An Easter story: one man’s return to the Catholic Church

From the Forum in Fargo, North Dakota:

Timothy Murphy experienced a dramatic turnaround at the last minute.

A friend from Yale who hadn’t been in touch since graduation looked him up after envisioning a suicide attempt; the phone in Murphy’s Fargo home rang just as the local retired farmer, hunting enthusiast and poet loaded his double-barreled shotgun.

Instead of ending his life, a two-hour conversation led him to relinquish the gun.

The life-changing incident nine years ago really only constitutes the first stanza of Murphy’s conversion story. What happened after the phone call – the agonizing year that followed and the climactic moment that brought a spiritual rebirth – is where his true transformation began.

A year to the day from the fateful call, a second sign came to convince a former skeptic that God is real.

Born in Hibbing, Minn., Murphy came to Moorhead with his family as an infant. The oldest of six children, he was active as an altar boy at St. Joseph Catholic Church.

Leaving the church his junior year of college wasn’t difficult, he said. As a homosexual, he’d felt alienated for some time.

His entire family – mother, father and siblings – drifted away, as well.

At 22, Murphy met his longtime literary partner, Alan Sullivan, then 24, and the two joined forces as poet and editor/translator. Together, they pursued everything from Tibetan meditation and Zen Buddhism to Daoism and Confucianism.

“We were spiritual seekers, but we never looked to the Catholic Church because of their position on gays.”

After his conversion, Murphy became what he calls “a nut-job, evangelistic Catholic revert.”

It was a spiritual change his partner would later share, for similar reasons.

Though his physical life was spared March 4, 2004, inside, Murphy was a mess.

He’d just lost a huge sum of money on a business venture gone bad and “was drinking harder” than ever.

One day, he read an email from the same friend who’d pulled him from the brink – a former atheist who’d once convinced Murphy to join him but now was trying to convert him back to Christianity.

“I was responding in my usual defensive fashion when – bam! – I was blown out of my chair.”

Read what happened next. 

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