According to Marcus Grodi, host of EWTN’s The Journey Home, there’s nothing more miraculously powerful in the world than a conversion story. Almost twenty-five years ago, Marcus started the Coming Home Network, a ministry to help converts to Catholicism share their stories.
The Journey Home on EWTN has shared stories of people from all walks of life who came home to the Church: men, women, parents, grandparents, lawyers, politicians, doctors, and religious. Each share their story about how an encounter with God changed their lives.
In a new collection From Atheism to Catholicism, nine converts from Atheism share their stories. “I hope you enjoy these stories,” Marcus tells readers. “But more importantly, I hope that they inspire and challenge you to examine your life and to see where you own demands for freedom and self-sufficiency have led you. If God can bring the authors of this book home, He can bring anyone home!”
Here are a four incredible conversion stories from the book! To read all nine in the converts’ own words, check out From Atheism to Catholicism!
1. Scatter the darkness of my mind
John Barger was twenty-five years old and just settling into married life. His wife, Susan, was a devout Catholic. He’d been baptized at the age of twelve in the First Baptist Church in Handsboro, Mississippi, but left soon after. Thanks to hypocrisy of church members, John’s view of religion was tainted.
Susan kept encouraging John to look into the beauty of the world – the signs of a divine creator. She encouraged him to pray for Christ to scatter the darkness of his mind, and give him the gifts of faith, hope and love.
John credits many people for his conversion – Susan, his rhetoric professor, Cardinal Newman, Saint Bonaventure, C.S. Lewis, and Thomas Aquinas just to name a few. An encounter with literature like Kristin Lavransdatter, Seven Storey Mountain, and Mere Christianity transformed John from a confused atheist to a seeker of Catholicism.
“What about you? Have you genuinely considered the teachings of the Church, seeking to understand them authentically on their own terms?” John asks readers. “Having done so, can you name any institution that has greater claim to being a truth-teller about all things eternal?”
John went on to found Sophia Institute Press. He converted to Catholicism in 1974, earning his doctorate in 1979 from the University of Dallas. John L. Barger is the founder and former president of Sophia Institute Press. He retired in 2012 and now lives with his wife and 11 children.
Want to watch John tell his story? He was a guest on The Journey Home in 2000. You can watch his episode here.
2. Like the dewfall
Mark’s parents were atheists and Jewish – so he grew up in a culturally Jewish atheist home. His parents were also socialists. “I had no idea what it meant to be Jewish, but I knew that I was Jewish. I realize now what a contradiction that seems to be, but when I was a child, I saw no contradiction.”
In school, mathematics came easily for Mark. After dropping out of a science and engineering school, he enrolled at a public university and soon started smoking marijuana and taking LSD. That year, a student invited him to go on a trip up to the mountains of north Los Angeles. There, his fellow student told him the beauty surrounding them was from “Jesus Christ”. It didn’t make too much of an impression of Mark at the time, who moved into a hippie commune not long after.
He hit rock bottom in 1974, and called the Los Angeles chancery to find out more about becoming Catholic. “The gift of faith continues to come to me like the dew fall,” Mark writes. “I do not see it. I am not aware of it falling on me in any tangible way, and yet it covers me and refreshes me.”
Want to watch Mark tell his story? He was a guest on The Journey Home in 2002. You can watch his episode here.
3. Further up and further in
When Holly was an atheist English professor, she never thought she would end up in the Catholic Church. She was raised in a family without any religion. They never went to church and there was no mention of God at all. This left her uninformed and indifferent to God and religion as a whole.
She devoured books as a child, particularly loving The Chronicles of Narnia and Lord of the Rings, which she credits to shaping her life. In college she was taught that Christianity was just a historical curiosity, and science could explain everything without God. Even though she tried to be a good person, she couldn’t explain why she was bothering. Her doctoral thesis on J. R. R. Tolkien encouraged Holly to ask questions about her lack of faith.
So what convinced her that the Catholic Church taught the truth? “It wasn’t a single argument all by itself,” she writes. “There is no silver bullet in apologetics. Rather, it was the connecting of different pieces into a coherent overall argument.” Her questions about her purpose in life, the existence of God, and the Resurrection were answered in the Catholic Church.
Holly says that God must have a good sense of humor – he took her from being an Episcopalian English professor to become a Catholic apologist teaching at Houston Baptist University. She says becoming Catholic was the best, most significant thing she’s ever done in her life.
You can watch and listen as Holly tells her story of conversion! She was a guest on The Journey Home in 2015. You can watch her episode here.
4. Paving the road to truth
Kevin Vost’s mother had experienced five miscarriages before her pregnancy with him. When she was bedridden for months leading up to his birth, his mother prayed to Saint Gerard of Majella, patron of expectant mothers. “I was Catholic even before my birth,” he jokes.
Kevin grew up in the Catholic school system, taught by religious sisters and brothers. He had a spiritual break-through moment in high school when he realized that if God was real, he needed to try to live by His guidelines. But Kevin’s growing passion for body building led him in the opposite direction.
His hero in the bodybuilding world was Mike Mentzer – who introduced Kevin to Friedrich Nietzsche, Bertrand Russell, and Ayn Rand. He abandoned his faith in God in his late teens. He married in the church to please his mother, and let his children decide for themselves whether to believe in God or not. All in all, he spent twenty-five years in what he calls “the Atheistic Wilderness”.
But after seeing his son on a sonogram machine and experiencing a bout with depression, Kevin became more receptive to the faith. But it wasn’t until he encountered the writings of Saint Thomas Aquinas that he realized all the atheistic philosophers he’d read in his life “were mere school boys compared with Old Saint Thomas Aquinas!”
Kevin was a guest on The Journey Home in 2011. You can watch his episode here.
Want to read more stories of conversion? Within the pages of From Atheism to Catholicism, you’ll hear about a once militant atheist who experienced same sex attraction who now calls himself “Christ’s willing captive”, a neo-Nazi whose hatred was shattered, and many more! Get a a copy of From Atheism to Catholicism today!