A Lesson from Robert Novak’s Conversion

I’m not a regular reader of The American Spectator, but a friend recently handed me a one-page column appearing in that magazine’s October edition (pg. 82, to be exact). The piece, “Robert Novak, RIP,” was penned by the journal’s editor, R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr. Apparently, the recently deceased Mr. Novak was a secular Jew, but the gritty conservative journalist converted to Catholicism toward the end of his life.

Take note, gentle reader, of what occasioned his conversion:

Late in life he became a person of faith, converting to Catholicism because, as he said in his memoir, he was jolted by the remark of a young woman. He was dining with her and other students before he was to give a speech at Syracuse University. The conversation turned to her Catholicism. He told her that he had been sitting in on Catholic masses for four years. She asked him if he intended to become a Catholic. “No, not at the present time,” he said. “Mr. Novak,” she remonstrated, “life is short, but eternity is forever.”

“I was so shaken by what she said,” Bob writes, “that I could barely get through the rest of the dinner and my speech that night. Sometime during the short night before rising to catch a seven a.m. flight back to Washington, I became convinced that the Holy Spirit was speaking through this Syracuse student.”

Is that collegiate co-ed an ardent defender of extra ecclesiam nulla salus? I don’t know, but she sure spoke like it, at least that night. And it worked. When a secular Jew, or a secular anything, or — for that matter — an anything-but-Catholic, says “I became convinced that the Holy Spirit was speaking through this Syracuse student,” and then converts, there you have the coalescence of God’s grace with human good will. It is the most wonderful thing on this earth, and is even said to make angels rejoice.

We live in bad times, but all is not bleak. God is still in His Heaven, and a Syracuse student can still deliver a salutary eschatological epigram.

Christ Jesus be praised!