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Posts Tagged ‘Converts’

Fisher of Men

In 12 Converts on 2016/01/14 at 12:00 AM

By Mark Judge

Fr. C. John McCloskey recently returned home to Washington, D.C. to celebrate the 30th anniversary of his priesthood. A somewhat shy man, McCloskey has been responsible for many conversions to the Catholic Church, including Judge Robert Bork, Newt Gingrich, Lawrence Kudlow and Dr. Bernard Nathanson. (Before his conversion, Nathanson had been a NARAL founder and abortionist who was responsible for the deaths of thousands of babies.)

A few years ago, McCloskey was assigned by his order, Opus Dei, to Chicago. So he was only back for a visit. He has been missed. Many of us are still wondering what he is doing in Chicago.

Fr. C. John, as he is known by his many friends, is partly responsible for me being a somewhat free man. Although I had heard about him for years prior, I met Fr. McCloskey about ten years ago. I had just finished my book Damn Senators (2003), about my grandfather who was a baseball player for the Washington Senators. I had also reverted to Catholicism a few years before the book came out.

I came across Fr. McCloskey the way I suspect many people at the time did — by accidentally stumbling across the Catholic Information Center, where he was the director. The CIC is a book store and small chapel that sits between a bank and a fitness club on K street, about two blocks from the White House in one direction and the Washington Post in the other.

It’s easy to walk past it and not even know it’s there. K street is a clean, broad avenue where lobbyists work and where one tends to focus the eyes forward. Unless looking directly at the store — where a life sized cutout of Pope Benedict XVI greets visitors — it’s easy to miss.

When I first came into the CIC, I knew I had found the equivalent of the medieval monasteries where culture was preserved during the Dark Ages. The bookstore is filled with titles from Fr. McCloskey’s “Catholic Lifetime Reading Plan,” volumes of timeless wisdom from Teresa of Avila, Chesterton, and Dietrich von Hildebrand.

I walked into Fr. McCloskey’s office and introduced myself. Within minutes were talking like old friends and wondering how we had missed meeting each other growing up in D.C. The priest who baptized me? Fr. C. John had graduated with him at seminary. A famous actor who was making a movie about Jesus? Father had just talked to him. My grandfather was a baseball player? Baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn was a friend.

I began to read some of the books on Fr. McCloskey’s reading plan. The effect was intoxicating. Reading Chesterton, Dorothy Day, John Paul II and other brilliant theologians and philosophers, I began to understand the concept of what George Weigel calls “genuine freedom.” In the modern age, freedom has come to mean freedom to choose where you live, what you guy, who you marry, and what your philosophy about life is. But this kind of freedom can become a trap that actually decreases our freedom.

Freedom to be sexually promiscuous is not a real type of freedom. Neither is freedom to consume. Last year I bought a new imac computer and itouch, and within weeks I was getting emails from Apple telling me about the “next generation” imacs and ipods that were soon coming out. Being a slave to the next new gadget is not being free. Genuine freedom involves growing in virtue by making wise decisions based on faith, reason and conscience.

I also began to meet a lot of D.C. Catholics. Fr. C. John is one of the great networking facilitators of all time.

Pope John Paul II said it took him years to learn how to listen well. Fr. C. John often emphasizes the importance of simply listening. This no doubt is one of the primary reasons he has been responsible for so many conversions. At his 30th anniversary party, he told me that during a conversion he just waits and listens. God provides the grace.

This is not to suggest that Fr. C. John is a stoic. He is a wonderful conversationalist and has a strong will. My first book signing at the Catholic Information Center was in 2003, when my book Damn Senators came out. Fr. McCloskey introduced me, and I still remember the first thing he said: “The Catholic Information Center is a place of Catholic prayer and study and fellowship, and Damn Senators is a book about baseball. But I am the director here, so I dictate the policy.” It was said with a smile, and got a laugh.

I wrote earlier in this piece that Fr. McCloskey was responsible for me being a “partly” free man. As he knows, none of us are truly and fully free until our restless heart rest in God. But Fr. C. John has helped countless pilgrims make that journey to ultimate truth and love more compelling, rewarding — and fun!

Mark Judge is a columnist for RealClearReligion and author, most recently, of A Tremor of Bliss: Sex, Catholicism, and Rock ‘n’ Roll.

Reprinted with permission….©CatholiCity Service http://www.catholicity.com

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Reflections of recent converts: My first year as a Catholic

In 12 Converts on 2015/05/08 at 12:00 AM

032912-first-year-catholicEach Lent, Catholics watch as hundreds of people go through the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) and join the Church at Easter. Last year, 949 people entered the Church at Easter in the Diocese of Charlotte – among 150,000 people nationwide. Each of these new Catholics has a unique story and a different reason for choosing the Catholic Church as their home.

What happens after they are baptized or brought into full communion with the Church at Easter, when their lives begin to blend with the lives of their fellow parishioners? The Catholic News Herald spoke with several people who joined the Church last Easter about their first year as Catholics:

THE BIGGEST CHANGE

Shaun Keady says the biggest change in his life on Easter morning was that “there wasn’t a huge change.” The morning after his baptism, Keady, now a new member of St. Ann Church in Charlotte, woke up and life seemed almost the same – but he understands that the grace of his newfound faith gives him strength to face “all the temptations and struggles that are still there. There’s the realization – that God gives you opportunities to keep making more steps daily,” he says.

