THE PATH TO ROME:
Modern Journeys to the Catholic Church
Edited by Dwight Longenecker
(Gracewing, 2004, 240 pages, $29.95. Available from AD Books)
Sixteen new Catholics, 15 from Britain and one from America, describe their personal paths to Rome, beginning of course from where they each started, and then approaching Rome from different directions.
This collection of conversion stories relates how former Baptists, Presbyterians, Salvation Army officers, Plymouth Brethren, New Age believers and Evangelical Anglicans all made their way along the path to Rome.
The 1990s have seen the largest influx of laity and clergy into the Catholic Church in England since the period following Catholic emancipation (1827). During that time the flood of converts has included four Anglican bishops, a member of the Royal Family, two Ministers of the Crown and a host of ordinary clergy and lay people. These are the stories of some of the Christians who have struggled, thought and sacrificed much finally to find their home in the Catholic Church.
And what high risk adventures and extreme sports all these involved! The book's editor quotes Chesterton: "No parents lie awake at night worrying that their children might become Methodists." But becoming Catholic?
The Catholic Church, being something authentic, is, like all such phenomena, multidimensional. That means there will be different paths to it, and different aspects to be discovered, and approached.
One convert is led by the Bible itself to discover that the Church of the living God is "the pillar and bulwark of the truth" (1 Timothy 3:15). Another follows the early Church writers to discover today the same living Church of sinners and saints. One travels via the sacraments, another via Catholic social attitudes.
This book is for Catholics: to teach us things about our Church that we have not known half as well as we should; and to enable us to present to non-Catholics a series of comprehensible approaches towards the Church.
The Path to Rome could thus prove very worthwhile reading for non-Catholics, offering at least one or two stories that may have begun close to where theirs is today. This book will not provide a perfect map for their own journey of course. That will require their own study and prayer, other books, and eventually, a new book with a whole new story - their own.
Michael Casanova works at the Thomas More Centre, North Melbourne.