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Archive for the ‘12 Converts’ Category

Complete Sharing – John Mann’s Faith Journey

In 12 Converts on 2016/06/17 at 12:00 AM

My name is John Mann and I converted to Catholicism around ten years ago from being a Southern Baptist for 40 years. I was rooted pretty solidly in my Baptist faith and it created a bit of a division in my marriage to my wife Maggie because she grew up Catholic. Neither she nor I were going to convert to the other one’s religion so we went to separate churches for years and it wasn’t good for our marriage.

I had several problems when it came to Catholicism and much of it stemmed from Baptist ministers who told me things like: They pray to statues and to Mary, yet Jesus said the only way to the Father was through him. They don’t read the Bible. They think the bread is the actual body of Christ. Their Masses are ritualistic, almost cultish and they think they have to work their way to heaven. There were other derogatory things said as well. One thing I could never figure out is why my preachers were saying such negative things about a church I knew nothing about. I lived in the mid-west and in farming country so I’d never seen a Catholic church. They would have been better off focusing the message on what the congregation needed to improve their walk with Christ.

So these things negatively affected my attitude towards the Catholic Church and it made my experience, when I did join Maggie for Mass, uncomfortable. I didn’t understand the Mass and only enjoyed it when I heard the scriptures and the priest’s homily. Because of this, I told Maggie not to get her hopes up because there was no way I’d ever convert.

Enter Scott Hahn. Maggie knows that I love learning and take on about every subject I can get my hands on (i.e. algorithms, cyborg anthropology, economics, history, space technology, etc.). So she slipped in the audio version of “Rome Sweet Home” into my car’s CD player. For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, Scott provides his story of why he and his wife Kimberly converted to Catholicism. I was bored while driving one day and figured I’d at least learn more about the Catholic Church and give Maggie a hard time about why she’s wrong. I listened to the CD for around 30 minutes when it hit me that this man was one of the brightest I’d ever heard. Before I knew it, I had listened to his entire story.

What really did it for me when it comes to why I jumped into RCIA (which was great and we had a Baptist Minister in our class), was that a brilliant man explained to me how he overcame some of the issues I also had with the Church. If he was convinced to convert, there was absolutely no reason why I shouldn’t because I had far less understanding than this religious guru. It reminds me of how Maggie and I handle things now when it comes to directives from the Vatican. There are things we don’t understand and that go against our grain; but even though this happens, we accept their direction because we figure they know way more than we do, so we just need to jump on board in support.

Let me wrap up with “I love being a Catholic!” Those things I thought were bad about the Church before I converted are now those things that have deepened my faith. Mass is so special to me because it invokes all of my senses, not just my eyes and ears as I experienced as a Protestant. I love participating in the various activities (St. Matthew has a ton of them) like Bible study. When I walk into the room, it glows with the love of Christ that is on everyone’s face. Come by and see it sometime; you’ll want to wear sunglasses! I don’t know of any other way to put it; St. Matthew Catholic Church is on fire and I feel so blessed to be a part of it. By the way, boy is it better when a husband and wife share the same faith. I can’t express it in words!

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The Faith Journey of Paul Mitchell

In 12 Converts on 2016/02/19 at 12:00 AM

Most converts to The Holy Roman Catholic Church come through a logical, methodical and cerebral understanding of where they are and then where they want to be.  I, as a right brain, stubborn, hard headed engineer, HAD to do it differently.  I had to find out the stove was hot, THE  HARD WAY.

My spiritual venture started as a Southern Baptist, in the mountains of North Carolina, AND  very anti-Catholic.   Not only did I believe that Catholics worshiped statues and Mary, and had to obey everything the Pope and priests said, but also that Catholics started the Civil War and were not Christian.

I was raised in the 1940’s and 1950’s and greatly influenced by the 1960’s.  It was a time of Dale Carnegie (Act enthusiastic and be enthusiastic) and Napoleon Hill (You are what you want to be) and the mantra of “self-actualization”.  I was a ‘true’ believer that the sky was the limit and wealth and power were closely within my reach.  The gold ring was mine, and all I had to do was reach a little more and I would have the platinum ring.

