An email friend recently wrote to me after reading my essay in Love in the Ruins. In our email exchange she promised to send me a CD that tells of her "miraculous conversion" 14 years ago from a "militant, pro-abortion, anti-catholic feminist" who was a "member of NOW, NARAL and a volunteer at Planned Parenthood," to a woman "in love with my faith." How I look forward to hearing her story.
Our correspondence reminded me of a book on my library shelf that tells the stories of a number of converts or reverts to the Catholic faith. Prodigal Daughters was edited by noted Catholic author Donna Steichen whom I consider a beloved friend and mentor. In examining the index, I saw that I know several of the women who tell their stories and I eagerly read them. They are simple but compelling stories.
And so I sent an email to my new on-line friend. I shared with her the feeling I had after reading the conversion stories of these lovely women. "It makes me realize that every person has a story to tell. Some are comedies (those that end happily in salvation) and some are tragedies (those that end in condemnation), but we are, each of us, a novel in progress and only in the end will the author of life who watches us cross the last t and dot the last i, determine the end of the story. Oh if only we can help those around us have happy endings to their stories!"
I think my New Year's resolution must be to remember that every person I meet, no matter how muddled their thinking or evil their actions, is a precious creation of our gracious God. We are all works in progress. Each person's story is a novel, each life a painting. Some among us, the saints, have lives that produce canvases worthy of great art museums. Some of us will produce more modest works like calendar art or a child's watercolor displayed on the refrigerator. All of us, however, are the beloved of the Father. He desires every one of us to be with Him in heaven. He will plunge us into hell, but only if we refuse heaven. The trapdoor to hell opens and the evil one falls by the weight of his own pride.
Hell is a mercy to those who ultimately choose evil and reject God. Evil cannot exist in the presence of God; it would be annhilated. Which is why Milton shows Lucifer plummeting into hell once he commits his audacious act of defiance against God.
The Almighty Power
Hurld headlong flaming from th' Ethereal Skie
With hideous ruine and combustion down
To bottomless perdition, there to dwell
In Adamantine Chains and penal Fire,
Who durst defie th' Omnipotent to Arms.
Nothing on earth is worth risking the loss of heaven. As the Lord says:
I have set before you this day life and good, and on the other hand death and evil: That thou mayst love the Lord thy God, and walk in his ways, and keep his commandments....
But if thy heart be turned away, so that thou wilt not hear, and being deceived with error thou adore strange gods, and serve them:
I foretell thee this day that thou shalt perish....
I call heaven and earth to witness this day, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing. Choose therefore life, that both thou and thy seed may live. (Deuteronomy 30 - Douay version)