Pope Francis, Christ and Conversion

Saturday, October 3, AD 2015



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.


So now, as a card-carrying member of St. Francis Xavier Church in Manhattan, I’m discovering what it means to be Catholic as an adult.

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.”).

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17 Responses to Pope Francis, Christ and Conversion

  • It seems to me that the Apostles certainly prioritised certain things in their evangelization.
    If we look at Acts, these were:
    (1) the age of fulfilment has dawned, the “latter days” foretold by the prophets (Acts 2:16; 3:18, 24); (2) this has taken place through the ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ;
    (3) by virtue of the resurrection Jesus has been exalted at the right hand of God as Messianic head of the new Israel (Acts 2:33-36; 4:11; 5:31);
    (4) the Holy Spirit in the Church is the sign of Christ’s present power and glory (Acts 2:17-21, 33; 5:32);
    (5) the Messianic Age will reach its consummation in the return of Christ (Acts 3:20; 10:42);
    (6) the preaching of the good news closes with an appeal for repentance, the offer of forgiveness and of the Holy Spirit, and the promise of salvation (Acts 2:38; 3:19, 25; 4:12; 5:31; 10:43).
    In other words, their preaching was categorical, not argumentative; concrete, not abstract; concerned with facts and actions and, above all, with a Person; not with ideas or notions or reflections.

    This teaching is summarised in the Apostles’ Creed, of which Bl John Henry Newman said that it “remains now what it was in the beginning, a popular form of faith, suited to every age, class, and condition. Its declarations are categorical, brief, clear, elementary, of the first importance, expressive of the concrete, the objects of real apprehension, and the basis and rule of devotion.”

  • Gillea Allison thinks she joined the Catholic Church when in her own mind has joined a Protestant Church that calls itself Catholic. Her;s is a religion of sentimentality, of camaraderie, almost entirely emotional. One where one gets to choose what one wishes to believe. She has the same hope in religion as she does for Obama, a hope of worldly salvation thru any means necessary such as abortion. Her perception of Pope Francis is similar. Her religion is a fantasy.

    I wonder if she would agree with Christ that to love Him is to obey Him. And to obey Him means strictly obeying the Catechism of the Catholic Church. This is the part that Gillea seems to be missing. She has helping her neighbor down pretty good but needs to put God first, neighbor second and herself third. Let us pray for her.

  • This woman describes herself as a monthly donor to Planned Parenthood. She is therefore a murderer of babies. That’s all I need to know.

  • Two excellent reflections, Donald and MPS.

    Weighing them out.

    My conclusion is that confusion kills.
    The recent example being Kim Davis et al.

    Conversion built on half truths will not suffice.
    I couldn’t imagine St. Paul watering down his letters, nor would he be likely to boldly lay his life down for the Faith if he didn’t believe and preach Jesus Crucified.

    We too are to crucify our bodies are we not?
    Flesh v. Spirit.

    How can that message be conveyed in it’s entirety if we accept non-repentant abortion supporting politician’s, or pro-homosexual practitioner’s (sodomites), into communion?

    You’ve both given much food for thought regarding conversion, and I don’t ever wish to interfere with one’s return to the Faith.

    I’m going to pray over this today at Mass.

  • I could say that because of Obama and this new Pope I feel like my church and country are going down the tubes! How do you like that? BUT my church is centuries old and it is NOT Francis . My country will be better after Obama is gone. Hope…. Hope …. Hope springs eternal ! And God us going to protect my church and my nation

  • I believe Christ’s final commandment (Matt. 28:19-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:45-49; John 20:19-23; Act 1:6-8) was to go forth and make disciples of all nations; to preach repentance and forgiveness of sins; to teach them to obey everything Jesus commanded; to preach that the Messiah must suffer and rise from the tomb in three days; etc.
    That woman is a leftist, secularist not a Christian.
    The essential difference between leftists’ (in and out of the Church) social justice and Christ’s Charity (love of God first and neighbor) is that the former coercively/forcefully takes other people’s money, the latter assumes one freely gives of one’s earthly assets for the love of God and of one’s neighbor.
    Channeling Mark Twain, “Suppose you were a liberal. And, suppose you were an idiot. But, I repeat myself.”


  • “”,,,,one of my best Jesuit educated friends………..”

    Says it all, really.

