Jim Graves is a Catholic writer and editor living in Newport Beach, California. He previously served as Managing Editor for the Diocese of Orange Bulletin, the official newspaper of the Diocese of Orange, California. His work has appeared in the National Catholic Register, Our Sunday Visitor, Cal Catholic Daily and Catholic World Report.
I spoke to six prominent Catholics with active Catholic apostolates who were converts from other belief systems or who were raised Catholic and had a significant conversion experiences in their lives. I asked them to share some details about these experiences.
Mother Miriam of the Lamb of God, O.S.B., founder of Daughters of Mary, Mother of Israel’s Hope (www.motherofisraelshope.org) (formerly Rosalind Moss of Catholic Answers)
[I came into the Catholic Church primarily] due to the influence of my brother David and Scott Hahn. My brother became a Catholic 16 years before me, and today heads up the Association of Hebrew Catholics. He was once an atheist, but never stopped searching for truth.
I listened to four hours of audiotapes of Scott Hahn debating a Presbyterian minister. At the end of the debate, Scott declared that the one who looks into the claims of the Catholic Church will discover a holy shock and glorious amazement to find out what he had been fighting against is, in fact, the Church Christ founded 2,000 years ago.
I stood paralyzed on the spot. “Oh, no,” I thought. “Don’t tell me there is any truth to this!” But, I knew that if I did not look into the claims of the Catholic Church, I would be turning away from God. My journey into the Catholic Church had begun.
Father Donald Calloway of the Congregation of Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary (https://www.fathercalloway.com/)
I grew up in a non-religious household. I lived with three different “fathers” by the time I was age 10. I got involved with drugs and impurity and dropped out of school. I wore my hair long. I went into rehab, and I was sent to jail at age 18. I was kicked out of Japan where I had been living.
But, my mom and stepdad had a big conversion and became Catholic. I, too, converted. I fell in love with Jesus Christ, the saints and the Catholic Church. I then discerned a vocation to the priesthood. I have been a Catholic since 1993, and a priest since 2003. Without God’s mercy, I don’t know where I’d be.
Deacon Steve Greco, Spirit Filled Hearts Ministry (www.spiritfilledhearts.org)
When I was 28 years old I was a district sales manager with a pharmaceutical company. One day I was working with a sales representative in Bakersfield. He was a friend and fellow cradle Catholic. He showed up with a Holy Spirit pin on his suit jacket. My eyes widened and I said, “Catholics don’t wear Holy Spirit pins.” He looked at me with a big smile on his face and said, “I found Jesus! I discovered Him on a personal basis.”
I was stunned. I told him he had Jesus every Sunday in the Mass and Eucharist. He wasn’t buying it. He had had a transformation. A “born again” experience. He was totally different. It was obvious that he had peace, was excited and wanted to live a life based upon following Jesus.
I had a long drive home from Bakersfield. I couldn’t stop thinking about my life. It looked on the surface that I was a good Catholic Christian. I was involved in many activities in my parish. But I knew differently. If you followed me around I doubt that you could come to a conclusion that I was a solid and devout follower of Jesus. My behavior outside of church, my conversations, my actions and thoughts were not someone who had surrendered his life to Jesus.
I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I felt like a phony. I knew the truth. It didn’t matter what others thought of me. I didn’t know what to do.
When I got home, my wife was gone and I was alone. I made a decision that changed my life forever. I now call it “fervent prayer.” Praying from the heart. That is why our ministry is named “Spirit Filled Hearts.” You can fool yourself in thinking something in your head, but your heart is reality. I thought of the good thief on the cross, the centurion, the tax collectors in the Bible and all the saints who were totally committed to Jesus.
I was in my bedroom. I looked intensely into my eyes in the mirror on my closet door and said this prayer from the heart, “Lord Jesus, I give you my life, no matter the cost. Take over my life completely and use me to do your will.” I meant it. You can’t fake it if you truly mean it!
Scott Sullivan, Catholic philosopher and founder of Classical Theist Productions (www.scottmsullivan.com)
I’m originally from Indiana, where I was raised in a loving Christian home. I was serious about my faith — I was “born again” — but in high school I fell away from it. I didn’t think Christianity was true, but instead Santa Claus for grown-ups. I became agnostic. I wasn’t sure about the existence of God or that he had revealed Himself through the person of Jesus Christ.
