I am delighted to announce that I have a new article in the latest issue of Evangelization and Culture (vol. 18), published by Word on Fire. Entitled “Re-Version,” it is one of several pieces on coversion and Catholicism that appears in the issue. My article is a brief reflection on my return to the Catholic Church and the factors that drew back to the Barque of Peter. Here’s how it begins:
Reverts to the Catholic Church are an unusual breed. Unlike the typical convert—who often views the present Church as the pristine custodian of an ancient faith misrepresented or misunderstood by the group from which he or she has fled—we reverts walk past the sacristy and into the sanctuary with eyes wide open. We not only see the holiness of the Church’s saints, the beauty of its liturgy, the subtle sophistication of its theology, the wisdom of how its greatest minds have understood the relationship between faith and reason, the ancient pedigree of its Magisterium, and the wonders of its sacramental life; we see the dents and the dings as well. But at some point in our journeys, we came to the realization that the Church’s authenticity as a whole does not depend on the perfection of all its finite parts, that one of the most striking indicators of its divine mission is that it has survived and flourished, leaving an indelible mark of grace on every cultural institution that has been touched by the Gospel, despite the shortcomings of some of the Church’s members. We see the great cloud of witnesses, even on a cloudy day.
We, of course, left for a reason. In some cases, the reason was identifiable: there was something about the Church—or at least the diocese or parish in which we grew up—that made it seem as if any one of many alternative creeds or practices were more attractive than what the Church had to offer. In other cases, the reason was more elusive, akin to that state of mind mentioned in Bob Dylan’s lyric: “I can’t even remember what it was I came here to get away from.”
In my case, it happened in late 1973 right around the time of my thirteenth birthday, when I was drawn to the world of Evangelical Protestantism by way of a Jesus People church in downtown Las Vegas. Just six years earlier my parents had moved to southern Nevada from my birthplace of Brooklyn, New York. The church, called Maranatha House, was a nondenominational community founded by ex-hippies who had come out of the counterculture to follow Jesus. It was very much like the portrayal of the early days of Calvary Chapel in the 2023 movie Jesus Revolution. The church’s services consisted almost entirely of contemporary praise music, petitionary and contemplative prayer, and sermons that emphasized the exposition of Scripture and its practical application. Although I was deeply moved by these services, I gravitated to Maranatha’s tape and book library. It was there where I was in my element, where I could find authors and speakers who seemed to provide answers to an array of theological questions that pestered my young and inquisitive mind. These questions primarily concerned the reasonableness of Christian doctrine, the authority and reliability of Scripture, the historicity of Christ’s Resurrection, and how one ought to follow Jesus. Both head and heart were drawn to the person of Christ in the New Testament, which I had never read with any seriousness until I began going to Maranatha House. To be sure, I was seeking answers, but my journey was not merely an intellectual exercise. I was also seeking rest and consolation.