  • “As a monthly donor to planned parenthood…” So she attends Church because it makes her feel fuzzy singing happy birthday to a 90 year old, and serving soup to a homeless. She doesn’t really need a Church to do both these things.

    However, she is no different to the many Catholics who would say “As a daily user of the artificial contraceptive pill”…the only difference between her and others is she is arrogant enough to flaunt her actions knowing they go against the Church she is s part of.

    In other words, there have always been hypocrites in our Church. It’s up to her parish priest to pull her up on this- he’s the one that preaches to her every Sunday.

    Pope Francis has always been clear on abortion.

    That’s just the way I see it. I know many will disagree.

  • “It’s up to her parish priest to pull her up on this- he’s the one that preaches to her every Sunday.”
    “”,,,,one of my best Jesuit educated friends………..”
    “Says it all, really.”
    Don’t think we can count on her church to set her straight. Check out the link in the original Vox article. It’s a Jesuit parish in NYC. One of the bulletins has a notice that their organist and his partner are going to Fairfield Univ (another Jesuit connection).
    So what we find is a Jesuit church employing a openly gay organist who is now leaving to teach at another Jesuit institution.
    The “Good News” apparently is that one no longer has to be Catholic to be Catholic. Catholics are now inclusive. Anyone can join. You don’t even have to believe!
    Yes the “new” Catholic church is not quite the United Church of Christ, but it’s getting closer.
    There is something unsettlingly ironic that she left the RC Church while she was in Argentina when Bergoglio, was the archbishop of Buenos Aires and is now “returning” when he is Pope.
    Also troubling is that she left the Church around the same time that her parent’s marriage broke up. Somehow, I have to think that was more of a factor than she lets on.
    Reading the Vox article, I can see that she grew up with a totally different perspective of RCism than I did. And that is the bottom line question: What does it mean to be a Roman Catholic?

  • Our elected Prime Minister Tony Annott recently has been overthrown by a new leader, Malcolm Turnbull (you can do that in Australia). Abbott was Jesuit educated, as was our Treasurer. Both opposed SSM in office. Abbotts sister is openly gay. Even criticising her own brother in public interviews because he wouldnt change the marriage laws. Abbotts closest friend and confident was the then Cardinal Pell. Abbott is a good example of a strong Catholuc who held onto his Catholic values in both his public office and private life. This stemmed from his Jesuit education and his strong activism during his university days, where he strongly stood up to Liberal thinking. The media hated Abbott. Of course.

    Seems not all doom and gloom from the Jesuits.

    The Parish referred to in this ladies article sounds like a mess. So does she.

  • @T. Shaw -“The essential difference between leftists’ (in and out of the Church) social justice and Christ’s Charity (love of God first and neighbor) is that the former coercively/forcefully takes other people’s money, the latter assumes one freely gives of one’s earthly assets for the love of God and of one’s neighbor.”

    Precisely the point; Catholic Democrats are Democrats because of the U.S. Bishops’ adoption of Chicago’s Cardinal Bernardin’s “Seamless Garment” which the bishops renamed “A consistent ethic of life” after adding “social justice” issues to the word “pro-life.” Avid Democrat Catholics are fawn of saying “Their pro-life doesn’t end at birth.” They’re wrong. There is no “pro-life” extending forward after being born in “social justice” issues, just prudential judgments. There are no sins in “social justice” issues either. But, it a sin in thinking you’re morally superior to others because your are a Catholic Democrat.

    Where there are even more serious sins in Catholic teaching, on this subject, is in joining organizations like the Nazi Party or the Ku Klux Klan. They are mortal sins against the 5th Commandment. Yes, Mortal Sins for merely joining those organizations; and there are no conditions exonerating you from those sins. In other words, there is no forgiveness for those mortal sins unless you repent and remove yourself from those organizations and stop supporting them.

    Since it is a mortal sin against the 5th Commandment for JUST BEING A MEMBER of either of those organizations, because of their support and promotion of discriminating against people based on their race or religion, denying them their human rights, what do you think the sin is for joining an organization that supports and promotes the murder of innocent human beings, lives that Catholics say they believe are created by God? What do you think Jesus is going to do to those Catholics that remained in and supported that organization, giving it the electoral power to keep the murder of unborn babies legal for 42 + years, and costing the lives of over 58,000,000 babies?

