Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Mysterious Grace of Conversion

I was an atheist at age nine.  I was spiritual but not religious at age 18.  I had a surprising and profound conversion experience when I was 36.  And on July 30, 2000 - fourteen years ago today - my wife and I were received into the Catholic Church.  I was 39 at the time.

I later learned that that was the same date that G. K. Chesterton was received into the Catholic Church, 78 years prior, in 1922.  More than any other person, Chesterton, by God's grace, and his writings, had made me a Catholic.  So the fact that Divine Providence arranged for me to come in, unwittingly, on his anniversary was a great and humbling honor.

***

I founded Theater of the Word Incorporated, my acting troupe which travels the country evangelizing through drama, in 2007.  Since then, we've performed hundreds of shows, and, while our impact on audiences has been unknowable, our impact on our own actors has been profound.  Until today, three of our actors had converted, either from Protestant to Catholic, or from Nothing to Christian.  Today I was honored to see the reception of our fourth, David Treadway, and to act as his sponsor.

You'll notice that Dave, too, has come in on the anniversary of Chesterton's reception, and the anniversary of the reception of my wife Karen and me.  This was not planned!  

Dave has been taking private instruction from Canon Ueda - a very devout and caring priest of the Institute of Christ the King here in St. Louis - for many months, and back in April, with Canon Ueda's blessing, we arranged for Dave to be received and confirmed at the Vigil Mass of the American Chesterton Society's Annual Conference, held this year at Mundelein Seminary in Chicago.  In fact, a group of us are heading to the Conference, primary to see Dave received and confirmed.  Chesterton and the Chestertonians have been very instrumental in Dave's conversion, as well, and this is why Dave chose to do this.

But at the last minute a monkey wrench was thrown into the works, when the archdiocese of Chicago flatly said that Dave could not be received at Mundelein.  But God works in mysterious ways - even through the impenetrable mysteries of chaneries and bureucracies.  

And so, with the help of some of my friends here in the archdiocese of St. Louis, we found a solution.  Dave could be received here in town before heading to the Conference, make his first Confession to a priest this weekend while at the Conference, and take his first communion at the Conference's Vigil Mass on Saturday, Aug. 2 - thus keeping the plan more or less in place.  We'll all be honored to be present at Dave's First Communion (his confirmation will take place later).

And the kindly priest here who agreed to receive Dave (Fr. Johnson) at St. Justin Martyr church in St. Louis, scheduled it for today, July 30 - the Great Anniversary.

Divine Providence continues to work in our lives, and, now that he's in, David Treadway will make a better Catholic than I am, by far.

David, a very devout Christian, has dealt with more obstacles to his conversion than anyone I've ever known.  Maybe he, like my actress Maria Romine, and me can someday go on EWTN's The Journey Home and tell his amazing conversion story as Maria and I did - though it make take two hours, rather than one, for Dave to describe it!

Dave Treadway (left), Timothy Quigley and me with lots of beer on a Theater of the Word tour to North Dakota, 2013.


***

So, David, allow our patron G. K. Chesterton and me to welcome you into the Catholic Church.

My advice to you, having been in now for fourteen years, would be the following ...


  • The Church is filled with sinners as well as saints, and you'll be dismayed to discover how you'll be sinning right there along with them, despite the tremendous sacramental grace that's now available to you.  But just keep repenting, praying, and seeking Christ in the sacraments.
  • The Spirit of Unreality is the greatest threat to devout Catholics these days - the temptation to make God and His Church into a kind of idol, something that we can control and make use of for our own narrow ends.  We see this in factionalism, contrived and bad music and homilies, the reluctance of the Church realistically to value services received and to pay for them, and in a general fear-of-the-Fear-of-God and of the workings of His Holy Spirit in our lives.
  • Keep a sense of humor and pray for humility.   
  • Listen to Pope Francis.  Don't become insular, paranoid or closed-in.  Bring people to Christ and bring Christ to people.  Your days as an Evangelical are just beginning.


G. K. Chesterton, pray for us.

***

I'll see many of you this weekend in Chicago.  Make sure you come up and congratulate Dave.

David Treadway, welcome home!



2 comments:

David Treadway said...

With tears in my eyes, Kevin, I say "Thank you!" It's good to be home.

-David

Anonymous said...

Amazing how the Divine Playwright & Director creates graces and miracles for the converted and the prodigal siblings beyond our expectations.

I pray from my heart a dear friend of mine going through harsh times will receive that humbling honour and declare those same 7 words.

Iesus Juve, dirige nos Domine.

D.