My long-time friend (and now boss) Marcus Grodi is known for being a Protestant minister who did the unthinkable when he converted to Catholicism.
He’s in good company.
Even before Patrick Madrid’s classic book Surprised by Truth (a compilation of Protestant clergy conversion stories) hit the market, the ranks of former non-Catholic clergy coming into full communion with the Church was growing steadily. The mission of the organization Marcus founded, The Coming Home Network International (CHNetwork), is to assist these individuals when they decide to “come home to Rome.” The stories of these clergy converts are both heart-rending and inspiring, as they often make extraordinary sacrifices in the pursuit of Truth.
One of the best parts of working at CHNetwork is being a part of an organization committed to encouraging ongoing, life-long conversion. My younger years included a decision to “accept Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior” that proved somewhat temperamental, particularly during my teenage years. Since that time, and especially after being baptized and entering the Church in my twenties, I have come to see conversion less as an event, more as a process.
On EWTN’s popular program The Journey Home, Marcus interviews many guests who have converted – or reverted – to the faith. I always find the stories inspiring, and believe that part of our charism as an organization is to facilitate the stories being told. By doing so, we cooperate with grace and the Holy Spirit does the real heavy lifting – changing hearts.
Part of the allure of conversion stories is hearing so many people who have been attracted to the Church through so many different means – and for so many different reasons. These reasons are as varied as the personalities of the guests, yet there is something compelling about the sense of discovery that permeates each story. My Dad, a former Presbyterian minister, came into the Church out of a desire for Christian unity. The key to unity, as he came to believe, is the Eucharist.
One of Marcus’ latest projects (among many) is a follow-up to his first novel, How Firm a Foundation. The sequel is called Pillar and Bulwark, and will be released late this year. I was privileged to read an advance copy, and found it thoroughly engaging. As Marcus has said, the beauty of fiction in this context is that it allows the reader to enter into a conversion experience from the perspective of the characters. Many of the interior struggles that occur within individual converts go beyond the types of things you would hear on The Journey Home show.
Although Catholic fiction doesn’t have a broad market (with the possible exception of Michael O’Brien’s novels), after reading Pillar and Bulwark, I wonder if it should. There are many useful concepts contained in the book, and it really got me thinking about why people convert, and how much individual life circumstances have to do with the process.
Regardless of whether you’re a convert, a revert, or a lifelong Catholic, all of us generally go through phases of reflecting on faith in the context of our life experiences. We then make decisions accordingly – or choose not to (which is still a choice, to paraphrase a popular song). My question is for those of you who are converts to the faith – why did you convert, and how did you get past the main obstacles on your journey?
No matter who you are, or where you stand in your journey, know that I’m praying for you. The obstacles to conversion are real, but as countless clergy and lay people around the world know, the benefits are priceless.