Skip to comments.Joe Sobran: My Two Conversions [Great for Easter!]
Posted on 03/31/2002 8:38:59 AM PST by Diago
My Two Conversions
by Joseph Sobran
When I was 14, I fell in love with someone I have never ceased to love. She is the Catholic Church.
I became a Catholic, being baptized the following year. My parents, both lapsed Catholics, hadnt had me baptized or raised as a Catholic. I couldnt understand why they had abandoned something so beautiful and soul-satisfying.
To this day, when I hear people attacking the Catholic Church, I want to say: "But you dont really know her!" The more bigoted they seem, the more I pity them. They are blind to the most beautiful thing in this world. I pity them in just the way I pity a man who has never known what it is to see color or to hear music.
This is my reaction to some of the latest attacks on the Church over the terrible scandal of pedophile priests. The betrayal of boys by priests is bad enough if you dont believe the Church is especially holy. Its infinitely worse if you believe she is.
There is a certain sort of anti-Catholic mind that has nothing against Catholics as people, but is always looking for reasons to despise the Church. It sums up two millennia of Catholic history in the Crusades, the Inquisition, fornicating popes, and the "silence" of Pius XII, and now has perverted priests to gloat over. It isnt interested in the normal internal daily life of the Church during those 2,000 years, either as spiritual experience or in secular manifestations.
Yet its that normal Catholic life that has always fascinated me: the daily sacrifice of the mass, the Irish immigrants working long hours to send their large broods to Catholic schools, the nuns who spend their lives running those schools or working in hospitals, a thousand things like that. They dont make for newspaper stories, and they are ignored by people who equate news especially scandals with history. But they are the fabric of Catholic experience.
Long before there were newspapers, radios, and television sets, the Church had her own "media" to spread the Good News. These were called martyrs. Beginning with people who had personally known Christ and the Apostles, they were so convinced of the Resurrection that they gratefully endured hideous tortures crucifixion, burning, blinding, castration, and being fed to wild animals to bear witness to their faith.
The Resurrection wasnt recorded on film, and the fact that a man in Rome a century later allows himself to be blinded with a red-hot poker rather than deny it doesnt prove logically that it really happened. But when many thousands of people choose torture they could easily avoid rather than renounce their faith, you have to wonder whether there wasnt some remarkable event behind it after all. At any rate, these were among the most believable witnesses who ever lived ("martyr" means "witness"), and within a couple of centuries they converted millions of others.
Any philosophy student would point out that their conclusion was a non sequitur. Any lawyer would point out that their evidence was sheer hearsay. But such objections run up against a conviction so deep that those who held it were willing to die in utmost agony to affirm it. That proved more impressive than any refutation.
The Church was indirectly supported by the negative witness of the furious hatred she inspired. From ancient Palestine to contemporary China, men in power have opposed Christianity just as Christ predicted not with mere doubt and indifference, but with violent persecution. Even when the Church was still a tiny sect, her power was sensed and feared, as if something in the unbelievers themselves was trying desperately not to believe. They didnt trust her to die without their help, as error would.
But the persecution has always backfired. Even the weakest believers (like me) have drawn strength from the martyrs.
Not long after my first boyhood conversion, I lost my faith for many years. But the unbelievers helped convert me again. I saw how much the world still hated the Church, how it looked for excuses to discredit her. As long as she was alive, it saw her as a threat, even though she had no secular power. This puzzled me, because even when I thought I no longer believed in her, I still loved her.
But eventually I realized that my fellow unbelievers were right: she was a threat, all right a threat to unbelief. Denying her truth was a futile effort, and I came back.
March 30, 2002
Joe Sobran [send him mail] is a nationally syndicated columnist. He also edits SOBRAN'S, a monthly newsletter of his essays and columns.
He invites you to try his new collection of aphorisms, "Anything Called a 'Program' Is Unconstitutional: Confessions of a Reactionary Utopian." You can get a free copy by subscribing or renewing your subscription to Sobran's. Just call 800-513-5053, or see his website, www.sobran.com. (He's still available for speaking engagements too.)
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HE IS RISEN!!
Beware, the communists are still trying to abolish the Catholic Church.
Sobran: But the unbelievers helped convert me again.
How often I have heard this in the last twenty years. Although now I hear converts telling me that they came to the Church not because of the atheistic unbelievers, but because Islam has been exposed to them as a religion of hate, misery, and broken promises and the New Age has no answers for anyone, especially after 9/11. And within the last twelve years, I hear people telling me that they were converted because they felt Jesus calling to them from the Church, from the Tabernacle. So many awesome stories from throughout north Africa.
Alleluia. Alleluia. Alleluia. Indeed He is risen! Alleluia.
EODGUY who is very proud to be Catholic!
It's the fate of many Catholics, including many of the great saints, that they have suffered just as much from the Church as for her. Suffering, persecution, and all such injustice are great clarifiers of thought, reminding us that our loyalty is not to men but to the Body of Christ.