  • I always had the opinion that the worship of a man, particularly
    a pagan commie community organizer and disciple of black
    liberation theology, is idolatry. She should contact the office of
    the President of Bolivia or the many leftist secret societies
    at the Vatican for assistance in obtaining a commie crucifix.

  • Matthew 21:13; “And he saith to them, it is written. My house shall be called the House of Prayer; but you have made it a den of thieves.”

    It could be argued that today instead of sacrificial doves or lambs, a portion of your integrity is offered up when lies are sold as Truth. When darkness is presented as light.

    The money changes are still within the Church, but they unfairly exchange solid teaching for acceptance of sorid behavior. These are our thieves of today. They are masquerading as Catholic politicians yet they are no different than the extortionists, cheating pilgrim’s as they walk into Church. Exchange my solid values at what cost? Tolerance? Acceptance? False Mercy?

    It’s only a matter of time and the disappointed Son of God will chase these thieves away too.
    He will flip their false notions about SSM and Abortion on demand, in their faces and cast them away from His house of prayer.
    Come Lord Jesus come, and restore your kingship to this Church you established.
    Make your House of Prayer worthy once again.

  • I have no ability, let alone interest, in examining her motives. But from the words she has written, she seems to see religion as a strictly immanent experience. Yes, she mentions beauty, but, it seems to be a faith entirely rooted in this life, this world.

    I hope she comes to the point where she decides to express a willingness to be taught on the doctrine she rejects as opposed to viewing herself as an agent of changing it.

    I also think her parents’ divorce affects her more than she lets on. It’s a lesson that you can preach doctrine all you like, but if you can’t or won’t live it, it won’t take root in your children.

  • I want to know the name of the Chicago archbishop who permitted Barack Obama to organize in Catholic churches.

  • Bishop Barnadine in Chicago I think was supportive of Obama.

First New England Nun

Thursday, September 5, AD 2013

Sister Fanny Allen



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.

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9 Responses to First New England Nun

  • Beautiful story!
    Thank you for the history lesson.

  • What Philip said. ” Beautiful story! Thank you for the history lesson.”

  • Another really cool story for me to share w/ my children. Thanks. Do you have a particular book you’d care to share on the nuns in early America?

  • (Don’s wife Cathy here) Pam, when our kids were younger, we read a lot of the Vision Books series together, including some volumes on nuns in North America. Three such titles which have been reprinted in paperback by Ignatius Press are Mother Seton and the Sisters of Charity, Katherine Drexel, Friend of the Neglected, and Mother Cabrini. Additional titles from the original series on North American nuns (not yet reprinted, but well worth seeking out at library book sales and on eBay) are “The Ursulines,” “Mother Barat’s Vineyard,” and “Margaret Bourgeoys, Pioneer Teacher”, all of which were read & enjoyed by us; there may be still more suitable titles from that series which we weren’t able to find. All of the above titles are children’s books (comparable in difficulty to Landmark Books), but quite informative. Hope this helps!

  • Thank you. I am (distantly, of course) related to Ethan Allen but I had never heard this story.

  • Cathy,
    Thank you for the article on Sr. Allen. You brought back many memories – reading The Ursulines took my mind off the pain of mumps in the late 1950s. Whenever I can find vintage Catholic readers I buy them. The stories in my mother’s Catholic 3rd grade reader were enjoyed by my brother and me and then by my sons. If it is still being printed The Catholic Hearth from MN had some nice short stories and lives of the saints. After reading your reply to Pam, I unearthed Lydia Longley, The First American Nun. I bought it at a church book sale a few years ago and it is indeed a Vision book circa 1958. Guess I am stocking up should I ever be a grandmother or return to teaching CCD.

  • “Thank you. I am (distantly, of course) related to Ethan Allen but I had never heard this story.”

    He was truly one of the most colorful characters of the Revolution and thus far no biography has done him justice in my opinion.

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Michael Coren: Why Catholics Are Right

Wednesday, May 15, AD 2013

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:

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William S. Rosecrans: Crusader for the Union

Sunday, December 30, AD 2012

General William S. Rosecrans


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.

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John Wayne-Cardiac Catholic

Thursday, June 14, AD 2012

(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.

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25 Responses to John Wayne-Cardiac Catholic

  • Remarkably, three decades after his demise, he still routinely appears among the top ten favorite actors in polls.

