Writer and founding editor of the commonweal; b. Halifax, Canada, Feb. 5, 1877; d. Westport, Connecticut, Oct. 12, 1950. One of six children born to Michael and Ann (Colston) Williams, Michael studied at St. Joseph's College, New Brunswick, Canada, until his father's death, when he found work in a warehouse. About this time he gave up the practice of his religion. A penniless young man, he sought his fortune in Boston, Massachusetts, as a writer of stories and verse under the pseudonym "The Quietist." Befriended by Philip Hale of the Boston Journal, he became a reporter on the Boston Post, then on the New York World and Evening Telegram.
He next went West, and had just been named city editor of the San Francisco Examiner when the 1906 earthquake and fire devastated the city. He subsequently joined Upton Sinclair's colony at Englewood, New Jersey, and with that author wrote Good Health … (1909). He reentered the Church in 1912 at Carmel, California, where he had settled to write. The Book of the High Romance (1918), a colorfully written account of his life and conversion, brought him a measure of fame.
Back in New York, he organized the Calvert Associates to promote the idea of a Catholic intellectual weekly to be edited by laymen with some non-Catholic collaborators (among them was the architect Ralph Adams Cram). The Commonweal, the realization of his idea, was launched in 1924 and was edited by Williams until 1937 when a new group of editors assumed responsibility. He thereafter contributed a column, "Views and Reviews," concerned especially with issues affecting the Church and Christianity—the rise of totalitarianism, the Calles persecutions in Mexico, anti-Semitic and anti-Catholic prejudice, the cause of African-Americans, and secularism. He married Margaret Olmstead and had two children, one of whom became Mother Margaret Williams, RSCJ.
His other published works are American Catholics in the War (1921), the fruit of his work with the National Catholic War Council of World War I; The Little Flower of Carmel (1926); Catholicism and the Modern Mind (1928); The Shadow of the Pope (1932); and The Catholic Church in Action (1935).
Bibliography: s. j. kunitz and h. haycraft, eds., Twentieth Century Authors (New York 1942) 1523.
[g. n. shuster]