Thursday, August 12, 2010


You never know what will capture people’s interest.

I have family visiting from Slovenia and we tried to come up with some things that would interest them here during their visit to the United States. They have been very gracious and have expressed excitement at the things we had prepared for them – but it seems that their greatest enthusiasm has been for things that I would have never prepared for in a million years.

“O look!” one of them said excitedly, “a school bus – just like in the movies!” Or another time, “Take a picture! An ice cream truck just like in the movies!” Who would have guessed that there were no ice cream trucks in the Alps?

A priest from Barcelona who has been staying with us on and off for last few months is moving on. One of his best memories of his time with us was stopping at a yard sale while we walked Sebastian. “I have never seen anything like this,” he said this morning, “it was one of the great things of my stay here. Well, a small thing, but a great thing too.”

Most of the people that I have deep conversations concerning their possible conversion to Catholicism have been intellectual conversions. These would be the ones with which I can relate the best. Historically, theologically, substantively I understand the overwhelming attraction to the Church founded by Christ. But you can never tell what will bring people to swim the Tiber. An emotional reaction to something, an appreciation for a kindness, the respect of another person, a piece of art, a movie, a bad reaction somewhere else – any of these things may steer someone down the road to Rome. For my Dad is it was a piece of junk mail that had little to do with the Catholic Church at all. Why? Because there is not a human being in the world that ever converted a soul. It is the Holy Spirit moving inside the person that accomplishes this.

We are always called to provide the opportunity for the Spirit to work but not to make God jump through our hoop as to how a person is to be converted. That is why we can be the best armed person in the world with answers to everything and make so few converts. Now, we should have answers, but having all the answers does not make the faith attractive to all. The first rule of thumb is to love. The second is to live it yourself. The third is to pray for the person. If these do not come first, your list of converts will be small if there are any at all. The fourth is simply to provide the opportunity for the Spirit to work (and there are so many ways to do this!) and when it does – to be there for the person. It may be a question that you can answer – or it may be something so out of the blue that you could never – ever prepare for it. “Look! There’s a school bus! I think it’s time to find the Eucharist!”


Wayne said...

Father this has very little to do with this post except in the "anything could make someone decide to convert" thought. I just found a website of some really cool Catholic (and some not Catholic) shirts and it has a good number dedicated to quotes by G.K. Chesterton. I thought you and your readers might enjoy. (sorry, I don't know how to make that a live link in the comment box)

Anonymous said...


Profound thoughts. Very helpful and encouraging. Thank you.

Robert M Kraus Sr said...

When I hear the word 'Slovenian' I think of Father Jaeger (spelling?) and Father Celesnik. Did you know them Father Valencheck?

Fr. V said...

They were before my time but I heard PLENTY of stories about them - especially Fr. Jaeger.