One day, in early 1993, it ALL came tumbling down.  My mother had died December 1992, the business I started took a financial disaster, my health was deteriorating (I thought I was having a heart attack), debt was rampant, and I could see no encouraging future. Fortunately, as an engineer, I was always looking at issues numerically (No. 1 through 101).  So, I made a list of all that was going badly.  The list was long.  Then I forced myself to make a list of anything going well.  The list was short:  wife, kids, and family and they were fine.  Suddenly, I realized that it was primarily because of THE CHURCH,  the faith with which my wife Gerry was raised.

I realized I had better get my act together and be more focused on what Our Heavenly Father wants us to do.  So, I rushed into the office of St. Peter and Paul and asked to speak with Father Morris.  He came right away, and I blurted out “I need to get my act together and focus more on the Church!”  He was most understanding, gentle and patient.

Gerry, who had continuously demonstrated the love of Christ, and I received the Eucharist together for the first time on Monday, June 13, 1994.

Life is not without problems and issues but, through prayer and participation in my local parish, I have less needless anxiety.

My new avocation is to make apparent anti-Catholic behavior, and to witness that such behavior is not necessary, whether it comes from jokes, stories, TV, radio, magazines, books or even homilies.

Since June 13,1994, I have been enjoying the academic (and sometimes cerebral) pursuit of my ‘new found’ faith.  For example,  ten years ago, while reading about the lives of the Saints of the Church, I discovered that  June 12, 1994, the day I was received by Father Morris into the Church founded by Christ, the Responsorial Psalm was from Psalms 92:
“They will still bear fruit in old age.”  The next day when Gerry and I received the Eucharist together for the first time (6-13-1994) at the 7:00 am Mass,  that day was the Memorial Mass for Priest and Doctor of the Church,  St. Anthony of Padua.    St. Anthony of Padua is the patron saint for American Indians (my Eastern Band of Cherokee heritage), sailors (I love to sail), shipwrecks (I was one) AND (appropriately) asses.

The Responsorial Psalm for 6-13-1994 was from Psalm 5:  “The arrogant cannot stand before you.”

So now, through God’s grace,  I have the emotional ability and am continuing to develop the intellectual confidence to affirm:

“Glory be to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  As it was in the beginning, is now and will be forever.  Amen.”

I have now ‘staked’ my soul upon this statement.

The Road Is Not Always Smooth; Mary Paul Forsyth’s Faith Journey

In 12 Converts on 2016/01/29 at 12:00 AM

I was raised in the Methodist Church.  We attended church regularly including Sunday School and when I was old enough, youth group.  I didn’t go to church very often as a college student or young adult.  However, I was married in the Methodist church.  I was attending an Episcopal church (after my separation from my husband and while I was awaiting our divorce) when I was dating my husband who is a cradle Catholic.

My husband was not interested in changing his religious affiliation, although at the time, he was not truly practicing his Catholic faith (not going to Mass regularly). Since we were planning to get married, I decided that it would be smarter to have our family  worship together rather than going separate ways on Sundays.  I believed that all the Christian denominations were basically the same, so it didn’t matter to me one way
or the other.  My RCIA program didn’t convince me otherwise, sad to say. It just made it possible for me to receive communion.  That being said, I remember feeling very much at home during Mass. There was a  feeling of foundation in the worship and the liturgy. Looking back, I know there were many things “out of order” at the parish where I was confirmed, but the sense of being part of a faith community that was so clearly rooted in history and scripture was present in my heart very early, even before I began my RCIA classes.

I was annoyed over the annulment process.  It took two years and when it was finally completed I was relieved, but didn’t really understand what the point had been.  I felt like I had just irritated my ex-husband and created conflict that wasn’t already present.  Today, however, I believe that God used my husband to bring me into His Church!  It took 14 years after my confirmation before I realized I was part of something truly special and I am so grateful now for God’s grace in bringing me here. I will never forget the day I came to understand the reality of the Eucharist. Wow! How could I have been receiving communion all those years and not know that it was truly the body of Christ?

Now, I can’t imagine not being Catholic!  I can’t imagine not having access to the Eucharist.  I believe that my conversion is an important part of God’s plan for my husband, his family and others who have had the Church their whole lives and are lukewarm about it. There is nothing like a convert in the family to stir people up! I also believe that my becoming Catholic was part of God’s plan for my family since I’m the only
one! When my father died, I thought, “Wow, I’m the only one praying for his soul.” I knew then that I needed to be more diligent in praying for the souls of all my ancestors.  Who else would do it?  God is so good and so merciful.  My only regret is that I haven’t been able to bring my entire family into the Church!  No worries, though, I’ll keep working on that!