“Becoming Catholic isn’t just about changing the church you’re in on Sunday, but changing your whole life!” says Ashley Faye Miller, a Belmont Abbey College student. Miller had “found herself” and the Catholic faith through a novena to St. Anthony of Padua, which led her to the Abbey.

“I had lost myself and was praying to him to help me find myself again,” she says.

Miller hails the education she receives at Belmont Abbey College for forming her in her newfound faith. Fellow Abbey student Carly Kensinger also attributes Catholic education with her conversion. She had attended a Catholic high school in California and from there was recruited for Belmont Abbey’s soccer team.

“I have many Catholic friends, and my sister had become Catholic. I went to Mass for at least a year before starting RCIA. Becoming Catholic, the biggest change was: I was able to finally be able to fully participate in Mass. That’s probably the most exciting thing,” Kensinger says.

“It has been one of the most peaceful and joyous years of my life!” exclaims Christie Dvorak from St. Ann Church, who entered the Church with her daughter.

Dvorak’s daughter started coming home from school two years ago saying, “Mom, I want to become Catholic!” Raised Baptist, Dvorak began attending daily Mass when she would drop her off at school.

“Don’t get me wrong, though; life stressors are as usual. I just feel more prepared to deal with things that come my way. I feel like I have direction and purpose for the first time.”

AFFIRMATION

“Catholic – now that’s a good faith!” said Kelly Rusk’s Baptist grandfather when Rusk broke the news of his conversion. For Rusk, this endorsement from the Baptist who had been “my spiritual rock and guide through life” confirmed his decision to enter the Church.

“My parents were happy and supportive,” explains Mark Brown, UNC-Charlotte graduate student and member of St. Ann Church. He was raised Methodist, and his mother witnessed his conversion journey. She even helped it by “church shopping” with Brown during school breaks.

Miller was surprised when her mother attended the Easter Vigil. “My mom attended my baptism,” she recalls. “She says she had never done anything so ritualistic, but she was so happy she came.”

For Daniel Diaz, however, the affirmation came only from the new friends in his life like Father Richard DeClue. “I found myself alone and without friends for a long time. In fact, many people didn’t believe me because of my past hatred for the Catholic Church. One frat brother even said, ‘You’re lying to me!’ when I told him I was becoming Catholic!”

But Kensinger has had a different response from friends. “One of my favorite things is when a Catholic – whether practicing or not – hears that I became Catholic. They are so happy for me; there is an amazing sense of family from other Catholics – which was a nice welcome.”

Adds fellow convert Lesha Sabio, “My circle of friends has always been a big group that included a few Catholics, lots of Protestants and some people who aren’t particularly religious. But everyone was supportive of my decision to convert.”

STRONGER MARRIAGES

Sabio – who describes her first year as a Catholic as “wonderful!” – was married shortly after she entered the Church. She had grown up in a small community, attending the same Methodist church since she was born.

“We got married last July in a Catholic ceremony. Since we were both Catholic, we had the full nuptial Mass,” she says proudly. She and her new husband Hernan now attend St. Leo the Great Church in Winston-Salem.

“I think it makes my relationship with my husband even better than it would be if I had remained Protestant,” Sabio reflects. “To share our faith, worship together, be active in the Church and approach family and social issues from a common understanding of God’s Word is very unifying.”

Madeline Keeter also found that her wedding just a few months following her baptism was “everything I had imagined growing up. I have always been very faithful and knew I wanted my wedding in a church, and the Catholic ceremony was very meaningful,” she says. Keeter was raised a Mormon and is the first person in her family to openly leave the Mormon religion.

Rusk, however, was married for nearly four years before his conversion.

“I love my wife, but I never considered her faith when we first married,” he admits. “But when I felt God pulling me toward the faith, it made our marriage stronger.”

For Angelina McArthur, a member of St. Michael Church in Gastonia, the greatest joy of entering the Church has been “supporting my husband, who is going through RCIA and will be confirmed this Easter.”

“We are all attending Mass every Sunday. It enables us to focus on what is most important,” she says. “I grew up in a family that attended church regularly. I always wanted to be Catholic.”

TRADITION SOLID AS A ROCK

“As an individual, I can’t possibly know everything there is to know,” Kensinger admits. “It is comforting to have the Church because they know better as a whole. It is comforting to know you can’t pick and choose what to believe,” as she had been taught to do as a nondenominational Christian.

For Miller – who had been thinking about converting from a Pentecostal and Baptist background since she was a senior in high school – becoming Catholic has been important because “so many things in my life were transient, and I wanted the ‘Peter Rock.’ I was so confused and didn’t like to hear one thing one weekend and then go to another church and learn something else the next weekend. I wanted something more solid, tradition, a foundation, more continuity.”

Keady, raised Presbyterian and Wesleyan, says he had been “always very spiritual, and even found ways to go to church with friends in high school,” but he began seeking answers to life’s intellectual challenges about four years ago.

Keady laughs as he recalls how his journey to Catholicism began: A priest and some friends came into the bar where Keady worked. Keady peppered him with questions. “I guess the priest wanted to chill with his friends, so he said to me, ‘Look, if you want to know more, you need to read St. Jerome.'”

