Brendan Lyons, a native of Downingtown and graduate of Villanova University, wrote a novel and released it last fall called Single Candle, which is a collection of stories of conviction and compassion. Proceeds from the sales sales benefit Birthright of West Chester I had the opportunity to interview him and his book. Below is a Q&A session between me and Brendan.
Q: Background, name origins, education, what got you into writing?
A: My name is Brendan Lyons and I’ve lived in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia my entire life. I am the author of Single Candles, an interconnected collection of pro-life short stories, the proceeds from which go to support Birthright of West Chester. I grew up in Downingtown attending St. Joseph’s church and went to Villanova University to Major in Education. Writing had always interested me, but I didn’t start really working at it until college. At that point in my life, I needed something to pour my thoughts into that was a little more abstract than class assignments, so I started writing a fantasy novel with some accompanying short stories. There wasn’t anything overtly philosophical about those stories in the beginning. I was still evolving and learning to better understand my own convictions.
Q: Was there a phenomenon that prompted you to write for the pro-life cause?
A: It was the passion of people I met who were more involved in the movement. I’ve always been pro-life. I get that from my upbringing – my parents and the church. But I can’t say I ever did much about it other than occasionally argue with friends on the other side of the issue. It wasn’t until I started to meet more people who were active in the pro-life movement that I felt compelled to do something to support it. That is really what Single Candles is about, actually. When people see others actively fighting for what they believe in, it inspires them. So even one person speaking for life – lighting a single candle – can start to change the world and push away the darkness.
Q: How were you able to convey the common message among your testimonies in the book?
A: Well, the stories are sort of a chain of events. Each story sets off the next one, mostly because of the bravery and compassion of one or more of the characters. For example, the first story is about a politician who refuses to go along with his party’s pro-abortion platform – and publicly so. His stand inspires the main character of the second story, a high school senior, to start a pro-life club in her public school. Her stand inspires another and so on. The basic idea is that we need to be boldly prolife, despite any resistance or consequences we face, because especially in the case of abortion, inaction has the most dire consequence of all: the death of innocents.
Q: Have you learned anything in the writing endeavor?
A: Absolutely. First of all, my fiance knows more about character depth and development than I think I ever will. In that vein, I would also add that everyone is better if they have a partner to work with in basically every aspect of life. If that partner is a loving, Godly, and compassionate person then you can’t go wrong.
I would also say I learned how satisfying it is to use your gifts to serve the Lord. In the past, I’ve written for my own needs or in the hope of hitting it big with a novel. But writing something that I believe will please God brings me another level of satisfaction. Add to that raising money for an organization like Birthright, and I just feel blessed to have this opportunity. Honestly, how lucky are we to have a Creator who gives us these opportunities and gifts? If I have any regrets, it’s not having started writing with this mission in mind sooner.
Q: What advice would you offer for aspiring writers who want to engage their readers while evangelizing the culture?
A: If you set your sights in the wrong place, it’s going to feel like an unattainable task. The same goes for if you forget who is really in charge. If you think that YOU are going to change the culture, your head is in the wrong place. Only God can save us and no one else can be everything for everyone. If you want to be a part of changing our world, you have to recognize that you’re just that: one part.
One of the most beautiful aspects of the Catholic faith is how it points us toward community. We are not just individuals under God. We are the body of Christ and every one of us has equal claim to that status. There is neither a person whose contributions are vital, nor a person whose contributions are useless. For Christ, the Pope and the beggar are equal in worth and receive the same amount of love.
Always think of yourself and your work that way. Humility is the key. God will do with you what He knows is best, so view yourself as one part of His plan. If you expect yourself to be some kind of cultural savior, you’re going to be disappointed. There is only one savior: Jesus Christ.
Q: What do you hope to do in your efforts to use your God given talents?
A: I want to inspire people and support those who are on the front lines of protecting life. We need a cultural shift in this country and that means Christians need to take greater ownership of their faith and those who are pro-life need to take greater ownership of the movement. There’s a lot of focus on the politics of it, and that’s fine. I personally believe that I will see a law passed in my lifetime that makes abortion illegal. But that will only do so much good if we haven’t also changed people’s hearts.
So what I want more than anything is for the types of people that my stories are about to be inspired. I want young people to stand up and refuse to be silenced because the Truth they speak might make others uncomfortable. I want people who know mothers in crisis to not just say, ‘you have a choice’, but to be part of the solution to her crisis. I want everyone to recognize that we all have the capacity to make the world better whether we’re nearing the end of our lives or just starting them. And I want pro-life politicians to stare in the face of lobbyists, special interests, and their colleagues and say, ‘no, life comes first’.
Note: I would like to have some mention of what Birthright does in the article. They provide vital services for mothers and children in need that are hard to find other places. In my opinion, places like Birthright are the key to ending abortion. Other means are important, but the more time and energy we spend given women a real choice and real support, the closer we come to ending the horrific practice of abortion.
You can purchase Single Candles at amazon.com.