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November 8, 2004

The Many Paths to Truth

Jeff Miller links to a short interview with NRO senior editor Ramesh Ponnuru. Since Ponnuru's writing generally falls more toward the analytical than the personal, the first question is likely of the most interest to those familiar with his work: You recently entered the Catholic Church. What was your religious background and what led you to become Catholic? Were you surprised by anything as you journeyed toward becoming Catholic?

Ponnuru: My father is Hindu, my mother Lutheran. I was raised without much religious instruction, except that of example. The process by which the Church drew me to her was long. It would be presumptuous for me to say that I myself entirely understood how the Holy Spirit worked here. To summarize the intellectual aspect of the process: I first came to see that many of the virtues the Church inculcates were good for people, and then to see that they were good for people because this was the way we were meant to live--and so forth until I saw that I now believed the Church's claims for itself to be true.

While it was certainly a precondition to my own conversion that I be able to affirm my faith in intellectual terms, it seems Ponnuru began with more of a foundation of plausibility. I had a huge mound of ideological and temperamental skepticism to surmount on my way to belief, so it was necessary for me to be forced into the realization of my deep, deep need for God.

My first irresolute step was to attend Mass with an openness to its possible effect on me. I'd gone before, but my attendance was securely bound in the excuse of courting my wife, with eyes fixed on the social aspects of organized religion. But on that too-bright spring day, I walked into the church as a church, not as a gathering hall.

As it happened, that particular building was being prepared to be the home of several parishes that were about to merge. There was scaffolding everywhere, planting its metal legs amid the pews and darkening most of the windows. A small, temporary cross hung above the alter from a metal beam.

I've no additional knowledge about Ramesh's conversion, but from what little I know about him, I can picture him gradually becoming convinced of Catholicism's truth. For many of us, though, life has to compel openness before we'll submit to the process of rebuilding.

Posted by Justin Katz at November 8, 2004 11:46 AM