Brown’s conversion started with reading a classic work of fiction by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, “Crime and Punishment.” He then began to seek God more fervently.

“All my thoughts were confirmed and took shape in the Faith, where they had just been speculation,” Brown explains. “Everything the Church taught was always in line with what I had always thought, even though I didn’t know how to express it.”

Diaz, on the other hand, says he first struggled to accept the Church’s teachings, especially about the Blessed Mother. “I chose St. Thomas Aquinas as my patron because he also struggled with the teachings on the Immaculate Conception.”

Diaz, currently a graduate student at Regent University in Virginia, calls his conversion an “intellectual pursuit” that he never expected to happen.

“There is so much to learn when you haven’t grown up in the Church,” adds McArthur. “I am constantly growing in that respect.”

“Absolutely, without a doubt I have found home,” Keady says. “If it ain’t broke, then don’t fix it. The Church’s teachings aren’t broken, so why would I want to go anywhere else? I just have to allow the Church’s teachings to absorb into me.”

— Mary B. Worthington, correspondent

Talk with a Catholic priest

Becoming a Catholic is a spiritual journey that each person must decide to make for themselves. The Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) is a process to help people grow in their relationship with God, become familiar with Catholic teachings and get involved with parish life. To learn more, talk to the pastor of the Catholic church nearest you.

Reprinted with permission from Catholic News Herald

Books by Converts

In 14 Book Corner on 2014/06/13 at 12:00 AM

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Classic Catholic Converts presents the compelling stories of over 25 well-known converts to Catholicism from the 19th and 20th centuries. It tells of powerful testimonials to God’s grace, men and women from all walks of life in Europe and America whose search for the fullness of truth led them to the Catholic Church. It is the witness of brilliant intellectuals, social workers, scientists, authors, film producers, clergy, businessmen, artists and others who, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, studied and prayed their way into the Church.

Fr. Charles Connor writes insightful and wonderfully readable stories of a rich variety of converts who struggled greatly with many challenges as they embraced Catholicism, including rejection by loved ones, persecution from strangers, and misunderstanding by peers. But, once they responded to God’s call, they experienced great inner peace, contentment and joy. Among the famous converts whose stories are told here include John Henry Newman, Edith Stein, Jacques Maritain, Dorothy Day, G.K. Chesterton, Elizabeth Seton, Karl Stern, Ronald Knox and many more.

“A great gift at a moment of history when conversions to the Catholic Church are receiving renewed attention. Marvelously readable stories highlight the vivid diversity of the personalities and the unity of the truth that still brings restless souls into full communion with the Church of Jesus Christ.”
—Rev. Richard John Neuhaus Editor, First Things

“This fine parade of men and women, described with insight by Father Connor, shows how long is the reach of the Holy Spirit and how varied are the personalities He has gathered to Himself.”
—Rev. George W. Rutler Author, A Crisis of Saints

“The touching conversion stories that Fr. Connor so concisely presents convey the joys as well as the struggles that converts continue to experience on their journey into the Catholic Church.”
—Marcus C. Grodi President, The Coming Home Network

“This book reminds ‘cradle Catholics’ of the pearl of great price that is ours and should motivate many of us to a sharper sense of evangelization as the new Millennium begins. Rich information and valuable insights abound-highly recommended!”
—Most Reverend Edwin F. O’Brien Archbishop for the Military Services

Fr. Charles Connor, a pastor of a parish in the diocese of Scranton, PA, is an expert in Church history. He is the host of several television series on EWTN including Historic Catholic Converts.

BFBA-P

David Currie was raised in a devout Christian family whose father was a fundamentalist preacher and both parents teachers at Moody Bible Institute. Currie’s whole upbringing was immersed in the life of fundamentalist Protestantism – theology professors, seminary presidents and founders of evangelical mission agencies were frequent guests at his family dinner table. Currie received a degree from Trinity International University and studied in the Masters of Divinity program.

This book was written as an explanation to his fundamentalist and evangelical friends and family about why he became a Roman Catholic. Currie presents a very lucid, systematic and intelligible account of the reasons for his conversion to the ancient Church that Christ founded. He gives a detailed discussion of the important theological and doctrinal beliefs Catholic and evangelicals hold in common, as well as the key doctrines that separate us, particularly the Eucharist, the Pope, and Mary.

“David Currie has written what may turn out to be the work on this nettlesome topic of Evangelicals being received into the Catholic Church. With great charity and lucidity, he pursues every conceivable topic – biblical, ecclesiological, theological, and historical – that arises in the discussions on this matter.”
—Thomas Howard, Author, Evangelical is Not Enough

“Currie has given us a work which is eminently intelligible, readable and personal. This book makes an especially happy marriage of the ‘head’ and the ‘heart’ in explaining the when, the why and the how of his pilgrimage. It should serve as a paradigm for the movement of ‘Everyman’ toward God and the Church His divine Son founded.”
—Rev. Peter M.J. Stravinskas, Editor, The Catholic Answer

“Currie’s book is a must read. Seldom is something so deep explained so clearly as Currie does in this wonderful work. Get it and get a copy for a friend.”
— Scott Hahn, Author, Rome Sweet Home

 

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The well-known and very popular Catholic couple, Scott and Kimberly Hahn, have been constantly travelling and speaking all over North America for the last few years about their conversion to the Catholic Church. Now these two outstanding Catholic apologists tell in their own words about the incredible spiritual journey that led them to embrace Catholicism.

