Catholic Family Column for April 2010 by Deacon Tom Fox
My wife and I have followed the Catholic Family folks, AKA: The Sweeneys for years now. If I remember correctly — David is a convert to the Catholic Faith. And again, if memory serves correctly — Allyson isn’t a convert but was raised in a solid, practicing Catholic family. Converts and reverts to the faith have such a joyous story to tell. Many of them are found on the Marcus Grodi Coming Home program on EWTN television. Other stories are found in books by Scott and Kimberly Hahn, the Surprised by Truth series published by Patrick Madrid – and so many others. I love conversion stories — I encourage you if they aren’t a part of your reading or viewing to give them a try.
The greatest convert is, of course St. Paul. What was he like following his encounter with Christ? Consider his opening words in a letter to the Church in Rome. They show how much this highly educated, chief enemy of the early Church had changed: “I Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus… called to be an apostle… I send greetings to all the beloved of God in Rome, you who are called to be holy. Grace to you, and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Conversion yields such powerful Christians and Catholics. You may be familiar with the Promise Keepers. They got their start in Colorado and they have led a lot of men to a conversion in their lives. And the men’s movement in the Catholic Church is alive and on fire…. throughout the country. There is no denying that these movements call men to conversion to Christ.
And in countless thousands of cases, they lead to profound changes in religious practice, spousal relations, family life and in the workplace.
As I say — I love conversion experiences. Many years ago, EWTN ran several showings of the BBC documentary, SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL FOR GOD. It was the BBC documentary that propelled Mother Teresa to the world stage in 1968. What is most touching and profound to me is that the agnostic journalist who directed this program, Malcolm Muggeridge later credited his conversion to Catholicism to Mother Teresa.
Mother Teresa was no namby-pamby, politically correct nun. She spoke the truth – one example is as follows… Malcolm Muggeridge was walking with Mother Teresa during a break in the filming of this documentary… He said to her, “Mother, I’m sure God needs people in other churches just as much as He needs them in the Catholic Church.” Her immediate reply was, “No He doesn’t.” That ended that paragraph of conversation immediately.
There is another tale of conversion that has often resulted in tears in my eyes. Have you heard the name John Newton? He is the slave trader and reputed alcoholic who turned into an abolitionist preacher… and he wrote the immortal words to Amazing Grace.
Amazing grace… how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now am found… I was blind, but now I see.” Was blind but now I see… sounds like St. Paul doesn’t it? Perhaps someone in your life… your family… even those of other faiths are converted people who were blind to grace … and who now see.
Amazing Grace was pastor Newton’s personal story of spiritual redemption. An event happened in his life – a near shipwreck off Newfoundland in 1748. He stood in awe of a God who would embrace a slave trader. “Twas grace that taught my heart to fear…. and grace my fears relieved… how precious did that grace appear… the hour I first believed.”
Most interesting about Newton’s words of thanksgiving and praise is that there came to be a religious revival that swept the colonies in the 18th century… plantation owners didn’t so much get involved in the revival – the ones who found religion and Christianity were slaves… thousands of slaves were converted to Christianity. How odd that God should choose a slave trader to participate in new conversions. How odd that blacks would pick up the words and sing the words of God’s loving grace and freedom!
The song Amazing Grace is about being ‘brought low’ and ultimately about victory over sorrow and failings in our lives…
Sometime during this Easter period — or as a preface to a Pentecost conversion for this world — maybe you’d be willing to join me in praying for profound conversion in all our lives… and for rebirth fueled by God’s powerful, loving… Amazing Grace.