Sunday, March 11, 2012

To those of other faiths...

One thing that has been very difficult for me is explaining to my secular friends and family why I am converting. I feel that my friends think I'm nuts, and this is just another phase that will wear off, and my parents worry that I am being pressured from Bodie or his family. Neither of these are the case, and it is hard to find the balance between sharing and over-evangelizing. Of course I would love for them to understand so well that they want to participate, join me, even explore Catholicism and theology themselves. Anyways, one thing that I did decide to do recently is send them this article that was forwarded to me by Fr. Thomas Koller. He has this wonderful e-mail send out list and I often forward the ones that I like.

Converts and The Symphony of Truth
By George Weigel (The Southern Cross: February 2012)  Why do adults
become Catholics?

There are as many reasons for “converting” as there are converts.
Evelyn Waugh became a Catholic with, by his own admission, “little
emotion but clear conviction”: this was the truth;  one ought to
adhere to it. Cardinal Avery Dulles wrote that his journey into the
Catholic Church began when, as an unbelieving Harvard undergraduate
detached from his family’s staunch Presbyterianism, he noticed a leaf
shimmering with raindrops while taking a walk along the Charles River
in Cambridge, Mass.; such beauty could not be accidental, he thought—
there must be a Creator. Thomas Merton found Catholicism
aesthetically, as well as intellectually, attractive: Once the former
Columbia free-thinker and dabbler in communism and Hinduism found his
way into a Trappist monastery and became a priest, he explained the
Mass to his unconverted friend, poet Robert Lax, by analogy to a
ballet. Until his death in 2007, Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger insisted
that his conversion to Catholicism was not a rejection of, but a
fulfillment of, the Judaism into which he was born; the cardinal could
often be found at Holocaust memorial services reciting the names of
the martyrs, including “Gisèle Lustiger, ma maman” (“my mother”).

Two of the great nineteenth-century converts were geniuses of the
English language: theologian John Henry Newman and poet Gerard Manley
Hopkins. This tradition of literary converts continued in the
twentieth-century, and included Waugh, Graham Greene, Edith Sitwell,
Ronald Knox, and Walker Percy. Their heritage lives today at Our
Savior’s Church on Park Avenue in New York, where convert author, wit,
raconteur and amateur pugilist George William Rutler presides as

In early American Catholicism, the fifth archbishop of Baltimore (and
de facto primate of the United States), Samuel Eccleston, was a
convert from Anglicanism, as was the first  native-born American saint
and the precursor of the Catholic school system, Elizabeth Anne Seton.
Mother Seton’s portrait in the offices of the archbishop of New York
is somewhat incongruous, as the young widow Seton, with her children,
was run out of New York by her unforgiving Anglican in-laws when she
became a Catholic. On his deathbed, another great nineteenth-century
convert, Henry Edward Manning of England, who might have become the
Anglican archbishop of Canterbury but became the Catholic archbishop
of Westminster instead, took his long-deceased wife’s prayer book from
beneath his pillow and gave it to a friend, saying that it had been
his spiritual inspiration throughout his life.

If there is a thread running through these diverse personalities, it
may be this: that men and women of intellect, culture and
accomplishment have found in Catholicism what Blessed John Paul II
called the “symphony of truth.” That rich and complex symphony, and
the harmonies it offers, is an attractive, compelling and persuasive
alternative to the fragmentation of modern and post-modern
intellectual and cultural life, where little fits together and much is
cacophony. Catholicism, however, is not an accidental assembly of
random truth-claims; the Creed is not an arbitrary catalogue of
propositions and neither is the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It
all fits together, and in proposing that symphonic harmony,
Catholicism helps fit all the aspects of our lives together, as it
orders our loves and loyalties in the right direction.

You don’t have to be an intellectual to appreciate this “symphony of
truth,” however. For Catholicism is, first of all, an encounter with a
person, Jesus Christ, who is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John
14.6). And to meet that person is to meet the truth that makes all the
other truths of our lives make sense. Indeed, the embrace of Catholic
truth in full, as lives like Blessed John Henry Newman’s demonstrate,
opens one up to the broadest possible range of intellectual

Viewed from outside, Catholicism can seem closed and unwelcoming.  As
Evelyn Waugh noted, though, it all seems so much more spacious and
open from the inside.  The Gothic,  with its soaring vaults and
buttresses and its luminous stained glass, is not a classic Catholic
architectural form by accident.  The full beauty of the light,
however, washes over you when you come in.

George Weigel is Distinguished Senior Fellow of the Ethics and Public
Policy Center in Washington, D.C.

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