Importance of the Eucharist – Andrea Montgomery’s Faith Journey

In 12 Converts on 2016/01/22 at 12:00 AM

I was raised in sort of a mishmash of faiths. In my early years, my parents did not go to church, but I was baptized by a great uncle who was a pastor, of what denomination, I am not exactly sure. They also allowed our babysitter to take us on Sunday morning with her to a small town Free Will Baptist Church. That is where I “accepted Christ” when I was 7 years old. When my parents divorced around the same time, my mom started going to the Presbyterian Church with my grandma. So for the next several years, I went every other weekend to the Presbyterian Church and every other  weekend to the Free Will Baptist Church. We moved to Houston TX (from S. Illinois/SE Missouri) when I was 13 and I went by myself to a Southern Baptist turned non-denominational “community” church throughout high school. This is where I met my husband who had “accepted Christ” when he was a freshman in college. He was not raised in a faith other than going to church on holidays with his grandparents.

What made me convert to the Catholic faith?  The Holy Spirit, of course! (That’s the short answer.) Here is the longer answer.  When my husband and I got married, we were involved in a “church planting” that was an off-shoot of the church where we had met. We had been close with the youth pastor who was the head pastor of the new church, but after about a
year we had a big disagreement and were basically told “their way or the highway” by the pastor and his wife. We chose the highway. That was the beginning of us searching and finding Catholicism, although we had no idea at the time. We attended a Baptist mega church in Houston for a while where we felt like we could still practice our faith without the problems of the super small church environment. By some strange circumstance, there was a non-practicing Episcopalian priest teaching a Bible study at the Baptist church through which we became interested in the history and liturgy of more mainline denominations. We started visiting different denominations but not thinking of Catholicism. Then one day my husband was searching Amazon.com for books about the Episcopal church when he came across the title “Born Fundamentalist: Born Again Catholic” by David Currie. He bought it just out of curiosity because we had honestly never heard of anyone converting to Catholicism as an adult. Well, he read it and was thoroughly convinced and, as they say, the rest is history. I had a little more resistance to it at first, but eventually took the leap of faith. The understanding of the Eucharist was the most important factor. It came down to, either Jesus founded the Catholic Church with the fullness of faith which the gates of hell cannot prevail against and is truly present in the Eucharist, or Christianity is a false religion. If the Catholic Church is not true, then none of it is true.

I cannot imagine not being Catholic!

A Question Converts Answered

In 12 Converts on 2016/01/22 at 12:00 AM

In 1970 I saw a large triptych in Zurich, which had been painted on the wall of an old building.

Under each of the figures were the words you see under the pictures below of Martin Luther, John Calvin and Christ. All were dressed as priests holding up a host and a chalice.  Christ was in the center.  Under the three captions, the artist had written in large bold letters: WHO IS RIGHT?

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“This is like my body; this is like my blood.”

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“This is a symbol of my body; this is a symbol of my blood.”

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“This is my Body; this is my Blood.”

Jesus Christ did what no other person ever did or could: He left Himself behind for us in His greatest miracle of all, the Eucharist, made possible by His Redemption, made possible by His Incarnation, made possible by the Fiat the new Eve, made possible by I Am Who Am.

We find the words of Jesus, Himself bearing testimony to His Eternal Presence in the Eucharist, in these New Testament passages:

“I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me; and him who comes to me I will not cast out.  For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me; and this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up at the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that every one who sees the Son and believes in him should have eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”  John 6:35-40

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life.  Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died.  This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat of it and not die.  I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh.” John 6: 47-51

“For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for  you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 1 Cor. 11: 23-25

Fisher of Men

In 12 Converts on 2016/01/14 at 12:00 AM

By Mark Judge

Fr. C. John McCloskey recently returned home to Washington, D.C. to celebrate the 30th anniversary of his priesthood. A somewhat shy man, McCloskey has been responsible for many conversions to the Catholic Church, including Judge Robert Bork, Newt Gingrich, Lawrence Kudlow and Dr. Bernard Nathanson. (Before his conversion, Nathanson had been a NARAL founder and abortionist who was responsible for the deaths of thousands of babies.)

