Gillea Allison is a rarity, someone who has rejoined the Catholic Church due to Pope Francis. She writes at Vox about her politics and her path back to Catholicism of a sort:
For me, finding truth elsewhere meant finding a different kind of home in politics and in the candidacy of Barack Obama. In 2006, one of my best (Jesuit-educated) friends sent me a copy of Dreams From My Father, then-Sen. Obama’s memoir. I couldn’t put it down. His honesty, prose, and self-reflection were unlike any I had seen in a politician; his years spent on the South Side of Chicago in organizing in Catholic churches caught my attention. His compassion for others and understanding of injustice — drawn from personal experience — guided his interest in politics and felt to me like the real deal (and, I would argue, it still does). I started paying attention to Obama’s candidacy from abroad, and in September 2008 I moved back to the United States to volunteer for him in Colorado without a dime. A version of faith, one could say.
In the 2008 and the 2012 campaigns, I found an organization dedicated to empowering its people and providing an opening to the political process. In candidate and now President Obama, I found a leader who embodied what I had loved about the church and my Jesuit education: the notion that by loving our neighbor, seeing our similarities instead of our relatively smaller differences, and coming together, we will in fact change the world. We didn’t have to accept things the way they were; rather, it was our responsibility to question and make those things better. The Obama campaigns felt to me like the truest articulation of people over politics, of love over power — and after my falling out with the Catholic Church, they restored my faith in leadership and the potential for institutions to evolve.
I keep it pretty practical, but there’s certainly been a reigniting of my spirit. I volunteer at Xavier’s soup kitchen, which feeds hundreds each Sunday. I am a godmother to my best friend’s son — a responsibility that now carries new weight and meaning. I go to church whenever I can. It’s beautiful, and I’m often struck by the priests’ wisdom and humor.
By and large, however, it is the community that fills my heart. A few Sundays ago, we celebrated a dedicated parishioner’s 90th birthday. The priest presented her with a lovely bouquet; the entire congregation sang “Happy Birthday.” You could feel the love — it’s that simple.
But this reawakening comes with distinct challenges. As a monthly donor to Planned Parenthood, I am often at odds with persistent church policies on social issues. But we must avoid the American tendency to pull the church into our political battles and project our political dynamics onto figures like Pope Francis, the absurdity of which was abundant during his US visit. (An example: when the New York Times recapped his speech to Congress on A1 by stating, “Both sides could walk away taking vindication from parts of his message. But the liberal references in his speech were explicit and extended while the conservative ones were more veiled and concise.”). Continue reading
When Ethan Allen seized Fort Ticonderoga from the British in 1775, he did so in the name of the Great Jehovah and the Continental Congress. That Allen believed in God no one could doubt. That he did not believe in the divinity of Christ Allen established beyond all doubt when in 1785 he published Reason: The Only Oracle of Man, a long and turgid attack on Christianity and organized religion. The book was a failure only selling 200 of its 1500 volumes. Allen who paid for the publication out of his own pocket took a financial beating. Timothy Dwight, future president of Yale, accurately described the book: “the style was crude and vulgar, and the sentiments were coarser than the style. The arguments were flimsy and unmeaning, and the conclusions were fastened upon the premises by mere force.” Nonetheless Allen did still believe in God as his tombstone attested:
The Corporeal Part of Ethan Allen Rests Beneath this Stone, the 12th day of February 1789, Aged 50 Years. His spirit tried the Mercies of his God In Whom he firmly Trusted.
One can wonder what Allen thought in the world to come when he learned that his daughter would be the first New England nun.
Fanny Allen was born in 1784 and was four years of age when her famous father died. Her mother remarried to a Doctor Jabez Penniman in 1793 who loved Fanny dearly and treated her as if she was his own daughter.
At the age of 12 Fanny had a mystical experience:
When I was twelve years old, I was walking one day on the banks of the river which flowed not very far from our house. The water, although very clear, rolled by in torrents. Suddenly I beheld emerging from the river an animal more resembling a monster than a fish, for it was of extraordinary size and horrid shape. It was coming directly toward me and sent a chill of terror through me. What aggravated my peril was that I could not turn away from this monster. I seemed paralyzed and rooted to the ground. While I was in this torturing situation, I saw advancing toward me a man with a venerable and striking countenance, wearing a brown cloak and carrying a staff in his hand. He took hold of my arm gently and gave me strength to move while he said most kindly to me: “My child, what are you doing here? Hasten away.” I then ran as fast as I could. When I was some distance off, I turned to look at this venerable man, but I could see him nowhere. Continue reading
The things you find on the internet. Michael Coren is a figure in Canadian journalism and television. The best way to tag him is as a political journalist and humorist. Above all, he is a Catholic. He converted in 2004, and his Catholicism is the most important thing in the world to him, as one can judge by his 2011 book Why Catholics are Right. The video above is a fascinating interview of a man who obviously treasures the Church above all. We need much more of that spirit. Here is a video of Coren interviewing Lila Rose in 2012: Continue reading
Outside of his family, General William S. Rosecrans had three great passions in his life: His religion, Roman Catholicism, to which he had converted as a cadet at West Point, the Army and the Union. In the Civil War all three passions coincided. Rising to the rank of Major General and achieving command of the Army of the Cumberland, until he was removed in the aftermath of the Union defeat at Chickamauga, Rosecrans conducted himself in the field as if he were a Crusader knight of old.
