Monday, December 26, 2011

Name That Convert!

Few conversions are as sudden or dramatic as St. Paul’s (left), but each convert has his or her story.

I woke up from a nap with an inspiration: to collect statements from Catholic converts about why they had “moved to Rome.” I had been reading such a statement before I fell asleep. Here it is. See if you know who wrote it:

The war and the years afterwards confirmed the doubts I always had had about the ideas I was brought up on—[I felt] that liberalism, feminism, nationalism, socialism, pacifism would not work, because they refused to consider human nature as it really is. Instead, they presupposed that mankind was to “progress” into something else—towards their own ideas of what people ought to be.…

The convert here is suffering from something I experienced in college: being surrounded by ideologies, especially Marxism in my case, that made no sense to me—although I made the mistake of not trusting my own judgment about them. The convert continues:

Being fostered on pre-history and history I did not much believe in progress. An accumulation of experience and expanding knowledge does not improve man’s intellect or moral qualities even if it ought to improve his ways of using his intellect and solving his moral problems. Yet it will not produce finer brains than Aristotle’s or St. Thomas Aquinas’s, for instance, a greater or more versatile mind than St. Paul’s, a humanity nobler than St. Lous of France’s or Sir Thomas More’s.…

There is something convincing about the saints, or at least it was convincing to me. The convert explains how:

By degrees my knowledge of history convinced me that the only thoroughly sane people, of our civilization at least, seemed to be those queer men and women which the Catholic Church calls the Saints. Even their offending eccentricity offended mostly the fancies and wishful thinking of contemporary smugness.…

Contemporary smugness—There’s a lot of that still around today!

[The saints] seemed to know the true explanation of man’s undying hunger for happiness—his tragically insufficient love of peace, justice, and goodwill to his fellowmen, his everlasting fall from grace. Of course I knew the historical role of the Church as a civilizatory power, and I had never looked on the religious revolt of the sixteenth century as anything but a revolt against the humanly unpalatable teachings of Christianity—the liberal Protestantism of my education left me an agnostic.…

I too was left an agnostic by the liberal philosophical environment in which I came to maturity.

But I had ventured too near the abode of truth in my researches about the Saints. So I had to submit. And … I was received into the Catholic Church.

The dynamics of the conversion are simple enough: a personal judgment that ideology can never satisfy the heart and a personal encounter with living embodiments of Christian teaching, the Saints.

To discover the identity of the convert, click here.

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