A few years ago, McCloskey was assigned by his order, Opus Dei, to Chicago. So he was only back for a visit. He has been missed. Many of us are still wondering what he is doing in Chicago.

Fr. C. John, as he is known by his many friends, is partly responsible for me being a somewhat free man. Although I had heard about him for years prior, I met Fr. McCloskey about ten years ago. I had just finished my book Damn Senators (2003), about my grandfather who was a baseball player for the Washington Senators. I had also reverted to Catholicism a few years before the book came out.

I came across Fr. McCloskey the way I suspect many people at the time did — by accidentally stumbling across the Catholic Information Center, where he was the director. The CIC is a book store and small chapel that sits between a bank and a fitness club on K street, about two blocks from the White House in one direction and the Washington Post in the other.

It’s easy to walk past it and not even know it’s there. K street is a clean, broad avenue where lobbyists work and where one tends to focus the eyes forward. Unless looking directly at the store — where a life sized cutout of Pope Benedict XVI greets visitors — it’s easy to miss.

When I first came into the CIC, I knew I had found the equivalent of the medieval monasteries where culture was preserved during the Dark Ages. The bookstore is filled with titles from Fr. McCloskey’s “Catholic Lifetime Reading Plan,” volumes of timeless wisdom from Teresa of Avila, Chesterton, and Dietrich von Hildebrand.

I walked into Fr. McCloskey’s office and introduced myself. Within minutes were talking like old friends and wondering how we had missed meeting each other growing up in D.C. The priest who baptized me? Fr. C. John had graduated with him at seminary. A famous actor who was making a movie about Jesus? Father had just talked to him. My grandfather was a baseball player? Baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn was a friend.

I began to read some of the books on Fr. McCloskey’s reading plan. The effect was intoxicating. Reading Chesterton, Dorothy Day, John Paul II and other brilliant theologians and philosophers, I began to understand the concept of what George Weigel calls “genuine freedom.” In the modern age, freedom has come to mean freedom to choose where you live, what you guy, who you marry, and what your philosophy about life is. But this kind of freedom can become a trap that actually decreases our freedom.

Freedom to be sexually promiscuous is not a real type of freedom. Neither is freedom to consume. Last year I bought a new imac computer and itouch, and within weeks I was getting emails from Apple telling me about the “next generation” imacs and ipods that were soon coming out. Being a slave to the next new gadget is not being free. Genuine freedom involves growing in virtue by making wise decisions based on faith, reason and conscience.

I also began to meet a lot of D.C. Catholics. Fr. C. John is one of the great networking facilitators of all time.

Pope John Paul II said it took him years to learn how to listen well. Fr. C. John often emphasizes the importance of simply listening. This no doubt is one of the primary reasons he has been responsible for so many conversions. At his 30th anniversary party, he told me that during a conversion he just waits and listens. God provides the grace.

This is not to suggest that Fr. C. John is a stoic. He is a wonderful conversationalist and has a strong will. My first book signing at the Catholic Information Center was in 2003, when my book Damn Senators came out. Fr. McCloskey introduced me, and I still remember the first thing he said: “The Catholic Information Center is a place of Catholic prayer and study and fellowship, and Damn Senators is a book about baseball. But I am the director here, so I dictate the policy.” It was said with a smile, and got a laugh.

I wrote earlier in this piece that Fr. McCloskey was responsible for me being a “partly” free man. As he knows, none of us are truly and fully free until our restless heart rest in God. But Fr. C. John has helped countless pilgrims make that journey to ultimate truth and love more compelling, rewarding — and fun!

Mark Judge is a columnist for RealClearReligion and author, most recently, of A Tremor of Bliss: Sex, Catholicism, and Rock ‘n’ Roll.

Reprinted with permission….©CatholiCity Service http://www.catholicity.com

Visions of Jesus appearing to Muslims?

In 12 Converts on 2015/12/18 at 12:00 AM
by MICHAEL CARL

Michael Carl is a veteran journalist with overseas military experience and experience as a political consultant. He also has two Master’s Degrees, is a bi-vocational pastor and lives with his family in the Northeast United States.

“Your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions,” asserts the promise of God from the book of Joel.

Yet some of those men reportedly seeing visions and dreams are neither Jews nor Christians … but Muslims.

What’s more, Middle East evangelists report the dreamers are coming to Christianity because of their visions of Jesus.