    Dude, he’s the Duke!

    Our little Duchess is named partly in his honor, and both her parents are dang kids; I dearly hope that he fully embraced the Church at the end, and that my father will follow in his footsteps. (My dear dad’s sins are too few and private for me to know– my mom’s, I know because I share in them. Gunpowder temper and all.)

    Curse it, now I’m going to have to ask Marion Morrison to pray for my daughter, just on the off chance that he’s there and interested. I dearly hope he doesn’t get a chance to prove he’s a saint from my family!

  • “Dead as a beaver hat”
    Oh how I hope I can remember that line in daily conversation. (Never heard it before).

    Perhaps I can file it with one of my Dad’s favorites: “Hot as a $2 pistol”.

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  • Matthew Muñoz, a priest in the Diocese of Orange County California is John Wayne’s grandson. (Father Matthew Munoz Talks About The Conversion of His Grandfather: John Wayne, Published Wednesday, October 5, 2011 A.D. | By Donald R. McClarey )

  • “Don’t apologize – it’s a sign of weakness.” Nathan Brittles, Captain, United States Cavalry, Retired – She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949)

    If you must have an example of manhood, you could do a hell of a lot worse than John Wayne (RIP).

    ” . . . and somebody oughta belt you in the mouth. But I won’t. I won’t. The hell I won’t!” – McLintock (1963)

  • Yes – The DUKE.
    Man, he was always impressive – almost larger than the screen in all his films.
    I just liked the rugged, manliness that he portrayed.

    Remainder edited by Donald R. McClarey (I would appreciate the humor of the joke you told in the remainder of the comment in other venues Don, but I decided that for TAC I couldn’t let it through, mild as it might seem on other forums.)

  • It’s nice to hear of deathbed conversions. I hope to make my own someday despite clinging to my agnostic notions. Unlike Wayne, I’m a cradle Catholic and have since strayed from the vineyards. As an actor, Duke made some decent films with with glaring exception — The Green Berets, a blatant piece of Hollywood propaganda designed to quell critics of Vietnam.

    In real life as opposed to reel life, Wayne obtained 3-A status, deferred for dependency reasons — hiding behind the skirt of his wife. Wayne was like like Bush, Chaney and all the other chicken hawks who had connections and skipped service. Cheney said Nam wasn’t in his career path. Dan Quayle golfed through the ’60s and early ’70s and there were other neocons who beat the war drums and sent kids overseas to die while they stayed home and brayed about patriotism, honor, courage, freedom, yada, yada.

    If Duke’s in heaven, that’s fine. Not for me to judge. But let’s set the record straight about what sort of human being he was.

  • “The Green Berets, a blatant piece of Hollywood propaganda designed to quell critics of Vietnam.”

    Nope it was all John Wayne propaganda. He firmly believed in the mission in Vietnam and toured combat bases twice, coming under enemy fire. Hollywood was mostly firmly on the Left by the time of Vietnam.

    As for Wayne and World War II, he was already getting pretty long in the tooth by World War II. At the time of Pearl Harbor he was 34 with four kids. With his bad eyesight, and a football injury that he incurred in college and which curtailed his athletic career, he had zero chance of getting into a combat unit and probably near zero of even being shipped over seas. He did volunteer to serve with John Ford’s film unit with the OSS in the Pacific during the War but nothing ever came of it.

    John Wayne helped save the Marines after World War II. Go here to read the post:


  • Thanks, Don, for sharing the link. I did not mean to be so harsh on ol’ Duke. He did some good things but The Green Berets was a terrible movie in so many ways. For starters it was shot in Georgia and the typography was all wrong. For another, the cardboard characters were irksome and, yes, Wayne was too fat and old for the part. Former fugitive David Janssen, cast as the lefty journalist, was wasted and cliches abound including the hackneyed WWII veteran, the guitar-strumming Jim Hutton, the brave commander, the tough-as-nails with heart-of-gold field grunt, the submissive natives, ad nauseum. It was all so gung-ho, complete with a “fight song.” Other war movies including The Dirty Dozen were ridiculous but at least entertaining. TGB is not one of them.

  • Oh, I agree with you on the Green Berets Joe. Although I agree with its politics, it was a dreadful film, the worst film Wayne ever made, except for The Conqueror. In regard to the Dirty Dozen, a film I greatly admire, Wayne was up for the starring role but rejected it.

