Going All The Way
© Third Millennium, LLC
By Deacon Keith Fournier Founder/ President Common Good
Read of a conversion story that led "all the way" to the Catholic Church.
Catholic Way -
I read the news with great joy. Senator Sam Brownback, Republican from Kansas, had come inot full communion with the Catholic Church. I have considered this Senator as one of the "greats" for years. He is currently leading the struggle to ban human cloning. I knew of his deep Christian faith and his search for "historic" Christianity.
I was not surprised to read that his hunger for a home in the Church had led him all the way home. I have spent many years working alongside of Christians from other confessions, communions and churches in the major human rights issue of our age, the protection of all human life from conception to natural death. I have watched many follow the same path to the Catholic Church. They often speak of it as "going all the way."
The first time I heard that expression was over two decades ago. The year was 1981. I had been practicing law for exactly one year when the senior partner of the law firm began a difficult domestic trial in his own personal life. How my heart broke as I watched him try to weather the pain and the fear alone.
He knew of my faith. Though I was new at the bar, and a Catholic Christian in a part of the country associated with the "Bible Belt" -where some Christians did not even believe that I was a Christian- I was known as "the rev." by some of the local legal community because of my openness about my faith. Though I was not ordained (back then) I took it as an honor.
I had clerked for this law firm throughout my last year of law school and grown close to this wonderful lawyer- who was also a wonderful man. Unfortunately, the two don't always go together. I had, in appropriate ways, shared my faith and my beliefs about Jesus Christ with him on several occasions. A this point all I could do was pray that the trial of the moment would lead him to the cross upon which he would find the One who understood and offered the redemptive way through the pain.
On a dark winter day, he called me into his office. "Keith" he said, "I have some news I wanted to share with you. I have started to pray again and I am going back to Church" Of course I was delighted! I expressed that joy to my friend.
I also told him that I would be there for him and quoted him a line from a wonderful popular book I had read. It was written by Corrie Ten Boom and entitled "The Hiding Place" In a poignant scene, a suffering Betsy is talking to her complaining sister Corrie. They are surrounded by the horrors of a German death camp. Corrie is complaining while Betsy is not. She tells her sister "there is no pit too deep that God isn't deeper still"
With the hint of a tear in his eye my lawyer friend told me that he understood and that with God's help, he saw the way out. At the end of the conversation I asked if I could pray with him. Upon his assent, we shared a brief, simple conversational prayer. As I rose to leave the room he said, "Keith, by the way, I'm going all the way." "What do you mean?" I inquired. "I am taking adult instruction to enter the Catholic Church" he responded.
I was surprised and delighted. Because he was raised a Baptist, I assumed that when he came home to the Lord he had known as a child, he would simply go back to the Church of his childhood. What unfolded that day, and over the months that ensued, was very different and delightful. I watched my friend come alive as he explored the beauty and the richness of Catholic Christianity. It was like watching a kid in a candy store.
Over the years I have watched the same journey in the lives of many. Each time it draws me even closer to the Lord and to the Catholic Church. After publishing my first full length book entitled "Evangelical Catholics" (though out of print--still controversial!) I watched my publisher and friend walk the same road. Interestingly, the publishing house he worked for was one of the pillars of the Evangelical Protestant world.
In the last two decades, especially with the extraordinary witness of Mother Theresa and John Paul II, I have seen the phenomenon increase almost exponentially. There is a common thread to all these stories. The pilgrims who walk this way all express a wonderful contentment when they come into full communion with the Catholic Church as though they had "come home"
I know that there are others who have journeyed another way. Raised in the Catholic Church, they have later life conversions in another Christian community. I know many Christians with this story and delight in their sincere love for our common Lord.
The journey to Catholic faith and full communion with the Catholic Church is deeply personal, usually rooted in a sincere search, and must never be coerced. Truth unfolds and contains it's own splendor.
The only unfortunate exceptions in my life have been my encounters with "former Catholics" who were unevangelized and/or poorly catechized. Some have unfortunately become enemies of the Church. However, their strident shrill rhetoric is barely heard these days above the growing crescendo of those who have come to see the integrity and stability of Catholic Christianity.
I kind of fall somewhere "in between." Though raised a Catholic, our faith grew cold as a family. Thus my teenage search for truth during the years of the "counter-culture" movement was tumultuous. I came back to faith in Jesus Christ, a faith I cherished as a Catholic child, through the witness of a Jewish friend who had come to faith in "Yeshua" while searching for his roots in Jerusalem, Israel.
My rediscovered Christian faith was deeply influenced by evangelical Protestants and led to a journey through a Pentecostal Bible College, the study of the early fathers of the Church and finally back "home" to the Catholic Church. It also led to a Benedictine Monastery and beyond. The journey had only begun and continues.
