As a cradle Catholic I have always stood somewhat in awe of converts. I was born into the Faith. For me, I could no more cease to be Catholic than I could cease to be a male. It is an essential part of me. Take my Catholicism from me, and what would be left would not be me. Converts, on the other hand, often raised up either to ignore Catholicism or to regard Catholicism as odd or evil, have taken the big step to embrace the Faith of their own volition. They have done something that I have never had to do, and that excites my admiration.
Frequently I have noted that Catholic converts make better Catholics than many cradle Catholics. Certainly my wife, who converted a few years after our marriage from Methodism to Catholicism, is a far, far better Catholic than I am. The list of Catholic converts is endless and here are a few more to consider:
Mortimer Adler, founder of the Great Books plan of study. Before he converted he was on record several times as explaining why he would not be converted to Catholicism. The Hound of Heaven is tricky!
Anne of Cleves-fourth wife of Henry VIII.
Orestes Brownson-19th century American writer of brilliance, and a notable curmudgeon.
Kit Carson-American 19th century pathfinder, mountain man and Union General.
Ernst Junger-German militarist, writer of genius, drug user and anti-Nazi. He converted at 102.
Rumer Godden-English novelist, perhaps best known for In This House of Brede.
Joyce Kilmer-American poet and doughboy.
James Longstreet-Commander of a corp in the Army of Northern Virginia-called by Lee his Old Warhorse.
William Rosecrans-One of the ablest of Union generals, commander of the Army of the Cumberland. He converted at West Point and convinced his brother Sylvester to convert, who became a notable bishop of Cincinnati. Rosecrans during the War would keep his young aides up late discussing theology and explaining Catholicism to them. He could often be seen surveying battlefields, rosary in hand. He came close to being our first Catholic president, but that is a tale for another day.
Malcolm Muggeridge-English writer and rake, in his youth. One of the more unlikely converts in the 20th century who became an adornment to the Church.
Siegfried Sassoon-English war hero in World War I and war poet. His memoirs are must reading.
Knute Rockne-Yes, I also was shocked to learn that the legendary Notre Dame coach was a convert.
Dutch Schultz- A notable American gangster who had what he considered a mystical experience that led him late in his life to Catholicism. After he was gunned down by gangland cronies he begged for the Last Rites from a priest, and his request was granted.
Alice B. Toklas-She came to Catholicism at an advanced age. No doubt Gertrude Stein would have said something pithy if she had still been around.
Herbert Kappler-Chief of the Gestapo in Rome during World War II. Converted to Catholicism by his archenemy Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty as Kappler was serving a life sentence for war crimes.
Gene Wolf-Science Fiction author. If you haven’t read any of his works, run out and buy one now. Life is too short to miss the pleasure of reading Gene Wolf.
An eclectic bunch as are all of us Catholics. We are a universal Church commissioned by God to make apostles of all the nations. Our ranks include all manner of humanity, united by the Faith, no matter what else divides us. Our converts are proof of our on-going efforts to accomplish this great task.