According to a CBN report, Christian Middle East evangelist Hazem Farraj’s television program “Reflections” is reaching a large Muslim audience. Farraj told CBN that he hears from Muslims who report having dreams or visions of Jesus.

Tom Doyle, an evangelist, pastor and the E3 Partners Ministry director for the Middle East and Central Asia says it’s true: Muslims are coming to Christianity through dreams and visions.

“Great things are happening in the Muslim world,” Doyle said in an email to WND. “It’s all very unexpected.”

Doyle told WND that he is familiar with Farraj’s program and that Jesus is breaking through where missionaries have not succeeded.

For the rest of the story…

Convert from Judaism

In 12 Converts on 2015/12/04 at 12:00 AM

How a devoutly Jewish, pillar-of-rectitude partner at Paul, Weiss turned into a passionately Catholic, extravagantly compensated legal caddy to the disgraced Tyco chief Dennis Kozlowski—and wound up accused of being a greedy corporate looter.

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Mark Belnick, shortly after his acquittal on charges of felony financial misconduct.

The jury was still out, and Mark Belnick, star litigator and pillar of legal rectitude who, in a mysterious transformation, was supposed to have turned thief, could do little but wait. Belnick, former general counsel of Tyco International, had been getting updates from his lawyer about a last-second plea deal on charges he’d looted the place. Prospects, though, seemed remote.

Then, on the fourth day, after the jury asked to hear, again, the definition of “presumed innocent,” which some took as a bad sign for the prosecution, a deal started to gel. Neither side wanted to come away empty-handed. And the district attorney’s office, unhappy with its last Tyco case, which ended in a mistrial, clearly wanted a victory to trumpet. “The deal got softer and softer,” says Belnick’s attorney, Reid Weingarten of Steptoe & Johnson in Washington, D.C. The D.A. was prepared to drop all felony charges against Belnick, who’d been accused of stealing part of a $17 million bonus and hiding another $14 million in no-interest loans. Instead of 25 years in state prison, Belnick would risk none, and plead guilty to one misdemeanor. Plus—this was the sweetener—the D.A.’s office would use its influence to settle suits brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission and by Tyco.

“I don’t see how I can not take this,” Belnick thought. On the fifth day of jury deliberation, Weingarten met in the D.A.’s conference room. Tyco’s lawyers had flown in. Weingarten and assistant D.A. John Moscow seemed about to iron out a few last details when a call came in. Applause was heard coming from the jury room. The jury, it turned out, had reached a verdict. The plea deal was still on the table: Belnick could take it, and never hear the verdict. Moscow was for that. “Do we have a deal?” Moscow anxiously asked. It was Belnick’s decision.

In the elevator, Weingarten’s cell phone rang. It was Belnick, screaming. “Whatever you’re doing, stop,” he said. Belnick seemed emotional, almost angry. “We’re taking the verdict, we’re taking the fucking verdict.” Weingarten was surprised Belnick was putting 25 years in prison back on the table.

Belnick seemed willing to gamble everything to have his innocence affirmed. “I don’t want this settled in a way that someone could walk around saying, ‘You see? He did this crime, he did that crime, but he just didn’t go to jail,’ ” he’d explain later. “I’d fought and fought. I took the stand, which most defendants don’t. I’d earned that verdict. It was mine.”

“They took me by the shoulders and marched me down the corridor past where everybody worked,” Belnick said. Then he started to sob.

Outside the courtroom in the State Supreme Court, where the D.A. had posted Belnick’s annual earnings on giant charts— almost $19 million one year—Belnick faced his attorney.

“Am I crazy?” he asked Weingarten.

Weingarten answered in a low voice: “No.”

The jury filed in, dressed, as always, as if off to summer camp. Even before the foreman rose, a lawyer in the audience, one of Belnick’s former partners, began to cry.

In the TV room of his Central Park West apartment, Belnick shifts uncomfortably in an armchair. He places his arms on his belly, kicks off his loafers, and is almost relaxed when that name comes up: Moscow. The D.A. who’d tried to convince the jury that he, Mark Belnick, was a looter. Belnick’s fleshy hands swing to his sides. He strangles the space in front of him.