  • Yep, Don. The Dirty Dozen is a guy’s movie no doubt and well done. I didn’t much care for Lee Marvin and Charles Bronson torching all the Krauts in the basement, including the gals, but otherwise enjoyed it. Ernie Borgnine is one of my favorite actors along with Telly Savalas who nailed the role. Kojak was a great TV series. “Who loves ya, baby?”

  • Telly Savalas was great as the aptly named Maggot:

  • Despite their flawed personal lives, I regret that “The Duke” and the “Chairman of the Board” are not alive today . I can only imagine what they would be doing and saying about what is being done to America.

  • That’s fine Don.
    After I had hit the “Post Comment” button, I had second thoughts – but, alas, too late. 🙁

  • I roared with laughter when I read it Don! After I recovered I decided that even though it was funny I couldn’t allow it to go through on TAC. Truly funny and bad taste often walk hand in hand! 🙂

  • Joe Green God bless you. You are an interesting person! You say, “..deathbed conversions. I hope to make my own someday despite clinging to my agnostic notions.” Then you go on to talk about other people being chicken hawks.
    I don’t mean to be disrespectful to you, but do you see irony there?

    You HOPE to have a conversion? go ahead and have it– it’s your choice. Dancing around the issue, not making a commitment though your heart is there, your hope is there, does not preserve your freedom but limits your freedom

    It seems we are infatuated with doubt these days. We struggle with idea of accepting that whatever the Church teaches us is true. ( reference post by LarryD) We dither we dance… playing with opposing ideas as possibilites and are unable to claim one as the truth.

    During B16’s visit to this country, I heard a “man on the street” interview in which the man said that he didn’t buy into any religion because religion puts you “in a box”. He was apparently afraid he would have to restrict his thinking if he became Catholic.

    Of course even the most free of the so-called free thinkers, are “in a box” of their own paradigms.
    I wonder if you have already read John Henry Newman Discourse 11, (esp around 220 TO 222) Anyway come on in, the water is fine.

  • Truly funny and bad taste often walk hand in hand!

    That’s us South Pacific, spade weilding, earthy Colonials for you 😉

  • So Grandpa Folger [Yep, real name.] is sitting in a bar in the Beverley Wilshire somewhere in the 1950s and a tall handsome guy sits down next to him and orders a drink. He strikes-up a conversations with Grandpa and then challenges him to flip for the next round. Grandpa wins.

    Guy says the LA Dodger at the plate on the bar tele is no good and gonna strike-out, Grandpa says he’s due and the batter pops one into the outfield. Finally, in exasperation the guy bets Grandpa dinner the Dodgers will lose and they win.

    Step-Grandma walks in from a day with the girls, kisses Grandpa and as he turns to introduce their dinner partner she nearly faints. Yep, John Wayne.

    Wayne dropped anchor in Grandpa’s cove on Vancouver Island many summers thereafter just to enjoy his company. When he was dying of cancer in the early 1970s he sent him a card, I still have: “Folger, get well again soon so we can flip for drinks – Duke”

    Why did Wayne like Grandpa so much? Because he had no idea who Wayne was. Grandpa never watched movies! He liked John Wayne just for himself and couldn’t imagine another side to him.

    Grandpa was also a devout Roman Catholic, attending daily Holy Mass, although he couldn’t receive Holy Communion since he was divorced from Grandma. I wonder what affect his quiet, manly Catholicity had on John Wayne’s conversion?

  • @anzlyne. First to admit I am the misanthrope among you. There’s a character in Sinclair Lewis’ “Elmer Gantry” who says he was “saved” seven times. Yes, I am the doubter, putting St. Thomas to shame, struggling daily to find the peace that Jesus promises to each of us. But it just doesn’t come no matter how hard I pray. In my dreams I am always traveling, seeking and never finding.

    Have you read Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia? There’s a character in The Silver Chair, called Puddleglum. He’s a Marshwiggle, temperamentally disposed to thinking that the worst will probably happen. That’s me. Maybe there are saints in heaven as curmudgeonly as me? Who knows?

  • Joe Green
    “But it just doesn’t come no matter how hard I pray”

    I think it becomes a matter of your will to accept. There is a peace in acceptance.

