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.
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 ...
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