Kit Cunningham urges cradle Catholics to welcome converts
The Path to Rome: Modern Journeys to the Catholic Church, edited by Dwight Longenecker, Gracewing £9.99
YEARS AGO, several volumes of accounts of conversion to the Catholic Chili ch were entitled The Road to Damascus. This book, following the same pattern, has as its title The Path to Rome. We all know about Hilaire Befloc's book of the same title, his account of his walk from Alsace to hear Mass in St Peter's on the feast of SS Peter and Paul. That was the story of one man's confirmation of his faith, vigorously and confidently expressed.
The use of this title is not as confident as The Road to Damascus. The latter implies conversion, with the finger of God marking a person. It speaks of something personal, of not being part of a movement at a special time, and I personally would have been happier if this had been volume three of The Road to Damascus. Because any conversion is obviously a personal matter, and those who edited earlier books had no doubt that, in finding God, its authors had also found the Catholic Church. Even if the authors had come from some other religion, it implied that in finding the Catholic Church they had come to a fuller knowledge of Christ and his Church.
I think this is an important book for cradle Catholics to read, for it is essential foi them to realise that there are many ways of interpreting the call of faith. They often
presume that converts have taken on board their view of Christianity. But it is something more.
I for one had probably realised how selective education can be, how certain topics are not even touched, and. in a sense, how history is bent. All this can be done by good students with objective scholarship. So it is merciful that it is not just an intellectual journey, but a conversion of heart. Some have come further than others, but whatever the length of the journey, it is indeed a monstrous one.
The very human factors of conversion need to be recognised: the upset to family and friends, the uncertain future, financial and
otherwise, and often a sense of betrayal felt by former colleagues. Phrases like "crossing the Tiber" and "coining home" are emotional renditions of courageous decisions.
We cradle Catholics must applaud, in particular, the writers of these modem journeys to the Catholic Church. It may sound like a litany, but here goes: Cyprian Blamires. Stratford Caldecott, Patricia Gibbons, Sheridan Gilley. Marcus Grodi, Keith Jarrett, Lynn Jolly, Ian Ker, Neville KyrkeSmith, Graham Leonard, Dwight Longenecker, Kenneth Noakes, Kate Prior, Richard Run, Anthony Symondson, Ann Widdecombe. It may seem an uncertain Catholic Church which they are entering. The old securities bolstered by discipline have weakened. There seems to be a two-way traffic in thought if not in allegiance, Catholics becoming Evangelicals and Evangelicals becoming Catholics. It implies a tension that will take many years to resolve.
IN FBE MEANTIME. we Catholics must tidy up our manners and remember that reverence for truth and worship must be at all times maintained. People must never be able to say that we are a ragbag of belief and practices. The sturdiness and holiness of our faith and the sacramentality of the Church are paramount. Together with our new friends, let us renew ourselves. They have much to give in heightening our faith, deepening our sense of sacramentality, and reminding us, sometime wayward children, of the importance of the Church and its family.