Now I wonder whether I may have had any hand in this…In 1995, while living in England, my first book was published. It was a collection of conversion stories called The Path to Rome.
At the time I worked for the St Barnabas Society–an English charity that helps convert clergy–It was my job along with three other fellows to visit Catholic parishes on the weekend in order to drum up support for the charity. At these speaking engagements we often had my book of conversion stories available after Mass.
My colleague Cyprian Blamires was in a parish one weekend and England being the small place that it is, saw one of the members of Tony Blair’s cabinet at Mass. The fellow was a well known Catholic. At one of my appeals in Birmingham I met to Claire Short–another Blair cabinet member at the time.
Well, Cyprian had the presence of mind to present a copy of The Path to Rome to the cabinet minister with the suggestion that the Prime Minister and his wife might find it helpful as even then there was talk of Tony Blair converting. The minister took the book and promised to hand it, in person, to the Blairs.
Did The Path to Rome ever find its way to the Blair’s bedside table? Did Tony Blair ever find himself unable to sleep and think, “I say, that book by Longenecker looks just the thing to help me drop off…”? Did he pick up the book and read the conversion stories? Did they make sense? Did they help him at all? Were they part of his own long process of conversion?