Belnick does seem an unlikely candidate for looter. Just ask any of his old Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Garrison & Wharton admirers—he’d worked there for 26 years. They knew Belnick as a gifted litigator who, as one former colleague put it, “wouldn’t even go near the line.” In the eighties, he’d taken a star turn, investigating corruption for the U.S. Senate during the Iran/contra controversy, a career highlight that was televised (“Cherry on the cake,” says Belnick). By the mid-nineties, the country’s most powerful CEOs had him on their short lists when they got in trouble.

At Paul, Weiss, Belnick struck people as kind of nerdy, a straight shooter, maybe a bit of a know-it-all. He quickly impressed with his agile mind, but at the same time he was dutiful, eager to please. He was the not-quite-secure overachiever who put in thousands of hours a year—3,000 in some years—then took the late train home to the suburbs. And like so many others, occasionally, he griped about the money.

In his best years at Paul, Weiss, Belnick earned close to a million dollars a year, though usually much less. On that, he couldn’t comfortably afford the city lifestyle of many of his peers. So he’d raised his two girls (sent them to his beloved alma mater, Cornell) and one boy (proudly off to Syracuse) in upper-middle- class Harrison. He bought a home worth, in 1999, $1.1 million. Of course, it was very comfortable—everyone at Paul, Weiss seemed to judge their lives “very comfortable.” Life in Harrison was just fine. Belnick’s wife, Randy, a social worker, worked for a time at Rye Country Day School, where the kids went. Belnick, son of Orthodox Jews, served four terms as president of the conservative Harrison Jewish Community Center, where he’s still remembered as “a fantastic president.”

Then, in 1998, came a series of life changes that baffled his friends and that, to the D.A., formed a suspicious pattern. Belnick quit Paul, Weiss to become general counsel of Tyco. At collegial Paul, Weiss, some scoffed at the move. “Belnick traded the brass ring for the gold ring” was the swipe around the office. Soon, he bought a Central Park West apartment that cost almost $5 million, between purchase and renovations. Belnick got the money in an interest-free “relocation loan”—in court, Moscow enunciated the term as if it were in quotation marks—even though his Tyco office was just six blocks from Paul, Weiss.

The apartment was supposed to be a looter’s hideout, though as looter, Belnick offered certain disappointments. The apartment is grand, with spectacular views across the reservoir, but not posh; some of the furniture doesn’t quite match. One visitor wondered when the interior decorator would be hired.

His next purchase was more lavish. With a second interest-free relocation loan from Tyco, he purchased a $10 million home in Park City, Utah, paying a premium because the 11,000-square-foot house was on a ski slope.

The D.A. would eventually charge Belnick not only with hiding the two relocation loans but with grand larceny. The D.A.’s theory was unusual: that part of a $17 million bonus given by his boss, the CEO and chairman of the board, constituted theft because the boss failed to get it approved by the board of directors.

Then, superlawyer David Boies, on behalf of Tyco, sued Belnick, accusing him of having a secret arrangement with CEO Dennis Kozlowski. The SEC piled on, accusing Belnick of “egregious, self-serving, clandestine misconduct.”

Please click on this link to continue reading:  http://nymag.com/nymetro/news/people/features/9572/

Then, as if these developments weren’t confounding enough to those who’d known him, came the revelation—through leaked e-mails—that Belnick, the former synagogue president, had discreetly converted to Catholicism, a conservative strain practiced by Opus Dei, lately making an appearance as the evil force in The Da Vinci Code.

Even adoring former law partners couldn’t help but wonder if Belnick was suffering a very high-end breakdown. Opus Dei! They’d been to his kids’ bar mitzvahs. A Utah ski house! Belnick doesn’t ski. Just look at him—a shape like Alfred Hitchcock. If Belnick had really become a ski-loving Catholic—and none of his former partners had been informed—then who knew what other kind of kookiness was possible? “I thought maybe he was having a midlife crisis,” says one Paul, Weiss partner. What’s next: Drugs? A girlfriend? Larceny? “At one point,” says one admirer, “I was expecting he’d end up a suicide.”

Reprinted with permission….©CatholiCity Service http://www.catholicity.com

A Virtual Library of Converts’ Faith Journeys

In 12 Converts on 2015/11/20 at 12:00 AM

If you wish to to read about a great variety of converts to the Catholic Faith, please go directly to Steve Ray’s site: DEFENDERS OF THE CATHOLIC FAITH      http://www.catholic-convert.com/blog/category/conversions/Screen Shot 2013-07-10 at 4.35.11 AM Screen Shot 2013-07-10 at 4.35.48 AM

Conversion: What’s the Key?