    For me there is also some enjoyment in the ongoing discussion with God that still continues. I believe Lord help my unbelief…with all my what ifs and yeahbuts and whatabouts

  • Joe I wasn’t careful in my post.I did not mean to say “YOUR will to accept” specific to you– but including myself and all others too I should have said “one’s will to” or “my will to..”

  • I am embarrassed that I have not read the Chronicles of Narnia– but I do remember Arlo Guthrie talking about The Last Guy ( as in the poor guy who is at the end of the list of ;there is always somebody worse off than you;…) you are prob not the Last Guy in curmudgianity

  • “Curmudgianity” — love the coinage, Anz.

  • I think I am a believer, but I keep sinning . . . The friars at St. Francis of Assisi on 32nd Street have heard it all. Every time I need to be humble and pick myself up and try to do better.

    Jesus tells us to lay down our heavy worldly (fleeting) burdens and take up his yoke which is light: to love God with all your heart and with all your might and to love others as yourself. Then, take up your cross (whatever you need to do to be saved) and follow Him.

    There is the 100% likelihood that we will die. We need to increase our odds of being saved. We can’t do that without God’s grace.

    Obviously, I don’t read much.

    I (imperfectly) remember my 1950’s Baltimore Catechism. God made me to know Him, to love Him and to serve Him so that I may be happy with Him forever in Heaven.

    Jesus tells me my Faith must be like that of a little child.

  • ‘ We also have this line from John Wayne as Davy Crockett: “It was like I was empty. Well, I’m not empty anymore. That’s what’s important, to feel useful in this old world, to hit a lick against what’s wrong for what’s right even though you get walloped for saying that word. Now I may sound like a Bible beater yelling up a revival at a river crossing camp meeting, but that don’t change the truth none. There’s right and there’s wrong. You got to do one or the other. You do the one and you’re living. You do the other and you may be walking around, but you’re dead as a beaver hat.” ‘

    Have been noticing the smiles and eyes on the faces I see and have been connecting them to either true, warm, living, good and right or false, cold, dead, bad and wrong. John Wayne was a man, with a powerful smile even when he was wasn’t just actively ‘smiling’. The Grace of God shows through.

Catholic Converts

Wednesday, September 21, AD 2011

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:

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22 Responses to Catholic Converts

  • Is Herbert Kappler the bad guy in The Scarlet and the Black movie? An online resource uses a different name of the person the story is based on.

    Anyway, it’s fun to see the Paterfamilias in The Sound of Music play such a sinister character; that alone makes it worth seeing The Scarlet and the Black. Well, anything with Gregory Peck is good, too.

  • Don, it would be interesting to see a list of cradle Catholics who either converted to other religions or, like me, just fell away. Probably wouldn’t have enough bandwidth though. : )

  • Of course I was thinking of John Wayne and Bob Hope…

  • Joe I fell away mysefl too. I thank the Lord that He brought me back (Hound of Heaven for sure). I love my faith and would be crushed if I couldn’t do a somewhat simple thing like receive the eucharist – that I took for granted as young man – more tragic never was really taugh nor understood the meaning of it at all. Something worth living for…

  • “Probably wouldn’t have enough bandwidth though. : )”

    I am sure it would be vastly exceeded Joe by the number of fallen away Catholics who with their last thoughts embrace in death the Faith they denied in life.

  • A couple more surprises:

    Christopher Dawson, the great historian, and the “Sage of Mecosta,” Russell Kirk.

  • St. Edmund Campion, S.J. , Priest and Martyr
    St. Margaret Clitherow, Martyr
    Blessed Niels Stetsen, Bishop
    Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman, C.O.
    Henry Edward Cardinal Manning
    Monsignor Ronald Knox
    Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson
    Fr. Basil Maturin – the first Catholic chaplain of Oxford University…died on the Lusitania after giving away his lifejacket
    Venerable Cornelia Connelly
    Mr. Evelyn Waugh
    G.K. Chesterton
    Mabel Tolkien – her sons John Ronald Reuel and Hilary came into the Church at the same time, when they were eight and seven, respectively …
    Queen Christina of Sweden
    King James II of England
    Novelist Muriel Spark (best known for “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie”)
    Judge Isaac Parker – he came into the Church on his deathbed. Charles Portis has his character Mattie Ross in the novel “True Grit” remark about Parker:

    “On his deathbed he asked for a priest and became a Catholic. That was his wife’s religion. It was his own business and none of mine. If you had sentenced one hundred and sixty men to death and seen around eighty of them swing, then maybe at the last minute you would feel the need of some stronger medicine than the Methodists could make. “

  • G. K. Chesterton was one among many British Anglicans who converted to Catholicism because of eccentric reasons. It’s been going on for a century now and the last one I can think of is Tony Blair. But these are anomolies. Resisting something in one place and wanting something else, they are drawn to Rome. Their reasons are pretty intellectual / ideological. They’re usually broadly philosophical.