Scott Hahn was a Presbyterian minister, the top student in his seminary class, a brilliant Scripture scholar, and militantly anti-Catholic … until he reluctantly began to discover that his “enemy” had all the right answers. Kimberly, also a top-notch theology student in the seminary, is the daughter of a well-known Protestant minister, and went through a tremendous “dark night of the soul” after Scott converted to Catholicism.

Their conversion story and love for the Church has captured the hearts and minds of thousands of lukewarm Catholics and brought them back into an active participation in the Church. They have also influenced countless conversions to Catholicism among their friends and others who have heard their powerful testimony.

Written with simplicity, charity, grace and wit, the Hahns’ deep love and knowledge of Christ and of Scripture is evident and contagious throughout their story. Their love of truth and of neighbor is equally evident, and their theological focus on the great importance of the family, both biological and spiritual, will be a source of inspiration for all readers.

“One of the beautiful and bright-shining stars in the firmament of hope for our desperate days is this couple, the Hahns, and this story of their life and their conversion.”
— Peter Kreeft, Author, Back to Virtue

“Dynamic, fresh, and devoted are terms which describe the approach that Scott and Kimberly Hahn take to assist in the renewal of the Church in the United States. Now, with their conversion, they are admirably suited to assist Catholics in re-discovering the treasure that has been entrusted to them. My hope is that many people will benefit from contact with Scott and Kimberly Hahn through their stories of conversion.”
— Most Reverend John Myers, Bishop of Peoria

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An exhilarating conversion story of a devout Baptist who relates how he overcame his hostility to the Catholic Church by a combination of serious Bible study and vast research of the writings of the early Church Fathers. In addition to a moving account of their conversion that caused Ray and his wife to “cross the Tiber” to Rome, he offers an in-depth treatment of Baptism and the Eucharist in Scripture and the ancient Church.

Thoroughly documented with hundreds of footnotes, this contains perhaps the most complete compilation of biblical and patristic quotations and commentary available on Baptism and the Eucharist, as well as a detailed analysis of Sola Scriptura and Tradition.

“This is really three books in one that offers not only a compelling conversion story, but documented facts that are likely to cinch many other conversions.”
— Karl Keating

“A very moving and astute story. I am enormously impressed with Ray’s candor, courage and theological literacy.” 
— Thomas Howard

Stephen K. Ray was raised in a devout and loving Baptist family. His father was a deacon and Bible teacher, and Stephen was very involved in the Baptist Church as a teacher of Biblical studies. After an in-depth study of the writings of the Church Fathers, both Steve and his wife Janet converted to the Catholic Church. He is the host of the popular, award-winning film series on salvation history, The Footprints of God. Steve is also the author of the best-selling books Upon This Rock, and St. John’s Gospel.

All four books available from Ignatius Press

The Journey Home (Audio)

In 15 Audio on 2014/06/06 at 12:00 AM

http://www.ewtn.com/vondemand/audio/file_index.asp?SeriesId=-6892289&pgnu=1

1. Visible Unity
Host – Marcus Grodi w/ Al Kresta
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2. The Path to Rome
Host – Marcus Grodi w/ Dwight Longnecker
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3. The Power of Prayer
Host – Marcus Grodi w/ Paul Dupre
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Host Marcus Grodi and his special guests discuss their personal conversion stories.
4. What is the Church?
Host – Marcus Grodi with guest Dr. Thomas Howard
jh_01.mp3
5. The Anglican Bishop becomes Catholic
Host – Marcus Grodi with guest Fr. Graham Leonard
jh_02.mp3
6. What Must I Do to Be Saved
Host – Marcus Grodi with guest Kristine Franklin
jh_03.mp3
7. St. Joseph Covenant Keepers
Host – Marcus Grodi with guest Steve Wood
jh_04.mp3
8. The Coming Home Network
Host – Marcus Grodi with guest Kenneth Howell
jh_05.mp3
9. Celibacy of the Clergy
Host – Marcus Grodi with guests Fr. Ray and Ruth Ryland
jh_06.mp3
10. The Eucharist as Sacrifice
Host – Marcus Grodi with guest Rosalind Moss
jh_07.mp3
11. Purgatory & Indulgences
Host – Marcus Grodi with guest Colin Donovan
jh_08.mp3
12. Why Catholics Leave the Church
Host – Marcus Grodi with guests Bob & Penny Lord
jh_09.mp3
13. The Importance of Our Witness
Host – Marcus Grodi with guest Michael Welker
jh_10.mp3
14. The Importance of Scripture in Our Lives
Host – Marcus Grodi with guest Curtis Martin
jh_11.mp3
15. Which Teaching is Authentic
Host – Marcus Grodi with guest David Palm
jh_12.mp3
16. The Unifying Authority of Peter
Host – Marcus Grodi with guest Steve Ray
jh_13.mp3
17. The Bible Alone is Not Enough
Host – Marcus Grodi with guest David Currie
jh_14.mp3
18. The Place of Mary
Host – Marcus Grodi with guest Terrye Newkirk
jh_15.mp3
19. Sacred Tradition
Host – Marcus Grodi with guest Mark Shea
jh_16.mp3
20. Open Line 1st Friday
Host – Marcus Grodi with guest Karl Keating
jh_17.mp3
21. The Sacrament of Reconciliation
Host – Marcus Grodi with guest Kevin Lowry
jh_18.mp3
22. The Reality of the Devil
Host – Marcus Grodi with guest Paul Thigpen
jh_19.mp3
23. The Struggles and the Joys of the Journey Home
Host – Marcus Grodi with guest Paul Key
jh_20.mp3
24. Contraception
Host – Marcus Grodi with guest Kimberly Hahn
jh_21.mp3
25. Open Line 1st Friday
Host – Marcus Grodi with guest Patrick Madrid
jh_22.mp3
26. Why Pray?
Host – Marcus Grodi with guest Dr. William Marshner
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27. Open Line 1st Friday
Host – Marcus Grodi with guest Colin Donovan
jh_26.mp3
28. Authority
Host – Marcus Grodi with guest Dr. John Haas
jh_27.mp3
29. The Journey Home for Married Couples
Host – Marcus Grodi with guests Peter & Regina Cram
jh_28.mp3
30. Baptism
Host – Marcus Grodi with guest Ken Hensley
jh_29.mp3