I was a professional kickboxer in college, and as there wasn’t much money in it, I worked evenings as a bouncer at a bar. One night, sitting there in the bar, I wrote up all my intellectual objections to Christianity. I thought it was a pretty good list at the time, but I later found out that all these objections had been raised and refuted long before I made them.
After graduating college, I was still intellectually seeking the truth, and one day I found myself in a Barnes & Noble bookstore in the religion section. I happened upon the Handbook of Christian Apologetics by Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli. It changed my life. I was introduced to arguments for the existence of God, the divinity of Jesus and the reliability of the New Testament.
Up to that point, I did not know the historical arguments for Christianity. I didn’t have any good reasons to think Christianity was true. No one had told me. So I got into philosophy myself, became Catholic, and made it my mission to share what I’d learned with others.
Patrick Coffin, host of The Patrick Coffin Show (https://www.patrickcoffin.media/)
My father was a practicing Catholic, and my mother was a member of the United Church of Canada, a 1920s offshoot of Presbyterianism. She converted to Catholicism in 1980. Through the charismatic renewal and Cursillo I was given a pretty good foundation in the Faith, but I attended a Catholic university and lost my faith. I drifted into agnosticism.
The theology it offered was poor. It chipped away at the reliability of the New Testament. Once you undermine the Bible, you undermine the connection between the Bible and Church. I ended up jettisoning all the teachings of the Church as a whole, and stopped going to Mass and receiving the sacraments.
After a period of drifting, I got serious about prayer. I sought God with my whole heart, and had a reversion.
Matthew Arnold, Catholic apologist and host of the radio program Happy Hour on Virgin Most Powerful Radio (www.matthewarnold.org)
I like to say [my family was] “generically” Christian. We had Christmas trees and Easter eggs, and we had grace before meals and prayers before bedtime. But like millions of other families, mine fell away from going to church. The only Bible reading I heard was Linus reading the Christmas story during the Charlie Brown Christmas special.
[As a teen and young adult] had an occasional brush with Christianity. One young English teacher I knew I played guitar and asked me to come to an after school club to play guitar and talk. I showed up with my guitar, but it turned out to be a fundamentalist Bible study. It left me with a bad taste in my mouth; I thought the only way they could get you to come was to trick you.
I had a high school friend who had been into drinking and drugs, but became “born again” and really turned his life around. He told me that Jesus was God because the Bible said so. I asked him why I should believe the Bible, and he pointed out to me the chapter in Timothy that says all Scripture is inspired by God. So, I should believe the Bible is the word of God because the Bible says it is. It was an unconvincing argument, and I wrote Christianity off.
For 10 years I led a hedonistic lifestyle, playing guitar in nightclubs five or six nights a week. Magic had been my hobby, so I switched media; I became a professional magician. But, my job was still to entertain.
[I became] what they called a lone [New Age] practitioner, mostly reading astrology magazines looking for belief systems to improve my life. In Hollywood, many people get involved with the New Age with materialistic goals. They want to have their name and face on the big screen. Most are frustrated, as there are far more people in Hollywood who have that dream than realize it. So, if one belief system doesn’t work out, they move on to the next one.
In reality, I think we all have a God-shaped hole inside us that we’re looking to fill.
[Channeling, or communication with spirits] became a huge part of my life. A musician friend of mine was seriously injured in a motorcycle accident, and used self-hypnosis to manage the pain. A woman he knew wanted to quit smoking, so she asked him to hypnotize her. It was while she was under hypnosis that the spirits began to speak through her. The spirits told my friend to invite me to be part of that group.
Meanwhile, I was dating my future wife, Betty, who was Catholic and wanted no part in channeling. In fact, the spirits told my friend to break up Betty and I. The one time when Betty was with them and they started channeling she began to silently pray to Mary, and the spirits got ugly for the first time and cursed the Blessed Mother. That was the breaking point for me, so I left the group.
… I married Betty, but I did not yet convert. But I did meet a priest, Father Ben Fama, who seemed quite sincere in his belief. I agreed to take an RCIA class when I found out he was the one teaching it. For those interested in the specifics of my conversion, [I wrote] Confessions of a Traditional Catholic … But the bottom line is that I discovered that the Catholic Church has an answer for every objection someone like me could make, and that it all makes sense. It has the only comprehensive and non-contradictory worldview which I’ve ever encountered.