For years, the Catholic Television Network (EWTN) has had a show called The Journey Home. My parents used to watch this show when I was a child, for the few years that we had a dish before we tore the roof off the house. To the best of my recollection, the purpose of the show is to display how Catholicism is an awesome religion because so many people convert to it. When I found out that all the episodes are available online, I decided to watch them and review them. It’s undeniable that people convert to Catholicism; my question is, do they have good reasons? How many of them started as some form of Christian in the first place? How many came from other religions? How many were atheists or skeptics? Why did they convert, and would the answer to that question be a convincing reason for a skeptic?
If you decide to watch these episodes with me, you may notice that I ignore a lot of things I could respond to. The target audience is Catholics, or possibly convince a non-Catholic Christian to convert, and this is clear from the very first minute that Marcus Grodi begins speaking. These stories aren’t necessarily meant to convince a skeptic, but to strengthen the faith of a Catholic, and there’s really nothing wrong with that. Nonetheless, I’d like to see if this collection of conversion stories contains any compelling reasons for a skeptic to convert.
The very first episode is titled “Dr. Thomas Howard: An Episcopalian Who Became A Catholic” and aired September 5, 1997. It can be viewed online here.
It’s a very familiar story, at least to me. Dr. Thomas Howard was already Christian, already loved the Scriptures, and gradually became convinced that the Catholic Church, being the oldest existing form of Christianity, and having the most beautiful liturgy, is the true form of it.
At one point, about 18 minutes into the episode, Marcus Grodi asks, “What was it that kindof, uh, brought the breach in your armor that opened the door for you to consider the Catholic Church?”
Dr. Howard responds, “[D]uring my 25 years as an Anglican, as I say, I did all the wrong reading, and it, uh, it began to percolate in me, I began to become aware that the Church had been here, uh, quite a while before 1517.” As he describes his conversion experience, he says, “[E]ventually, I found myself, to my own great surprise, almost heartbroken at not being a Catholic.”
When Grodi questions how Howard’s wife reacted, the reply is: “It scared us all to death.” The emotions he describes here, as terrified that he could no longer be Protestant, that he found himself forced to cross this gap, exactly mirror my emotions upon realizing I could no longer be Catholic. I personally find that very interesting, and I wonder if that almost despair is common to worldview shifts like that.
Happily, his wife converted, also, although it took ten years. Howard describes how they would each go to the other’s church, and not take Communion. From the description, it sounds as though they spent ten years going to church twice every Sunday, which to me now sounds just awful. At some point, the wife started praying the rosary. Howard says, “I’ll tell ya, if anybody starts that, they’re gone.” In other words, anyone who prays the rosary converts to Catholicism. Grodi agrees. I disagree, because even if I did pray the rosary, it would not make the facts that prevent me from seeing Catholicism as true go away. But, I can see how that would work on a Protestant.
Side note: the middle of the video is about two minutes of a silent black screen. That’s just shoddy editing, guys. I hope they figure out how to fix that in future episodes.
The second half of the episode was questions from callers, which I found ultimately uninteresting for my purposes here.
As I expected, there is nothing in this story that speaks to me as a skeptic. Once you already accept that god exists, is the god of the Bible, and did incarnate himself as Jesus, and all the other beliefs common to Christianity, I think it’s relatively easy to convert between the different denominations. If you already think Jesus founded one Christian Church, it makes sense to gravitate to the oldest one as most likely to be that one.
So far, our breakdown of the guests’ religious state before conversion looks like this.
- Serious Christian: 1
- Lax Christian: 0
- Non-Christian, but religious: 0
- Non-believer, but not very skeptical: 0
- Skeptic: 0