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The Role of Church History in Conversion to Catholicism

In 04 Fr. John McCloskey on 2014/03/13 at 12:00 AM

by Father John McCloskey

I am often asked to speak about conversions since I have been instrumental in bringing some people to the Faith. I have been invited to speak chiefly on account of the notoriety of a handful. Some were Protestant ministers of various denominations, others well known men of business, others intellectuals, and some politicians and journalists. A good number have been Jews, one the head of a synagogue when I first met him on the Internet. They represent a few of the many with whom I have dealt. I have written a short piece, available on my website, entitled “Winning Converts” with a companion piece entitled “Recovering Stray Catholics.” I am working on a book on this topic in collaboration with Mr. Russell Shaw to be published by Sophia Institute Press.

Now, what do these “high” level converts have in common? Very little except several traits that are highly valued, at least by this priest. They are all men of high intelligence, with a voracious and insatiable appetite for books, and most importantly, an unending thirst for the truth in all matters religious. Many of them faced familial opposition, the possible loss of reputation, and in some cases possible high political office. But their increasing conviction that they had encountered “the pearl of great price,” the Historical Church that is co-terminus with the Lord and Savior, conquered all doubts. Their assent was not simply “notional” to use Newmanian terms, but truly “real.” In some cases, their conversion was a question of years, or more than a decade of patient dealing backed by true friendship, prayer, and sacrifice. The sweetest words that I have ever heard and, thanks be to God, I have heard them often, are “I want to become a Catholic.”

No doubt, the historical argument was powerful in these conversions. Some of the better known converts have already told their story in print or tape, others will, I trust, do the same in the future. I always required that they read several books on the history of the Church because I do believe the argument, at least rationally, is unassailable—the Catholic Church is true, and no other has ever made a credible claim to be the one that was founded by Him. Either the Lord of History established a church with a visible structure on this earth until He comes again or there is simply no authority that guides and must be obeyed. From the time of the great Schism and the Protestant revolution, the principle of private judgment has given rise to thousands of Christian sects and denominations. That is hardly what was intended when He asked His Father “that all may be one.”

Those men and women whom I have instructed in the Faith over the last 20 years have read Philip Hughes, Ronald Knox, G.K. Chesterton, Robert Hugh Benson, Louis Bouyer, Warren Carroll, Orestes Brownson, Russell Shaw, Ken Whitehead and many others. They have also read many anthologies of converts telling how they came to that “Ancient Beauty, ever new.” History is at the heart of all conversion: personal histories and history as it is written by the historian, Flavius Josephus or Pliny the Younger, or Bede the Venerable or even enemies like Gibbon or Macaulay, all give witness to the One Church.

History, in fact, provides an essential perspective for the mission of conversion, and we must understand the historical moment in which we live. It is a post-Christian era in some respects. This is particularly true in what some decades ago was known as the First World, i.e. Europe and North America. Even though it pains us, it should not surprise us. After all, Christianity has all but disappeared at other times in history, for instance in the Middle East and northern Africa after the invasion of Islam by conquering forces. Now an even more rapid and unsettling de-Christianization is occurring in Europe, through minimal practice of faith in any traditional sense, a collapse of morality based on natural law and the Commandments, and a continental suicide of the native peoples by contraception. Hilaire Belloc, one of the great popular Catholic historians, could not have imagined how wrong he was when he said that:” Europe is the Faith and the Faith is Europe.” I am sure all of us are aware of the masterful work of historian Philip Jenkins who points out convincingly that the greatest recent growth in Christianity, both in numbers and orthodoxy, has been and will continue to be in Africa and Asia.

