Books blog: Meet the man who turned from glossy magazines to God

Consumer magazines are displayed on a newsstand in New York (AP)

I blogged last week about a book entitled The Shadow of His Wings, which describes the extraordinary life of Fr Gereon Goldmann.

It has been written as a graphic comic strip, complete with speech bubbles, and I was so intrigued by this way of telling a story that I contacted Christopher Murphy, the art director for the book. He is the creative director of 5 Stones, a non-profit organisation which helps Catholic apostolates effectively communicate their unique message and who organises a team of designers dedicated to serving the Church through their creative talents.

I had read that he was a convert, so first I wanted to know what had led to his conversion. Christopher Murphy explains that he had married a Catholic. “A few months into my marriage I was concerned that my atheism would subtly drag my wife away from the Church. I had seen before what happened to other couples in that situation and I loved her too much to let that happen to us.” (His remark instantly reminded me of the story of Elizabeth Leseur, a Parisian woman who died just before the outbreak of WW1 and whose holy life was recorded in her diaries, later published as My Spirit Rejoices. Her husband Felix, an atheist, did everything he could to undermine his wife’s faith. He had nearly succeeded when she had a powerful “reversion” experience. After her death, he read her diaries and was himself converted, later becoming a Dominican priest.)

Murphy continues, telling me that he spent months “reading the Bible, listening to evangelical Protestant sermons and sought spiritual counsel from my local priest.” He admits that “I had a difficult time understanding the existence of God. I broke my many questions down to: Was Jesus a real person walking the earth? And was he really God?” He discovered many accounts that proved the historical existence of Jesus – but still struggled with the question of his divinity.

At this time Murphy was working as art director for many New York agencies and major magazines such as Glamour and Self. He relates to me that during a sales meeting at Glamour “our publisher was explaining the magazine’s market for the coming year. He said that we all live for something: some live for beauty, some for fashion and others for accessories but that ultimately we all live for Glamour.”

Murphy goes on: “It hit me. I realised that I did not live for these material objects. I lived for my wife, my son and first and foremost for God. I certainly did not live for Glamour magazine! At that point I committed myself to the Lord and asked the Holy Spirit to guide me; to guide me out of doubt.” Murphy went on to study Church history, recounting that “the early Church Fathers taught me how real the Eucharist is and how the Catholic Church is the one true Church. Later that year I left Glamour and continued to pursue a life in Christ. In the spring of 2011, during the Easter Vigil, I was confirmed into the Catholic Church.”

During his past career Murphy had moved from creating prints adverts for the advertising world into the publishing world of Conde Nast. After his conversion he left this world, to pursue a teaching career as assistant professor of art and design at Judson University. After five years of teaching he tells me he “felt a call to work with Catholic apostolates and to push for a higher level of aesthetic, so I joined up with the Catholic Lighthouse Media.” Here he worked on everything from CD and book cover designs to web applications, until he became the creative director of 5 Stones.

The name of the company, which was set up in 2015, incorporates its five aspects: design, marketing, web development, customer service and fulfilment. Murphy’s goal now is to serve other Catholic initiatives “by being a one-stop shop for them to help get their products to market. We understand the market; we just need to understand them and their product.”

Murphy tells me he has not attempted a project such as a graphic true story before, with a younger readership in mind. He adds that once he and the organisations that sold him the idea see how The Shadow of His Wings has been received in the marketplace and how well it sells there may be more ventures of the same kind.