I have to say that I'm still reeling from the effects of what I learned about my new friend named Lou. You may believe that Lou isn't like you and me. And you would be right, because he's not, at least not in terms of casual appearances, talents, or abilities. He outclasses me in all of those categories by a mile. But underneath all the success, and political power, it turns out that Lou is just like you and me.
Lou was born into a Protestant Christian family, and then became a Catholic (just like me), all before he became the Premier of China (not like me). He then lost that post, but continued serving his country as a high-level diplomat. He met a beautiful Catholic girl from Belgium while on assignment in St. Petersburg. He fell in love and married her in the Church. You may be thinking that is why Lou became a Catholic, just for the sake of convenience.
Well, I don't know for sure, because I haven't read his autobiography yet, but I get the feeling that his conversion wasn't that simple. It wasn't that simple for me, I can tell you. I fell in love with a beautiful Catholic girl too, and got married in the Church just like Lou did. But I didn't become a Catholic until almost nineteen years later.
Neither one of us, though, were so utterly devoid of spirituality that we just said, "Oh, whatever, I'll just become a Catholic, no big deal." I've got to hand it to Lou, though. He came around to the idea of Catholicism way ahead of me. That he wound up renouncing the world, to become a Benedictine monk, speaks volumes too.
Lou was also able to discern early on that his Protestant roots, although necessary to his eventual conversion, were not enough to sustain him. And he was a smart cookie, my friend Lou. He was friends with John, too. John, you may recall, was a smart, accomplished, legal scholar, attorney, and jurist. He wrote the first draft of the constitution that would eventually pass muster as the law of the land for the Nationalist Chinese government. He translated the New Testament and the Psalms into Mandarin, whereas I can barely order anything in a Chinese restaurant without looking like a complete doofus.
It's another weekend now, and I've been reading Beyond East and West, which is John's autobiography. Guess what? He was a hell-raiser too. But he realized he had a big empty feeling inside, despite wealth and worldly success. He had a hole in his heart that Confucianism alone could not fill, nor Buddhism, or Methodism, for that matter.
John writes of a crazy, mixed-up world in China, which is something you may find surprising. Doesn’t the East hold out a promise of alluring tranquility? Describing himself he writes,
Intellectually, I wobbled between skepticism and animal faith; morally I was a full-fledged libertine. I sneered at what I could not understand; I gave rein to the wanton appetites of sense. A slave to the world, I made myself an apostle of liberty. A well with no water in it, a cloud driven before the storm, I thought myself a clever man.
Wow. After reading that statement, looking at the photograph below is a lot like looking into a mirror. Because despite all appearances to the contrary, John and I looked exactly alike. On the inside, anyway.
Frank Weathers is a Catholic convert, blogger, and retired Marine. This piece is reprinted with permission from Why I Am Catholic.