As for us in the United State, liberal Protestantism is fading fast with large decreases in membership and almost no creedal belief that distinguishes one sect from another. Virtually all have caved in on the moral issues having to do with marriage, family, and sexuality. “Private judgment” basically assures that Protestant sects and denominations will not evidence any belief in an objective moral teaching through Revelation. The upcoming 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Reformation, 1517, will show I think, that mainstream Protestantism in any culture transforming sense is finished in America. And there is no possibility of a Third or Fourth Great Awakening because secularism and the new paganism in a society sated by undreamt of affluence is not going to lead anyone simply to read the Bible and be converted. America is not a Christian nation in any sense other than that probably a plurality of our fellow citizens have been baptized, although that may change in the decades to come.

As for the Evangelicals and fundamentalists, I have great respect and affection for our fellow Christians who believe in the inerrancy of the Bible as the sole source of revelation and salvation. I do not believe, however, that a Christian faith without the sacraments, without the liturgy, and without authority, can bring about a renewal of Christian life in our country. Indeed, without denigrating in any way the numerous dialogues that take place at the diocesan, national, and even international level between Catholics and Protestants, I simply do not believe there is any possibility of any one of the Protestant denominations as a group coming home given the decrepit state of their practice and belief. Ironically enough, it might have been possible 75 years ago when Catholic and Protestants generally shared a common moral belief with important doctrinal disagreements, but not now.

Truth be told, (and indeed are we not all truth-tellers?), there is also little possibility of any of the autonomous Orthodox Churches acknowledging the primacy of Peter and arriving at full allegiance to the dogmas and moral life of the Catholic Church. We know there has been virtually no development of common doctrine after the first seven ecumenical councils in the East. How could there be, given there is no universal shepherd of the Orthodox to call and ratify ecumenical Councils? Indeed, separated from the fullness of truth and the magisterium, the moral teachings in some areas have also deteriorated. The result has been a mystical spiritual theology, of great interest to monks, but not applicable to the Eastern Christian in the street. There is no evangelizing zeal, or lay spirituality. The Eastern Churches are largely sacramental and indeed, if a Patriarch were to return home to Rome, how many of his faithful would there be to follow? We must pray above all for a change in heart in our Eastern Orthodox brethren so we can welcome them home.

Having said all of this, I have to acknowledge openly that the Spirit blows where it will, and God’s grace poured into open hearts can indeed perform miracles of mass or denominational conversion to Catholicism. It can happen when and how the Lord wants, but, I think it safe to say that for the foreseeable future which is our lifespan, converts coming to the fullness of faith will come one by one, or family by family, and occasionally congregation by congregation. And that is the way it should be. Early Christianity grew over the course of some 275 years to its legalization. Starting with Pentecost, it spread from 12 to hundreds and eventually to millions until at the beginning of 4tth century, it composed 10 percent of the Roman Empire. The Church was legalized in 313 and less than a century later was the state religion. The remarkable growth was not the result of mass conversion, but rather of the personal witness in behavior of individual persons and families, including confessors and martyrs fortified by prayer and the sacraments.

We must remind ourselves that each year there are hundreds of thousands of adults who are either baptized during the Easter vigil or received into full communion within the Church. This number is growing, and while always a small percentage of the whole, it does mean that an increasing number of “serious” Catholics are entering the Church, the great majority of them removed from the controversies of the post-conciliar Church in the United States. We may take heart in that younger priests ordained within the last 15 years (given the advanced age of current pastors, they will soon become pastors themselves) are more oriented towards evangelization of persons, families, and the society than those who were ordained prior to the pontificate of John Paul II. The Holy Father’s example of his living the “duc In altum” in order to fish souls without apologies will be the standard modus operandi of bishops and priests certainly well into this new century.

Two other factors are helping to break through the wall of mistrust in this post-Christian era. One is various new ecclesial institutions and movements whose impact is just now being felt in the US. They operate with full approval of the Church, are lay oriented, and by their very nature are apostolic and evangelizing. They provide yet another way for non-Catholics to witness a lived Christianity in the world that over time may bring millions to the Church in the years ahead. One of these movements is the Coming Home Network itself, which has contributed to the conversion of thousands of Protestant ministers into the Catholic Church and will be seen in the English speaking world, I believe, as the 21st century equivalent of the Oxford movement of the 19th century England of my hero, Venerable John Henry Newman to whom we should all pray for the unity of Christians in the Catholic Church. He, as many converts, knew the sleepless nights, the serious study, the long hours of prayer, the fears of loss of income, of friends and even the love of family that is involved in coming home to the Church. Such it will always be for acquiring the pearl of great price.

The second factor is tens of millions of Hispanic immigrants in our country with surely more to come regardless of changes in immigration laws. Sadly and ironically, without them the Unites States would be in negative population growth as we are now hovering at the lowest per capita birth rate in our history as a nation. Abortion and contraception continue to take their deadly toll. Without the Hispanics, virtually all of who are at least culturally Catholic, we as a nation would be doomed to the almost certain fate of continental Europe: demographic suicide within several decades. The catechesis and evangelization of Hispanic Catholics is therefore crucial for the health of the Church and country, an important means of breaking through the wall of mistrust to bring other Christians home.

