1) You are a recent convert to Catholicism. Can you describe your journey to the faith?
My family is not religious but both my parents do believe that human beings have souls. Sowhile my upbringing did not include any religious education, their tremendous love and wise parenting did give me a deep sense that the world had innately moral and transcendent qualities.I often
that things were holy without actually believing that they were in any concrete way. Ialso had a mulish faith in the ability of human conscience and reason to resolve any quandary— although by “human” I usually meant “my”. I was very opposed to the idea of God and religion.Both seemed to me to be failures of reason and conscience. Much of this came from an arrogancethat ran very deep—although this arrogance partially stemmed from the loneliness of being anintellectually precocious child. By high school I was describing myself as a militant agnostic: “Idon’t know and you don’t know so don’t pretend you do” (words I parroted from others). Iwasn’t indifferent to the idea of God, I was angry about it.When I was 16 I went to a boarding school in the Indian Himalayas. I was intending to stay for only one semester as a visiting student, but was so happy there that I ended up staying for thetwo years until graduation. It was a Christian school, although the vast majority of the studentswere not Christian. At first my antireligious stance only became stronger. There was one dorm parent in particular who was a very verbal Christian and also treated me unkindly and unfairly.But then I began to spend time with a group of students and teachers who were articulate, devoutChristians (all Protestant, mostly Evangelical).I began to ask them confrontational questions about the nature of evil, suffering, hell, theevidence for God, morality: everything that bothered me about Christianity. The answers theygave—intelligent, straightforward and compelling—did important work in clearing the way for the changes of heart that were to come. At the same time I was watching these people living outtheir faith in a way that was totally unlike anything I had seen before. They cared more aboutwhat Jesus thought of them than what I or anybody else thought of them, openly believed inmiracles, and the beatitudes were the backbone of their moral life. I was catching a glimpse of real freedom and I wanted in. I’m still amazed that they called me their friend and made me feelwelcome, considering the staggering degree of condescension I brought to the relationship. Mostimportantly though, at that time the Holy Spirit began to whisper unsettlingly that their faithmight have important and disruptive implications; that the story they told demanded a responseof some sort. I began to yearn for God, a God I did not believe existed, and at regular intervalswould find myself weeping and praying a deep, wordless “Please” and receiving no answer, thenresuming normal life. These moments always came when my defenses were down, all posturingset aside. The longing appeared when everything fell silent, or I was suddenly alone, or when I’d been hiking for days and my body was exhausted and the glory of God’s creation was all aroundme, hammering at the doors of my heart. I continued in this way for a year and a half, each timeending with the thought “I can’t do this again”. And all the while my understanding grew of whatChristianity actually claimed.By the time I started at Columbia I understood both in my heart and in my head that if theChristian story were true, it was the greatest news the world could ever receive. I wanted it to betrue but had insufficient evidence that it was, and could not step into belief honestly. I began toread C. S. Lewis’ “Mere Christianity” but stopped because it was so painful. Initially out of 1