Saints Who Brought Me Home
by Carl E. Olson
This year marks seven years that my wife and I have
As students of the Scriptures know, the number seven is quite significant,
indicating fullness and completion. Not that Ive reached a state
of fullness and perfection in seven years. To the contrary, the words
of G.K. Chesterton ring ever so true, that "discovering the Catholic
Church is perhaps the most pleasant and straightforward part of the business;
easier than joining the Catholic Church and much easier than trying to
live the Catholic life." How right he was!
But the seven year mark is cause for some reflection on the beautiful
reality of the communion of saints, the great cloud of witnesses I am
eternally indebted to. I cannot name them allI do not know them
all by name. But there are seven (well, actually eight) whose names I
My parents: They are evangelical Protestants who are fearless in
proclaiming and living the Gospel. As Ive told them, they provided
me with many gifts and equipment for the journey across the Tiber: love
for Jesus, passion to the Bible, and the belief that adhering to truth
always comes before personal comfort and convenience.
T. S. Eliot: I discovered the great Anglo-Catholic poet while I
was in junior high. I didnt understand much of his poetry, but his
theological imagery and literary brilliance were mesmerizing, as can be
seen in this selection from Four Quartets: "The dripping blood
our only drink,/The bloody flesh our only food:/In spite of what we like
to think/That we are sound, substantial flesh and blood/Again,
in spite of that, we call this Friday good." Amazing.
Walker Percy: His six novels are a potent mixture of dark humor,
Christian existentialism, and Thomistic theology. But it was his collected
essays, Signposts in a Strange Land, that caught my attention with
their blunt, penetrating dissections of the modern malaise. When asked
why he, a former atheist, became Catholic, Percy wrote: "What else
is there?" I eventually recognized how true this rhetorical question
Russell Kirk: Hes best known as a political writer and a
"paleo-conservative," but I know him as a defender of the permanent
things. His writings demonstrated that although there will always be tension
between the city of man and the City of God, the Christian cannot abandon
the political, social, and cultural realms. The Christianity of my youth
was weakened by Manichaeanism; Kirk provided the antidote and pointed
the way to theologians and popes addressing the same issues.
G.K. Chesterton: To read Orthodoxy and The Everlasting Man
is to sit at the feet of a man whose impressive intellect was matched
by his childlike joy. A journalist by trade, Chestertons ability
to see and communicate the Big Picture is rarely matched. After reading
Chesterton, I knew I could not remain a Protestant, even though Catholicism
was a frightening alternative.
St. Thomas Aquinas: If the Dumb Ox were simply brilliantwhich
he obviously isit would not be enough. But he is brilliant, humble,
and holy, a combination so inviting and beautiful it cannot be ignored.
After having a vision of Christ, he declared: "All my works seem
like straw after what I have seen." Now theres a saint I cannot
wait to meet in heaven.
Ignatius of Antioch: Bishop, theologian, and martyr, he condemned
the Docetist heretics "because they do not admit that the Eucharist
is the flesh of our saviour Jesus Christ, which suffered for our sins."
Those words pierced my heart and helped me make sense of the reality of
Because these saints surround me, I am able to run with endurance the
race that is set before me. By Gods grace, it will lead to fullness
is the editor of IgnatiusInsight.com. He is the co-author of The
Da Vinci Hoax: Exposing the Errors in The Da Vinci Code and author
Catholics Be "Left Behind"? This column originally appeared
in the July 11-17, 2004 issue of National
Catholic Register and is reproduced here with permission.