An Early American Conversion
Conversions to Catholic Christianity are always an interest to me. I recently read the fascinating story of a conversion which occurred in the days shortly after the American Revolution. Reverend John Thayer was an ordained minister of the puritan sect of Protestantism. He traveled to Europe and heard of the miracles that were occurring as a result of the intercession of a soon to be canonized saint. He attempted to debunk the "miracles" by interviewing the people who were healed. This lead to a study of the doctrines of Catholicism and to his surprise he had been grossly misinformed. (Hey, this was even 2 centuries before Chick Tracts!) His heart was slowly converted as he traveled to Rome and met with priests and religious. He found that Catholics were very different than his pre-conceived notions of them in the past and their piety was something which influenced him greatly.
He gave up his ministerial credentials in the Protestant church and studied for the Catholic priesthood. He was ordained a priest in Europe and traveled back to the states where his conversion story made quite a stir in the New World. Such a thing as a Protestant becoming Catholic was unheard of particularly in the strongly anti-Catholic new nation where Catholics were not allowed to vote or hold public office! His desire for the rest of his life was to help others see the truth in the Catholic faith. He was less than successful as a diocesan priest in the states and eventually ended his ministry in Limerick Ireland where he passed away and left his estate back in Boston for a religious order of sisters. This was later burned down by an anti-Catholic mob in 1831.
His brother was a Protestant minister who apparently was less than enthused over his conversion.
Rev. John Thayer wrote down his conversion story as well as published a letter to his brother. His apologetics regarding papal infallibility and discussion of sola scriptura are excellent and still stand the test of time. It is amazing that he was writing only 200 years after the reformation and identified the key issues that today's apologists still deal with.
Check out his book here. At 40 pages it is a quick read.