John Neuhaus: A Life in the Public Square, Randy Boyagoda captures his subject’s deep sense of vocation and the complexity of his personality, offering a comprehensive biography and, along the way, a thoughtful introduction to some of the ‘culture wars’ of the past several decades.” – Wall Street Journal

“[A] stellar biography.” – Publishers Weekly

“Boyagoda dispassionately describes this fascinating and active life, and he manages to blend skills as a folksy storyteller, researcher and unbiased historian, providing a biography that is balanced, interesting and relevant. A useful, provocative spotlight on one of the leading lights of the 20th century.” – Kirkus

“[A] page-turner.” – National Review

“Boyagoda’s biography is an invaluable account of the political and ecclesiastical controversies in which Neuhaus played a central, influential and controversial role.” – America Magazine

“A wonderful biography.” − Raymond Arroyo, New York Times bestselling author and host, EWTN’s The World Over

“Boyagoda persuasively argues that Neuhaus was a charismatic leader and original thinker whose contributions to American culture and politics make him someone worth knowing about.” − American Conservative

“Boyagoda’s luminously intelligent study of the man makes clear that Richard John Neuhaus — however one regards his politics — deserved his place in a long line of memorable American preacher politicians.” − National Post

“Neuhaus was a hugely influential figure, and Boyagoda tells his story with novelistic empathy and narrative panache.” − The Globe and Mail

“Boyagoda found the Neuhaus I knew, complete with all the man’s winsome qualities and not a few of his contradictions. Not surprisingly, he also revealed facets of the man I could never guess.” − Russell E. Saltzman, Aleteia

“And up until now, no one has offered a more credible, careful, and colorful biography of this convert to Catholicism. “ – Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, Archbishop of New York, author ofTrue Freedom

“Thorough, vivid, and keenly understanding of the interplay of personality, faith, and cultural context, Boyagoda’s biography of Neuhaus does justice to this man of faith.” – Carl A. Anderson, Supreme Knight, Knights of Columbus

“Until his death in 2009, Father Richard John Neuhaus was a powerhouse in American public life and a monument in American Catholic history…Randy Boyagoda, an extraordinary author best known for his work in fiction, knew that someone had to tell Fr. Neuhaus’ story — and that it deserved to be told well.” −

Randy Boyagoda  is a professor of English and Pricipal and Vice-president of the University of St. Michael's College in the University of Toronto. His most recent book is an SSHRC-supported biography of Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, which was published in 2015. He is also author of the novel Beggar’s Feast, which was selected as a New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice, nominated for the 2013 IMPAC Dublin Literary Prize, and has been published to critical acclaim around the world. He has written for a variety of publications, including The New York TimesThe Wall Street Journal, First ThingsThe Paris Review, and Harper’s. He lives in Toronto with his wife and four daughters.