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A Note From Our Editor's Wife

On the future.

I should say that my husband has no idea that I am writing this email. As far as he knows, I am doing the dishes and listening to a football recruiting podcast while our older daughters practice piano, our son eats his lunch, and our youngest rides the struggle bus into naptime.

When I started dating my husband he told me that after graduating he was going to law school. Six months later he told me he had been accepted into the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program and that before going to law school we were going to get married and live in Japan. Then halfway through the summer he decided that he wasn’t going to Japan and he wasn’t going to law school. He was going to become . . . a journalist.

That summer he made fifty dollars for two pieces published in a long-forgotten outfit, sold his plasma, and made a valiant effort to get a job at Walmart, but didn’t pass the extensive personality questionnaire. In the fall he wrote a few more articles, and on the strength of that got an unpaid internship. After Christmas he went to Washington, D.C. He had no money, no friends, and had left almost all of his books and records in my care. He lived on cigarettes and office snacks. That internship turned into a poorly paying full-time job; we got married; I worked (making almost the same amount as him) in various restaurants—and that is the origin story of how Matthew Walther made a career in journalism. 

A decade on from almost-law-school we have four children and live in Three Rivers, Michigan in a very old but mostly reliable brick house. After spending two years volunteering and freelancing to pay the bills, Matthew finally earns an income from The Lamp, the magazine he started with his best friend William Borman three years ago. The Lamp is one of the best publications in the English language. With extremely limited funds (I encourage anyone who doubts this to look at the publicly available spending reports for other magazines), begun in a miserable year, without elite educations, or connections, The Lamp was born of my husband’s faith, personality, and will—and the discernment of its earliest readers. Whenever I attend one of The Lamp’s events and see how it has brought together communities or check the magazine’s post office box and find a letter of encouragement with a small check inside, I worry that I am guilty of pride. But really what I am feeling is a deep contentment.

Last week we had a serious talk about the magazine and its future. He and his colleague Nic Rowan have a lot up their sleeves: they want to add an additional staff member in the new year (paid a just wage, of course!), continue commissioning pieces from the best established writers and newcomers alike, get more in-depth reporting into the magazine, continue the podcast that Matthew swore he would never allow, and even begin selling prints of the delightful cover art.

Our talk reminded me of a similar conversation two years ago, when The Lamp was a labor of love with zero paid staff. At one point Matthew (taking a long drag from his cigarette and with the same confidence that has steered our ship for the last decade) told me that if he couldn’t get The Lamp to a place where it was fully funded he would go to law school. What a shame that would have been.

Where am I going with this? Once in an interview with the B.B.C. Evelyn Waugh (a supporter of capital punishment) was asked whether he would be willing to carry out a death sentence himself, to which he replied, “I should think it very odd if they would ask a novelist.” Well, you might think it very odd that a housewife (and occasional contributor to various periodicals, including this one) would try to tell you how to spend your money, but I’m going to do it anyway: there are plenty of worthy causes out there, but few of them are as interesting or as meaningful to the future of Catholic arts and letters as The Lamp.

Please consider donating on our website or by mail at: 

Three Societies Foundation
P.O. Box 219
Three Rivers, MI 49093

All best,

Lydia Sherwood (Walther)