But far beyond all these signs that, in time, the wall of mistrust will fall looms the magnificent figure of John Paul II. The greatest Pope of the last 500 years will leave much magisterial teaching behind for us to study and implement in the decades ahead. Although he has many important themes in his Pontificate, the one that is clearly closest to his heart and to that of Christ is that all may be one. His ecumenical outreach to his fellow Christians has been tireless and nothing less than extraordinary. He has not spared any effort to reach out to fellow Christians, urging them to recognize and embrace” the fullness of truth” in the Catholic Church, always with great respect and kindness in acknowledging all that is true in their traditions, whether Orthodox or Protestant. In virtually every one of the over 100 papal trips, he has always scheduled, when feasible, meetings with other Christian leaders to extend a hand of friendship and fellowship. At times, he has done so and exposed himself to coolness, indifference, and even insult. In doing so, he imitates the example of the Lord and his Apostle Paul, preaching “opportune et importune” (in season and out).

Pope John Paul’s extraordinary witness alone has been enough for millions to become Catholic and for many millions to return to the Faith. I share his vision of the springtime of the Church in this century and pray that the crowning achievement of this springtime will be the unity of all Christians. The favorite short prayer of Saint Jose Maria Escriva, a man whose example and writings have brought many home to the Church, was “Omnes cum Petro ad Jesus per Mariam (All with Peter, to Jesus through Mary!). May it be so.


Winning the World, One Friend at a Time

In 04 Fr. John McCloskey on 2013/10/24 at 12:00 AM

As the Catechism reminds us, winning converts should be a constant concern for all Catholics: “The true apostle is on the lookout for occasions of announcing Christ by word, either to unbelievers… or to the faithful.” (#905) How then should we go about it? God pours out his saving grace in many ways, but he normally requires, and we could even say desires, the willing collaboration of his sons and daughters in this joyful task. The famous Catholic philosopher (and convert) Dietrich von Hildebrand said that we should look upon all people we encounter as Catholics “in re” (in fact) or “in spe” (potentially). I agree.

Admit it: Don’t you from time to time think about sharing with your neighbor, your friend, your family member, your colleague, the joy that is in your heart, the fullness of our faith in the Catholic Church? Perhaps some of you have had the wonderful experience of being the godparent or sponsor of a friend whom, by God’s grace, you have guided into the Church. You know then the joy of being God’s instrument.

This delight is always a cause for holy celebration, but particularly in the present threatened circumstances of our culture. Has there ever in the Christian era been a more joyless, aimless, lonely society than our own, one which appears to have gained the whole world but has forgotten its own soul? On the other hand, have there ever been three consecutive Roman pontiffs who have so incessantly and hopefully proclaimed the Gospel in all its fullness, addressing the fallen yet redeemed world’s hopes and anxieties so completely?

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http://www.catholicity.com/mccloskey/winning-the-world.html

New Catholics; Former Muslims

In 12 Converts on 2013/08/30 at 12:00 AM

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Pope Benedict baptizing former Muslim.  Six million adult Muslims from all over the world are converting yearly to Christianity; mainly to Catholicism.

Islamist (Cairo / Abuja) violence is rapidly increasing in Africa. Muslim terrorist groups increasingly operate in countries which were until recently calm and stable. Islamist wildfire spreads. The sociologist Massimo Introvigne, the 2011 representative of the OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe) against persecution and discrimination of Christians, sees a targeted strategy behind the phenomenon of Islamic violence . “The Islamists are convinced that the decisive battle about whether the world is Muslim or Christian will take place in Africa.” Even more importantly, according to Introvigne, “Islam is going to lose this battle. So it responds with bombs. ”

It was the Libyan Islamic scholar and director of a training center for imams and preachers of the Koran, Sheikh Ahmad Al-Qataani, who, already a few years ago, in an interview with the Arab-Muslim television station Al-Jazeera, raised the alarm. He did it with a highly explosive statement, very little noticed in the West: “In Africa alone, every hour, 667 Muslims convert to Christianity, 16,000 every day, six million a year.” Introvigne confirmed the figures, which are now the same as in 2006, when Al-Qataani raised the alarm. African Christianity has a great inner strength. The contact of Muslims to Christianity leads millions of Muslims to be baptized. One could say that they “fly” to leave Islam. Despite the associated dangers to life and limb.

The move to conversion from Islam to Christianity is taking place not only in Africa. The baptism of the former Egyptian Muslim Magdi Allam by Pope Benedict XVI. at the Easter Vigil in 2008 was the most spectacular and most visible element of this movement.  Allam shows how many Muslim converts in addition adopt a typical Christian name. He opted for Cristiano. This refers to the personal name Christian. In his case, however, for Allam there is a broader sense that will say: Magdi “the Christian”–no longer the Muslim–“Allam”.

Empirical studies are not available. Careful observers, as the sociologist Introvigne can have an idea about the numbers, based on various criteria of largely unnoticed and ongoing phenomena. According to the British Times about 15 percent of Muslim immigrants to Europe have abandoned Islam and become Christians. In the UK the number is now estimated at 200,000. In France, every year about 15,000 Muslims become Christians, some 10,000 of them Catholics, the rest Protestants of various denominations, especially of independent churches.

In Africa, as reported by Sheikh Al-Qataani to Al-Jazeera, “Islam has always been the main religion. There were times when 30 African languages were written in Arabic script. “Today’s size relationship between Islam and Christianity make clear how much Islam has declined in recent years. Al-Qataani made a comparison directly between Islam and the Catholic Church, “without counting the members of other Christian denominations”. To increase the Christians by the millions of Muslims who convert to Christianity, said Sheikh Al-Qataani: “These are huge numbers.”