Raised a Methodist, Rosecrans’ conversion was a life long turning point for him. He wrote to his family with such zeal for his new-found faith that his brother Sylvester began to take instruction in the Faith. Sylvester would convert, become a priest, and eventually be the first bishop of Columbus, Ohio.
His most precious possession was his Rosary and he said the Rosary at least once each day. In battle the Rosary would usually be in his hand as he gave commands. He had a personal chaplain, Father Patrick Treacy, who said Mass for him each morning and would busy himself the rest of the day saying masses for the troops and helping with the wounded. In battle he exposed himself to enemy fire ceaselessly as he rode behind the General. Rosecrans, after military matters were taken care of, delighted in debating theology with his staff officers late into the evening. Continue reading
(John Wayne died 33 years ago this week. It is amazing to me that a third of a century has passed since that sad day when I heard that he had passed. In his memory I am reposting this post from August 24, 2009.)
John Wayne died on June 11, 1979. Like many Americans at the time I felt as if a personal friend had died. Growing up, Wayne was a part of my childhood both on TV and at the local theater. Remarkably, more than three decades after his demise, he still routinely appears among the top ten favorite actors in polls. For three and a half decades he dominated American film screens and became the archetypal Western hero. Frequently savaged by film critics in his life, something which bothered him little, his appearance as a Centurion in the film The Greatest Story Ever Told, the video clip which begins this post, was a special target, Wayne’s work has endured the test of time. A staunch conservative, Wayne upheld love of country when such love was popular and when it was unpopular. Eventually he became a symbol of America, recognizable around the globe. What is less known about Wayne is his religion, and, at the end, his conversion to Catholicism. Continue reading
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: Continue reading
Hattip to Pat McNamara for his post on Longstreet’s conversion which inspired this post.
Lee referred to James “Pete” Longstreet as his “Old War Horse”. One of the more talented corp commanders of the Confederacy, Longstreet’s memory was long blackened in the South after the War due to Longstreet becoming a Republican and working as surveyor of customs at the port of New Orleans in the Grant administration, and by the efforts of a coterie of former officers of the Army of Northern Virginia, led by Jubal Early, who blamed Longstreet for the defeat at Gettysburg. The vituperation that he received mattered little to Longstreet who throughout his life did what he thought was right no matter what other people might think. In 1874 he became adjutant general of the Louisiana militia. In an uprising of the White League he was wounded and taken prisoner in his own customs house. His captors gave the rebel yell. The wounded Longstreet looked at them with disdain and said, “I have heard the yell before.” Continue reading
The Tide Is Turning Toward Catholicism Because Nonsensical Believers & Non Believers Are Unwittingly Showing Many the Way
Throughout the last few years and specifically the last decade or so, the voluminous number of kooky quotes and statements coming from religious believers (heterodox Catholics included) and non believers alike is mind boggling. It can’t but help push the reasonable minded into the Catholic Church. Most casual observers are familiar with the number of high profile converts and reverts to the Catholic Church in the last 25 years or so. They range from theological luminaries like Dr Scott Hahn and Dr Francis Beckwith to political figures like Deal Hudson, Laura Ingraham and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. Many like them have come to the Church after years of study and reason, but many also have come to the Church after years of seeing their particular religious denomination become unrecognizable.
The latest world calamity has given us two examples of sheer kookery coming from a religious leader and a secular voice. After the horrific earthquake that left the western world’s most impoverished nation in tatters, the Reverend Pat Robertson chimed in with a quote that was not only tragically insensitive but historically inaccurate. The onetime presidential candidate (who actually came in second in the 1988 GOP Iowa Caucus) and a leading voice of the Evangelical world blamed the earthquake on Voodoo, a cult that sadly far too many people practice in Haiti. Robertson voiced his opinion on his popular 700 Club television program. Robertson repeated the fundamentalist canard that in the early 1800s the leaders of a slave revolt fighting against French colonial forces forged a pact with the Satan to thrown off the chains of their oppressors.
Bob Hope was a Republican, but, above all, he was a comedian, and he never let politics stand in the way of a good punch line. A death bed Catholic convert like John Wayne, he will be the subject of a future post here on AC.