In 12 Converts on 2015/11/13 at 12:00 AM

by Victor Gaetan

Father C. John McCloskey, one of the most successful ‘fishers of men,’ explains his secret.

A new member of the Church shows her emotions as she and five others baptized and confirmed by Pope Benedict XVI carry the offertory gifts during the Easter Vigil Mass the Pope celebrated in St. Peter’s Basilica in 2010.

During the Easter vigil Mass, in so many parishes, a moving moment comes when the faithful welcome new believers: catechumens (those who receive baptism, Communion and confirmation) and candidates (already baptized) who have typically completed the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA).

According to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, tens of thousands of converts across the country joined the Church as full disciples of Christ this year.

In England and Wales, at Easter, some 900 members of the Church of England were received into the Catholic Church, including 61 former Church of England priests. They joined a new Catholic entity, called the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, created by Pope Benedict XVI so that former Anglicans in England and Wales can maintain aspects of their tradition.

The Anglican ordinariate is led by Father Keith Newton, a former Anglican bishop who converted to Catholicism and was ordained a Catholic priest earlier this year.

But what are the ingredients for a successful conversion?

Many Catholics — despite seeing the abundant gifts offered by adult converts — are comfortable letting overburdened priests, RCIA staff and the Holy Spirit serve as frontline “fishers of men.”

Father C. John McCloskey, a priest of the personal prelature of Opus Dei for the past 30 years, is considered one of the Church’s most accomplished “fishers of men.” He has guided dozens of people into full communion with the Catholic Church, including high-profile figures such as federal Judge Robert Bork, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, Gen. Josiah Bunting III, economist Larry Kudlow, former abortionist Bernard Nathanson and columnist Robert Novak.

“People are looking for the truth and the happiness that the truth can give,” observed Father McCloskey. “These people, although successful — many, very successful — still found emptiness in their lives. The answer is a man named Jesus Christ.”

“I just happen to have been the right man at the right time to help guide them,” said the priest.

In his book Good News, Bad News: Evangelization, Conversion, and the Crisis of Faith (Ignatius, 2007), Father McCloskey calls on us all to evangelize with zeal and respect for others. He reminds us that Vatican II assigns the laity two tasks: “seeking holiness and extending the Kingdom of God on earth through family life, friendship, work, study — in a word, through apostolate.”

Although he says he is “just an instrument and God uses me,” such a productive instrument must have some rules of thumb for evangelizing. He does.

Five Steps

Describing the heart of conversion as a one-on-one relationship, a gift of self by the evangelizer, Father McCloskey says the best approach is a direct one: 1) Ask a friend or family member if he or she has ever considered joining the Catholic Church; 2) Be prepared to answer questions about the faith (which will probably require some study of your own), but be confident that you almost certainly know more than your non-Catholic friend; 3) Engage friends by suggesting good Catholic books and readings (a “Catholic Lifetime Reading Plan” is appended to his book), while sharing the beauty of the liturgy; 4) Know that conversion often takes time and is ultimately God’s work, and 5) Follow up.

Whether or not your friend starts down the road to Catholicism and joins the Church, the relationship becomes part of an ongoing spiritual process in which all of us participate as believers, almost like the early Church.

Father McCloskey practices what he preaches.

For several years, Meghan Cox Gurdon, a Wall Street Journal contributor and unchurched descendant of the Mayflower pilgrims, sensed God at her side, offering “small bits of direction, as though God was saying to me, ‘If you would like to step this way, it would be lovely.'”

Not knowing how to respond to this “unexpected religious experience,” in 1998 Gurdon called a college friend who gave her Father McCloskey’s phone number at Opus Dei’s Catholic Information Center in the heart of downtown Washington, D.C., where he was director from 1998 to 2004.

“He responded immediately and invited me to come talk,” Gurdon recalled.

“Father C. John was the most direct, unapologetic Catholic I had ever met. This was immensely comforting to me. I had visited churches where the priests were sort of lukewarm, but Father C. John speaks with absolute confidence and transparency about the faith. There is something really diamond-sharp about him. And he is unafraid.”

Gurdon was baptized the following Easter, in 1999. Since then, her husband, a British cradle Catholic who had stopped practicing the faith, rejoined too.

