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Saints Who Brought Me Home

by Carl E. Olson

This year marks seven years that my wife and I have been Catholic.

As students of the Scriptures know, the number seven is quite significant, indicating fullness and completion. Not that I’ve 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 all—I do not know them all by name. But there are seven (well, actually eight) whose names I do know.

My parents: They are evangelical Protestants who are fearless in proclaiming and living the Gospel. As I’ve 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 didn’t 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 is.

Russell Kirk: He’s 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, Chesterton’s 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 brilliant—which he obviously is—it 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 there’s 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 the Eucharist.

Because these saints surround me, I am able to run with endurance the race that is set before me. By God’s grace, it will lead to fullness and perfection.

Carl Olson 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 of Will 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.


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