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Inside the Book

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"Driving Straight on Crooked Lines" tells the story of the first Irish Legionary of Christ to set foot in Mexico. It iells the story of how he found his heart and nearly lost his mind.

This is an informative and entertaining yarn: coming of age in the Dublin of the early sixties, attending the Second Vatican Council in Rome, working in Mexico, serving as an "aide-de-camp" to a Vatican Cardinal, helping start the Legion of Christ in New York, and finally, a tough assignment in Gabon Central West Africa.

Jack is now a sought after international management consultant. He manages to weave his personal experiences living for extended periods in several countries including Ireland, Spain, Mexico, Italy,the United States, and Gabon, into the tapestry of his life story. For anyone interested in the developing world, in the Catholic Church, in organizational theory, leadership or in intercultural communication, Driving Straight provides excellent object lessons--and takes readers on an exciting journey of their own. Businesspersons and students of team leadership in the corporate arena will find it thought provoking.

Young Catholics will get an understanding of the Church they have inherited.

Friends - and foes - of the Legion of Christ and it's controversial founder Fr. Marcial Maciel, will find this enjoyable read particularly useful because it tells the very personal story of one man's experience of the Legionaries of Christ and Fr. Maciel before the founder was censured by Pope Benedict XVI and the Vatican.

Chapter Headings:


  1. Africa: The Beginning Of The End
  2. New York: A Heavy Heart
  3. Gabon: Much Ado About Nothing
  4. Dublin: Goodbye Family
  5. Rome: Second Vatican Council
  6. Spain: Driven to wine, and sunshine
  7. Mexico: Fast Cars And Flashy Suits                             
  8. Rome, Again: A Busman’s Holiday
  9. Mexico: Redux
  10. Rome: Ordination
  11. Gabon: Make Up, Or Break Up?
  12. Dublin: Cold And Miserable
  13. New York: A New Beginning

       Epilogue: Leadership


Selected Excerpts:

irish“…… At the time, my job of ten years - Vice President for Human Capital – had dissolved due to downsizing at the corporation I was employed by. I didn’t particularly want to work for someone else again, and was considering starting my own management consulting company, focusing on the development of international human capital…...

As I finished my barbecued (in a banana leaf) lamb, and we waited for dessert, anxiety regarding my job situation floated to the surface. This prompted one of my friends to tell a story. Mexicans, like the Irish, enjoy a good story. This one moved me more than I expected……

While I sat in Izote, sipping my single-vintage mescal - a sophisticated country cousin to tequila - I contemplated how adversity can bring out the best in us, if we are capable of change. Reminiscing about my life as a Legionary of Christ, I decided to write my story - the journey that has brought me to the life I live today…..”


During my journey, I encountered some of the poorest people in the world and became friends with some of the wealthiest. For twenty years I was loyal to a man who founded a congregation sustained by a deep Christological theology and devotion to the Pope, dedicated to education, youth and family ministry, missions, and social work. Despite his accomplishments, he may have been one of the greatest split personalities in the history of the Catholic Church. God, does indeed, work in mysterious ways. There’s a saying in Mexico, “God writes straight on crooked lines.” Which lines were straight and which were crooked?


As I waited to hand my papers to the bored-looking official at the immigration table, I worried the guards might lock me up in jail because of some stupid mistake caused by my French mispronunciation.
“Bon jour!” I said as I approached the desk. The unsmiling immigration official didn’t return my greeting. He motioned for my passport, and glanced at it perfunctorily. “Work visa?”
“No,” I replied carefully, “I do not have a work visa.”
“Show me your return ticket,” he said.
I had arrived in Libreville on a one-way ticket. This seemed to be a problem.
“The Catholic Bishop of Franceville is expecting me.” I hoped this explanation might carry some weight. But the small, thin bureaucrat did not seem at all impressed.
“The Consul at the Gabonese Embassy in Washington D.C. said I don’t need a visa.” I continued, alarm beginning to rise. He looked at me blankly.
“I am a Catholic priest,” I added lamely.


An hour later, we landed on a dirt runway in an enormous cloud of red dust. From the window, I could see no structures, other than a prefabricated hut. The flight attendant bundled leftover refreshments, sodas and snacks, into a plastic bag, which she gave to a disembarking passenger. Others blocked the aisles as they retrieved the clucking chickens. When I climbed down the stairs to the red dirt, my mood shifted.


Fr. Maciel wore a black soutane - the long, close-fitting, ankle-length robe mandated in our houses of study. He carried his 62 years well. His fair-skinned complexion came from his distant Spanish heritage and black suited him well. Trim, well proportioned and perfectly groomed, he looked relaxed and every inch the CEO. His eyeglasses accentuated his narrow rectangular face, square chin and steely blue eyes. I noticed the pungent odor of the Goya brand hair coloring lotion he used. I will forever associate that smell with him. Thanks to Goya, Fr. Maciel’s thinning, light brown hair showed no grey. Combed back from his face, parted on the left, his receding hairline emphasized his high forehead. He folded his long delicate hands on his lap, ready to listen. “Now, Fr. Keogh, tell me what’s on your mind,” he said. I took a deep breath and began to bare my soul.


