I tuned to a political talk show a few weeks ago in time to hear a snippet that Newt Gingrich is converting to Catholicism. The on-air conversationalists listed a surprisingly long and lustrous list of other fairly prominent personalities who have recently joined the universal church, including the show's hostess. Not a huge deal, but interesting.
It turns out that 150,000 American adults are converting this year, most of them over Easter weekend. Here, courtesy of Deacon Greg Kandra of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church, is a description of the saints and sinners the new Catholics will join:
Describing the Catholic Church, James Joyce once said, “Here comes everybody.”
Yes. That says it.
Here comes Peter, the denier and Thomas the doubter, and the converted pagan Augustine. Here comes the soldier Ignatius, and the scholar Aquinas, and the tentmaker Paul. Here comes the outspoken Catherine of Sienna and the quiet Therese of Lisieux. Here comes Francis, preaching to the birds.
We are all that and more. We are monks who copied scripture onto parchment, and preserved God’s word during one of the darkest times in history. We are priests and nuns who could barely speak the language, but came to an unruly place called America and created the most extensive parochial school system on earth, passing on what they knew, and what they believed.
We are laborers from Italy and Poland and Germany who arrived in Brooklyn with nothing, and left behind towering temples of stone and glass in what we now call a City of Churches.
We are Chesterton and Merton and Hopkins. We are Bob Hope and Newt Gingrich, John Wayne and Oscar Wilde, Tony Blair and Fulton Sheen.
We are Oscar Romero and Bobby Kennedy and Caeser Chavez and Mother Angelica.
We are the soldier in Iraq praying the rosary, and the immigrant in the barrio with Our Lady of Guadalupe tattooed on his back.
We are Fr. Mike Dalton, in a jeep in Germany, hearing one last confession.
We are Rosa and Richard, about to be baptized here tonight. We are Amanda and Lydia and Ana and Justine and Carmen, about to be confirmed.
We are saints. We are sinners. We are everybody.
We are the Body of Christ. Bruised. Broken. But resurrected and given new life, new hope. Changed forever.
A few years ago, Msgr. Funaro gave an Easter Vigil homily and reminded us that we are “Easter People.” We are people who live in the resurrection. We are men and women and children who hold the light.
This Easter, keep the flame burning. Remember all who came before us, and all who are joining us today – by one count, some 150-thousand in the United States alone.
150-thousand more people to hold the candle, and to spread the light, and to proclaim not just the good news – but the greatest news in all human history:
“He has been raised.”