Crossed The Tiber

An Evangelical Converts to Catholicism

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Location: Pennsylvania, United States

I was born into the Catholic faith. At 14, I was "born again" and found Jesus personally but lost His Church. After thirty years as an evangelical protestant, I have come full circle to find that He has been there all the time, in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. I wish others to find the beauty and truth of the Catholic faith as I have found.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

The Value of Conversion Stories

The Supper at Emmaus by Rembrandt

Over at Called to Communion, the "naysayers" are starting to creep into the com box and disparage Jason Stellman for sharing his conversion story. One of the commenters says that "conversion stories are not enough." Another declares that Jason's story is "contradictory and hard to believe."  When I was a Protestant, we read about famous conversions and told our own conversion testimonies all the time! Yet, when a Protestant converts to Catholicism, we hear about how useless and un-important conversion stories are. I think there is definitely a double standard at work here. Most people of good will realize that the conversion story isn't a catechism. It is a starting point. They are like a door prize and are the device that will get many readers re-invigorated about their waning faith or get someone to stop by and take a look inside. Conversion stories also have the power to break "the implausibility paradigm" that so strongly prevents cross-communion conversion.
       I was a staunch anti-Catholic 9 years ago, having left the faith as a 14 year old and heard hundreds of conversion stories in the ensuing 31 years, hearing testimonies on a regular basis of how God drew people from darkness to light, etc. They were very encouraging. Now, fast-forward 30 years. When I heard stories that Protestant evangelical pastors were converting, I doubted that it could possibly be true.  (My implausibility paradigm kicked in) But then I watched the actual stories on the Journey Home (EWTN), read “Crossing the Tiber” by Steve Ray and others. I eventually came home into the arms of the Lord and His Church receiving His body and blood, real meat indeed, real drink.
         Did my journey end there? No, but it was the conversion stories that pried open a chink in my powerfully anti-Catholic suit of armor, which then allowed His Holy Spirit to do His work in my life.
When we have a “conversion fest” over another Catholic convert, it is not to be triumphalistic, nor should it ever be that way, but it accomplishes two things:
1) When published on-line with open com boxes, it encourages the new convert and lets him know that despite his tremendous personal, financial and emotional losses, he has just crossed the threshold to new joys and a new perspective on eternal things, the stuff that matters in life. He or she then finds a great number of others who have also made the same journey, and survived!
2) It encourages all the rest of us who are at different places on our journey to heaven to keep traveling towards the goal.

      When Saul of Tarsus, became a Christian, the early Church must have been overjoyed (once they got over their initial suspicions) and it made them realize this Jesus of Nazareth is even more powerful after his death and resurrection, to work such wonders in peoples' lives. That’s what a conversion story does, it allows us to marvel at the goodness of God and rejoice at his wondrous and mysterious power to change our hearts.  So, let us let Jason have his Way to Emmaus moment here (his eyes were opened in the breaking of the bread) without questioning his motives and attempting to devalue his experience.

Have any of you been blessed by reading conversion stories?

Here's my short list of conversion stories:

Rome Sweet Home  Scott Hahn
Crossing the Tiber   Steve Ray
Born Fundamentalist Born Again Catholic David Currie
My Life On The Rock   Jeff Cavins
Lead Kindly Light Thomas Howard
Surprised By Truth (11 stories) Patrick Madrid editor.
Return to Rome Francis Beckwith


Anonymous Owen said...

Russ, as a convert and a clergy convert I thank you for this. The encouragement of fellow brothers and sisters in Christ is warming to the convert soul as many have seriously counted the cost to follow Christ to his Church.

I am so grateful for my Protestant heritage, really am but I am even more grateful that that time was not an end in itself but a part of the journey leading into the fullness of the truth and the graces of the sacraments of Christ rightly ordered and manifested.

October 03, 2012 8:16 PM  

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