  • Not only was Judge Issac Parker a deathbed convert, so was John Wayne, who played Rooster Cogburn in the original movie version of “True Grit”.

  • Kit Carson! Never knew.
    My maternal grandfather was a deathbed convert, thanks to the prayers and gentle persistence of his diligent spouse. May her prayers and gentle persistence from above continue to haul family members forcibly back to the faith.
    There is a very good film (Siódmy pokój, 1996) about St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross available. Maia Morgenstern portrays Edith Stein. Worth finding, and watching.

  • …..I have always stood somewhat in awe of converts.

    Indeed Don; I have always wondered, had I not been born a Catholic, would I have the courage to change my life – whatever it may be – to become Catholic? I have been on our parish R.C.I.A team since 1992 (when my mum retired from it) and with the exception of three years 1997 – 2000, have been there since, and have witnessed some amazing conversions. If you ever doubted the working of The Holy Spirit, then join your local RCIA team. From 17 year olds still going to school and coming without the knowledge of their Evangelical parents, to 82 year olds – one who died 6 months after entering the Church – I was one of his pall-bearers at his Reqiem Mass. Presently, a young woman (36) who came into the Church last year after a broken marriage and various protestant affiliations, and who openly wept on Holy Thursday night when her feet were washed at Mass, is now discerning a vocation to the religious life. She is extremely bright – during her candidacy, she was given a Catechism of the Catholic Church to browse through. She came back the next week having read it from cover to cover – and remembered most of it!! Now, from time to time I have converts from a number of years ago whom I don’t see at all, see me at Mass and come and chat, then realise I don’t remember them. I don’t feel good about that, but they understand – there must be well over a hundred now.

    Another notable convert is Leonard Cheshire (1917 – 1992)- Baron, Group Captain RAF, VC, OM, DSO & 2 Bars, DFC of the Dam Busters fame. Very interesting story –
    Converted in 1948.

    And how could I fail to mention
    Arthur Hamilton John Beckett 1912 – 2005 – my own dad, 🙂 who took lessons from a Fr.Michael Brown, now retired at this parish and Monseignor, brother to our bishop. Mum didn’t even know dad was taking lessons. I came down from Auckland where I was living in 1973 to his acceptance into the Church.

  • “If you ever doubted the working of The Holy Spirit, then join your local RCIA team. ”

    Sound advice Don!

  • I’ve been wanting to ask this question here and this seems like as good a post as any. My father was raised Catholic but never considered his faith. He has been asking me for books that explain (a) why Christianity and (b) why Catholicism. I was hoping someone here would have some good suggestions. I feel that he honestly wants to recommit to his faith and is looking for some intellectual guidance.

  • I would recommend Mere Christianity and The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis, and The Everlasting Man by G.K. Chesterton. I would also recommend Triumph, a history of the Catholic Church by H. W. Crocker, a convert from Anglicanism.

  • Thank you for the clarification. Funny how wikipedia contradicts itself in the Kappler article and the Scarlet and the Black article. Who edits that thing? Oh, yeah. . .

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  • Yes, beginning witht the Oxford Movement, Anglicans have occasionally converted to Rome. It’s ussually because of intellectual or ideological reasons. Reasons that have to do with philosphy and politics. Sometimes with society in general. Lewis never made that move. He seemed content with high chruch Anglicanism.

  • A surprise conversion I recently found was Mabel Walker Willebrandt. She was a lawyer and whipped up opposition to Al Smith because of his faith. She was responsible under Herbert Hoover for enforcing prohibition. In her later years she came into the Church. I wasn’t able to find (other than God’s graced) what brought her into the Church. I wonder if she and Al have met in eternity.

General Longstreet, Catholic Convert, Husband of “The Fighting Lady”

Wednesday, May 18, AD 2011

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.”