Over the years I have written of this journey in several books. The experience has given me a heart for authentic efforts at Christian cooperation and a wonderful friendship with some great Christian leaders across the confessional spectrum.I have been called "the catholic Guy" in many Protestant circles or "the evangelical Catholic" in others.
A priest friend of mine calls me a "revert". I never left the Catholic Church, but I journeyed back home. I am part of a growing community of Catholic "reverts" It seems that more contact me almost weekly.
I know the Catholic Church is far from perfect. However, I recall an experience i had with that same lawyer friend whom I wrote of as I began this article. We were attending a men's prayer breakfast together twenty years ago when he began his own journey.
One of the participants who sat at our table told us he was "between churches" and began to speak critically of various denominations. An old Pentecostal minister seated at the same table looked at him and said, "Son, when you find the perfect Church, don't join it--it won't be perfect anymore."
Over the years I have walked and worked with some very dynamic and dedicated evangelical and charismatic leaders in the Christian community. Privately many are expressing deep abiding admiration for John Paul II and for the Church over which he presides.
Many of my friends are long time participants in the great human rights movement of our age, the pro-life cause. This fight to restore legal protection to the unborn and prevent the advance of the encroaching culture of death by building a new culture of life, is, in their words, being led by the Catholic Church. That fact has "opened their eyes" they say.
Among a growing number of them something else is happening- at an even deeper level. They speak of it as a hunger or a longing. For some it is a passionate desire for the recovery of a personal and communal history.
For others, it is a deep attraction to the tradition, the sacramental life,the interior life and liturgical worship that is woven throughout the "incarnational" tapestry that is Catholic faith, worship and life.
For others it is expressed as a hunger for certainty, depth and stability in what they experience as a popular evangelical Christian culture that is at best shallow and at worst weird.
One, who will remain unnamed out of respect for his journey, simply wants to come "home" he says and he "can't wait much longer" His fear is that he will lose his standing and support in the full time ministry in which he is engaged.
Well, I look forward to welcoming my fellow pilgrims' home. I believe that the Third Millennium is a millennium of the Church. She is undergoing a wonderful reform and renewal that is already leading to an "epiphany"
The Catholic faith is magnetic and the Catholic Church does not impose, she proposes. Should these pilgrims follow the path of my lawyer friend and "go all the way" there is plenty of room in the house. After all there is supposed to be only one house, with many rooms, and that house is the home of the whole human race.
As I grow older, the words of my lawyer friend continue to echo in my ear and resonate in my heart. Ironically, I am now working once again with my friend on a major labor law matter. I contacted him to assist with one of the clients of my firm. When we reconnected, it was as though we had picked up our friendship all over again, in spite of the over twenty year separation. His faith is fresh and new. He shared with great affection and love of the role that the Catholic faith has played in his life as a man, a husband and a lawyer. He is a wonderful example of Catholic faith and life. He went "all the way" and he wears it so well.
For some of the pilgrims who I now work with, I wish I could repeat that experience of twenty years ago in that law office in their presence. I wish that they could hear my friends' sincere voice of resolve saying, "I'm going all the way", see the look in his eyes and experience the determination in his heart.
I know they share the desire and are feeling the same inexplicable attraction to this ancient Church who, with warts and all, in the midst of a great time of purification and reform, is itself a sea of tranquility in the storms of a culture war and a firm anchor in increasingly troubled waters. Perhaps that kind of an experience would help them overcome their fear and take the next bold step in the life of discipleship.
Because for many, they will never be satisfied, until they come into full communion with the Catholic Church and repeat the words "I am going all the way". They hunger for the home that is the Catholic Church.
Rev. Mr. Keith A Fournier, the founder and president of "Common Good", is a constitutional lawyer and policy activist. Long active in political participation, Fournier was a founder of Catholic Alliance and served as its first President. He is a pro-life and pro-family lobbyist. He was the first Executive Director of the ACLJ (American Center for Law and Justice). He is the founder of "Liberty, Life and Family" and served as "Thomas More Fellow" in Law and Public Policy. He served as an advisor to the presidential campaign of Steve Forbes. Fournier holds a Bachelors degree (B.A.) from Franciscan University of Steubenville in Philosophy and Theology, a Masters Degree (M.T.S.) in Sacred Theology from the John Paul II Institute of the Lateran University, a Juris Doctor (J.D.) from the University of Pittsburgh and an Honorary Doctor of Laws (L.L.D.) from St. Thomas University. Fournier is the author of seven books on issues concerning life, faith, evangelization, ecumenism, family, political participation, public policy and cultural issues.
http://www.commongoodonline.com VA, US
Deacon Keith Fournier - President/Founder, 757 546-9580
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