Introvigne confirms the conversion movement against the initially expressed assumption of Al Qataani who could have intentionally over-estimated the numbers to arouse the Islamic world. “The global growth of Islam is almost exclusively from the high birth rate in Muslim countries where thanks to Western medicine, infant mortality has been substantially reduced,” said Introvigne. Outside the Islamic States of Islam there is a decrease. The growth of the Christians results, in contrast, mainly from adult baptisms. The evangelical Wolfgang Simpson wrote: “Over the past two decades, more Muslims came to Christ than in all previous centuries.”

Father Joseph Hergets evangelization of Muslims

Priests like the Austrian Lazarist Father Josef Herget, the founder of the Institute of St. Justin in Mariazell are among the silent but active missionaries who lead the Muslims from Islam to Christ. They live dangerously. Father Herget wrote back in 1975, when the issue of Islam in the West was being given little weight, his master’s thesis on the topic:Christian preaching in the Islamic world . Another, the Egyptian Coptic priest Zakaria Botros was named “enemy number one of Islam” by Islamic scholars of the Arab-Islamic newspaper Al-Insan al-Jadid.  Botros television broadcasts via satellite from the U.S., in which he deals with the problematic parts of the Koran (Jihad, status of women, stonings, etc.) from a Christian perspective, may lead to secret mass conversions among Muslims. His mastery of the Arabic language and his knowledge of Islamic sources allow him to directly contact an Arab-Muslim audience in the Middle East.

The conversions were suspended, as many viewers of Botros transmitter Alfady after initial outrage was clear that the ulema are not able to convincingly answer to the broadcasts Botros. Botros and Hergets deal with Islam in a different way from the usual Western criticism that focuses on political and social issues and often betrays a condescending racist undertone. This form of criticism is also a caused by the fact that many in the West ignore the Christians of the Middle East and North Africa. Such criticism is seen as prejudiced, external interference, to the vast majority of Muslims. They usually respond downright irritated in the ranks of the Islamists, militias and terrorist groups because too many politically charged issues come into play, in which the West is not perceived as the morally superior side, but mutated into the enemy. Botros and Herget, to stay with the two representatives of the evangelization of Muslims, on the other hand, bring salvation. This is the crucial difference which opens the hearts of many Muslims, and at the same time offers a way out of a spiral of violence with harsh confrontations.

Raymond Ibrahim wrote in the National Review : “Many Western critics do not understand that it is necessary to defuse the radical Islamism and in its place suggest something Theo centric and spiritually satisfying, not secularism, democracy, consumerism, materialism, or feminism. The ‘truths’ of a religion can be challenged only by the truth of another religion. Father Zakaria Botros fights fire with fire “.

People seem to no longer tolerate the direct or indirect violence. Roman Silantjew, secretary of the Interreligious Council of Russia, said that in the successor states of the former Soviet Union, two million Muslims have converted to Christianity. One of the main reasons for this is the desire for peace, which they find in Christianity.

In Algeria, there were approximately 80,000 Muslims who were baptized, which prompted the country’s government to enact laws against Christian proselytism. In these years, Moroccan media continued to report the baptism of tens of thousands of citizens. People see war and crisis zones in Islam and they decide for Christ, as the representative of an evangelical community in Sudan said.

In Malaysia, according to the Mufti of Perak, 250,000 Muslims have submitted officially to the authorities the application for change a of religion to Christianity. Such a change is only allowed for members of ethnic minorities. On the number of Malays who were baptized in secret, there is no information.

Protestant and Pentecostal communities move quite differently, sometimes very irresponsibly, to the chagrin of the indigenous Christian churches in Islamic countries who are victims of Islamist reprisals. The Catholic Church is more reserved. The Egyptian Jesuit Samir Khalil Samir, a leading expert in the Islamic world and the Pope’s adviser, reported that the Catholic clergy “sometimes even discourages conversions in Islamic states for fear or misunderstanding, ecumenism’. It is otherwise is in European countries. Khalil admits that the situation is not easy. Independent Church communities “come and go, but the Church was 2000 years ago, it is today and it will be tomorrow. “Independent Church groups, because of their small structures being barely palpable, or because they are not officially registered in most countries, are not as vulnerable to attack. The situation is quite different for the Catholic Church and the Eastern Churches. They are officially registered. The authorities know all the Christian places and know what families belong to the church. They are vulnerable to attack because of its visibility and not only in a particular country, but also in other countries.

The indigenous churches were accustomed coexistence with Muslims for centuries and in a certain form. A form tolerating conversion to Islam, but not vice versa to Christianity. Time and the Islamic sword have made these Christians resign themselves to defend their own area and not to reach out. It is a form of self-defense, which has been firmly entrenched in the mentality of the Eastern Christians, and could only be overcome slowly. Overcoming that worries Christians very much, given the often life-threatening situations.

Missionaries from the outside, however, often lack the necessary familiarity with the cultural sensitivities, which could lead to dangerous confusion among the Muslim population. Between these extremes, it was necessary to find ways of evangelization. Working in this area there are several Catholic initiatives, such as those of the Austrian Father Josef Herget and his Catechetical Instructions.

This article written by Giuseppe Nardi originally appeared in Katholisches