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7 Responses to General Longstreet, Catholic Convert, Husband of “The Fighting Lady”

The Tide Is Turning Toward Catholicism Because Nonsensical Believers & Non Believers Are Unwittingly Showing Many the Way

Wednesday, January 20, AD 2010

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.

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12 Responses to The Tide Is Turning Toward Catholicism Because Nonsensical Believers & Non Believers Are Unwittingly Showing Many the Way

  • Since when is pro-abortion Brown “the truth”?

  • Who said he was? I never mentioned his name in the article. However, when the people of Massachusetts (the only state who voted for George McGovern) can see the craziness of the left, you can rest assured that they are not alone.

  • “As evidenced by the stunning results in the Massachusetts special election seat vacated following the death of Senator Edward Kennedy, even in the most liberal of locales the public will eventually clamor for the truth.”

    You didn’t have to say his name to mention him — you most certainly mentioned him through that statement. Do not confuse “naming names” as the only way to mention someone. And from all you wrote here, “a pro-choicer” is now the right and the truth.

  • “You didn’t have to say his name to mention him — you most certainly mentioned him through that statement. Do not confuse “naming names” as the only way to mention someone. And from all you wrote here, “a pro-choicer” is now the right and the truth.”

    Hmm, I didn’t get that from this statement. In any case, one doesn’t have to be impeccable to demonstrate the principle that the mind of the people is changing. Brown is obviously not perfect, but I don’t think Dave is talking about his politics or theology so much as the change that his election represents.

  • The change the election represents I don’t think is exactly as Republicans are making it out to be; while some of it might be on Obama, and other aspects of it might be on health care, another aspect people have to remember is Coakley assumed the seat was hers and didn’t campaign properly. That, I think, is the lesson all sides might want to remember: don’t assume you are a sure-win and do nothing because of it. Nothing, however, to do with “truth.” Nothing in the results shows truth wins — since abortion does.

  • I agree with Henry.

    Brown did make the centerpiece of his campaign as a referendum on ObamaCare, though other factors such as Coakley’s poor campaigning certainly played a factor into it.

  • “I agree with Henry.”

    Tito, that’s the first sign of the apocalypse!

  • The truth that believing Catholics shouldn’t be barred from working in emergency rooms certainly won.

    Brown is quite problematic (and it’s not like I sent him money), but at least we are spared the spectacle of another Massachusetts Catholic baying for abortion in DC.

    I’ll take my silver linings where I can find them.

  • Dale

    So, what silver linings do you find for Obama? Can you find some?

  • I questioned authority relentlessly. Holy Mother Church had all the answers.
    Some retreat to the Church, others flee or are driven, some even backtrack, and many seem to crawl, but, always, the door is wide open.
    Inquisitive mind + Road To Damascus (TM) moment = conversion/re-conversion. Sweet.

  • Despite the badly-concealed sneer with which you pose your question, Henry, sure. Haitian relief, support for a limited range of renewable energy sources, uniting (briefly) the country after the Fort Hood terrorist massacre, helping a limited range of distressed homeowners and credit card and equal pay protection come quickly to mind.

    But, as you know, he’s been a pro-abortion stalwart–deceptively so–when it comes to the protection of human life and issues of conscience.

    Thus, my great relief that a putative sister in the Church–one who expressly finds the Catholic faith disqualifying from life-saving work–will not be able to work on a national stage to implement her bigotry, nor be able to lend her support to the most problematic parts of the President’s agenda.

    Your mileage evidently varies.

3 Responses to Bipartisan Hope

  • I don’t get the second one… is it an age joke? (Serious, here– the zombie one is easy, but I think I lack the background for the reincarnation one.)

    (FWIW, my favorite political zinger is the “I’m not part of any organized political party, I’m a Democrat!” from Will Rogers, although it seems to have flipped around a bit these days.)

  • The second one was a tribute to the electoral weakness of the Republicans under FDR. Shortly after FDR’s third election as President, in one of the Road pictures, Bob Hope and Bing Cosby are sentenced to jail. When Hope asks for how long he is told, “Until the Republicans get back into the White House!”, to which Hope shrieks, “Oh, no! Life!”.

  • Not to be doing, what people in our church sometimes do, playing the “hero” but

    “….but, above all, he was a comedian,”

    And perhaps above all in this vein, he was an American.