Jeffrey Bell, a public-relations guru and former Episcopalian, confirms the effectiveness of Father McCloskey’s approach: “He asks people questions about their religious practices and their feelings, their relationship to religion in the past. People are not used to being asked questions like that, so they answer very honestly. It creates an opening. Father McCloskey taught me the direct approach: Showing interest in someone’s faith history makes it easier to witness what the Church means to me.”

Bell became Catholic in 1978.

Every Opportunity

Convinced that they were ripe for the Catholic Church, Bell advised two friends, economist and radio host Larry Kudlow and journalist Robert Novak, to seek spiritual guidance from Father McCloskey. They both converted.

Father McCloskey advises using every opportunity to evangelize, because you never know what experience or comment may touch another soul.

For Meghan Gurdon’s baptism party, the priest told her to invite everyone she knew: “I had a church full of people. He was evangelizing through me. A woman attended, a deeply religious woman, a Baptist. At the party she said to Father C. John, ‘You know, I’m not Catholic.’ And he said, ‘Not yet!’

“It took over 10 years, but she never forgot what he said. The reverberations of what he does are very wise.”

Gurdon’s Baptist friend is Melissa Overmyer, who calls Father McCloskey’s comment “one of the balls that started rolling” that led her into full communion with the Church. By the time she sought spiritual direction, Father McCloskey had moved to Chicago, but she found another talented spiritual guide, Legionary Father Michael Sliney, and joined the Catholic Church last year.

As a result, Overmyer, who had taught an interdenominational Bible study group in Washington for over 20 years, has started a new Catholic Bible Study Group, the first in the nation’s capital.

In his book, Father McCloskey observes that people of the Jewish faith can have the most difficulty converting to Christianity because they often lose friends and relatives who don’t understand their decision. But in his experience, if Jews convert, it is usually to the Catholic Church, “the gold standard of the Christian proposition,” in his words.

When Israel Zolli, chief rabbi of Rome during World War II, converted to Catholicism (taking the name Eugenio Zolli to honor Pope Pius XII, whose birth name was Eugenio Pacelli), many of his co-religionists were shocked.

As Zolli wrote in his 1954 memoir Before the Dawn: “The convert feels impelled by an irresistible force to leave a pre-established order and seek his own proper way. It would be easier to continue along the road he was on.”

But as Zolli’s wife, Emma, who converted with him, said about the criticism: “Now that I am baptized, I am unable to hate anyone. I love everyone.”

Bernard Nathanson

Perhaps Father McCloskey’s most famous convert is Bernard Nathanson, the atheist of Jewish background who oversaw, by his own estimate, 75,000 abortions; created the 1960s’ national pro-abortion strategy (which prominently included denigrating the Catholic Church), and co-founded the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL).

Nathanson’s spiritual autobiography, The Hand of God, was published in 1996 by Regnery Publishing — whose owner, Al Regnery, converted to Catholicism under the guidance of Father McCloskey.

About the priest, Nathanson wrote, “He’d heard I was prowling around the edges of Catholicism. He contacted me, and we began to have weekly talks. He’d come to my house and give me reading materials. He guided me down the path to where I am now.”

Father McCloskey says it took about 12 years before Nathanson was baptized, which is not necessarily a long time: “It takes as long as it takes. It could be months, years or decades. There is never any pressure. It is a work of grace, ultimately.”

And the priest himself is not necessarily the decisive factor.

Geraldine Novak confirms that her husband, Robert Novak, who passed away in 2009, met with Father McCloskey weekly for several years, but it was a chance encounter with a college student that propelled him to seek baptism.

While seated at a dinner at Syracuse University, he asked a student wearing a crucifix if she was Catholic. She answered, “Yes” and asked Novak if he was. When the journalist explained he had been attending Mass and reading Catholic literature for several years but had not converted, the woman replied, “Mr. Novak, life is short, but eternity is forever.”

As Geraldine Novak remembers, “After that, he did not rest until he made his conversion.” And she did, too.

“I’m grateful for his conversion and mine,” she continued. “We found a wonderful home in the Catholic Church. There is so much mercy and goodness — it is a great blessing.”

First appeared on The National Catholic Register on May 18, 2011.

Reprinted with permission….©CatholiCity Service http://www.catholicity.com