Strict rules govern life in religious community. Each ‘Brother’ as we were titled before becoming priests, was assigned a specific chore. For instance, we had a ‘Brother Regulator’ who rang a bell to mark the hours for prayer, study, and recreation. He was the only one allowed to use a watch. We depended on him to regulate the hours of our day. Another role was ‘Brother Sacristan’. He took care of everything related to the chapel. We had a ‘Brother Infirmarian’ whose job it was to dole out aspirin and band-aids. The role of ‘Driver’ I always thought, was by far and away the most glamorous. My frequent errands to the outside world interrupted the monotony and controlled isolation of Novitiate life.


My disappointment turned to anger. “You mean the rest of us are supposed to go nuts just to save the vocation of someone who shouldn’t be a priest anyway if he is going to have chastity issues over a pop song?!”
Fr. Bannon glared at me. I knew I was in trouble. For the first time in my Legionary life, I didn’t care.


Fr. Marcial Maciel was the youngest founder of a religious congregation in the history of the Catholic Church. Born on March 10, 1920, in Cotija de la Paz - a town of about 5,500 inhabitants located in the state of Michoacán - his childhood took place through the social and religious upheavals that afflicted Mexico during the Cristero Revolution. This had a lasting effect on him. Later in his life he wrote, “I can define my childhood in two words: pain and love. All those years God permitted me to go through singular moral and physical sufferings. This is how He prepared me for the second part that He had appointed for me in molding and forming the Legion, but those years were also penetrated with His fatherly love for me.”


Before bedding down, I went to go out the door to take a leak, but before I could get it open, Dominique called to me from his sleeping mat, “Father, do not go outside in the dark!”
“Why not?” I asked. “I need to pee.”
“It is too dangerous because of snakes and other animals. Use the window,” he said.
I slept fitfully, waking at the slightest noise. In the distance, we could hear the throbbing of drums all night long.


It must have been about 1:00 AM. A dim streetlight barely illuminated the whitewashed two-story hospital building. Two women sat on the front steps, smoking cigarettes. They wore the blue and white attire of nurses. Despite the lateness of the hour, they paid little attention to me. I explained the plight of my companion Dominique, and couldn’t believe how nonchalantly the women responded.
“Come back in the morning, when the doctors are here,” one of them said.
“Feel his temperature,” I gestured towards my truck. “I’m not a doctor, but I think he may be dead before then.”
“Sorry, there is nothing we can do for you,” she replied and resumed her conversation with her friend.


Soon, a group of men emerged from the hut carrying a rickety plywood coffin, which didn’t seem especially heavy. They were staggering - not because of the weight they were bearing - but because they were drunk! When they let the coffin fall, the plywood came apart and the corpse rolled out.


On another occasion, the Papal Nuncio - the Pope’s Ambassador to Ireland - came to visit. He accepted our invitation to join us for lunch and thoughtfully, donated a case of Guinness for the enjoyment of the Brother Novices. This created a great dilemma! Not because the Legion itself was adverse to the consumption of alcohol, but because many of the Novices had taken the “Pioneer” pledge to abstain from drinking.


Guests began to file through the gallery. I took the opportunity to greet them and to have another look at paintings. Most of them were by well-known Mexican artists. There were sufficient to get a good feel for Mexican art, but not so numerous as to be overwhelming. I was chatting about this with an elegantly dressed Italian couple, when I noticed the Papal photographers had entered the room. Less than a minute later, Pope Paul entered, dressed in his white soutane. I was the only person wearing clerical garb in the room and he came straight over to me.
I knelt and kissed his ring. When I stood up, he took me by the arm and said, “Let’s look at this art from Mexico.”


I now understand enough about leadership to know that all leaders have a dark side. This is what can derail us and cause us to go astray. In my consulting work, I help corporate leaders identify qualities they have, that may get out of control in times of stress and frustration. Once you identify personality traits that can derail your leadership, you can lookout for them and develop coping strategies.


The challenge for the Legionaries is to come to terms with the sullied legacy of Fr. Maciel. They must ask for forgiveness from those he damaged and hurt with his abhorrent behavior. They must make restitution in the name of the father. They would be wise to remember that those former Legionaries who left in good faith are still their brothers. We miss the ‘family’ and we are tremendously angered and saddened by the sins of ‘our father.’  


Publisher: Iveagh Lodge Press

Editor: Cerian Griffiths, is of Welsh descent. She was born and resides in Australia. Cerian has a Master of Arts in Professional Writing (University of Technology, Sydney), and many years of experience in writing and editing.

She won the Short Screenplay Award at the Moondance International Film Festival, USA in 2003, and was shortlisted for many other prestigious prizes.

Cerian's publications include articles, reviews, travel writing, short stories, academic work, study guides (Macmillan Education Australia), poetry, blogs and web-content.

Layout and Cover Design: Kathryn Marcellino.

Kathryn has more than 20 years experience in graphic design. Awards she has won include:

The Sammy Awards: Recognized for Outstanding Contribution in Graphic Design/Catalogues and Corporate Identity.

Scholastic and Art Awards: Valedictorian, CSF Life Member, BofA Achievement Award for Fine Arts, BofA Scholarship for English, Blue Ribbon for Textile Design, Honorable Mention for CSAA Safety Design Poster, Cover Design Winner for Symphony Program, 1st Place Poster Design for City Beautification Program, Pen Women's Award for Short Story in Writing, Edward P. Griswold Achievement Award for English, Breuners Emblem Art Award, Rhodes Gold Key Award for Art