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A special message from JonMarc Grodi

“Father, forgive me, for I have sinned. It has been over 30 years since my last confession. I’m not sure I can remember all my sins.”

The priest said, “That’s all right. God knows them all.”

After confessing every sin he could remember, the priest gave him absolution and a penance to say one Hail Mary and one Our Father.

In a moment I’m going to tell you the remarkable story of what led that penitent to the sacrament of Confession thirty years after he fell away from the Church.

If you’re praying for a loved one to return to the Church, you’ll want to pay close attention to this story because it will give you a bright ray of hope that even the most stubborn heart can be touched by God’s grace.

But first, let me tell you why my dad, Marcus Grodi, asked me to be the one to share this month’s digital letter with you.

You may have seen my dad’s announcement in a recent newsletter. He said: “The Board of Directors and I both believe that my son JonMarc is being called to receive and shoulder the responsibility of leading the Coming Home Network into the digital age.”

My dad isn’t retiring. He’s still the President of the Coming Home Network. I’ll continue to rely on him for advice and guidance to fulfill our mission, and I’m honored and humbled to carry on his amazing legacy.

Here’s a thumbnail sketch about me. My wife and I have six children. We love God and we love the Catholic Church. I owe my own Catholic faith and my relationship with Jesus Christ to the witness of my parents. Other converts I’ve encountered through the Coming Home Network have also influenced me.

I was just a kid when my dad was a Presbyterian pastor. My memories of his preaching are vague, but I do recall that he loved to preach. His love for God and his joy in Christianity influenced me to take the faith seriously.

I went through a period of wrestling with questions about God, and I came through some dry times in prayer. I met my wife at Bowling Green State University, which has a powerful Newman Center. I lived in a community with other men who prayed morning prayer together and spent time in adoration at the campus chapel.

For the last 20 years I’ve worked at the Coming Home Network, starting in the mail room, and talking to the youths who came to us with questions. I’ve worn every hat at this organization: website design, interviewing, writing, development, working with people on the journey, event planning, and so on. Now I’m the Executive Director.

Like my dad, I’m passionate about sharing the truth and beauty of the Church and helping not only converts but also lapsed Catholics come HOME to the fullness of faith.

Now let me tell you the story that gives hope to those who have a fallen-away loved one.

When Frank was a kid, his family moved to Las Vegas (“Lost Wages”). One of his uncles was a colorful character who won poker tournaments before he died of a drug overdose. But Frank’s branch of the family was conservative and kept on the straight ’n’ narrow.

Frank and his dad had a good relationship. When Frank habitually struck out in Little League baseball, his dad bought a book on hitting by the great Boston Red Sox player Ted Williams. After they’d both read the book, they spent two hours every night for a week at the local batting cages, putting the book’s lessons into practice. His improvement was dramatic!

At the next game he became a legitimate offensive threat, and his team relied on him at the end when they were down by two runs in the bottom of the ninth inning. Bases were loaded. Frank hit the ball hard with confidence, and his line drive went above the third baseman’s head.

What happened next surprised everyone. You’ll read it on page 32 of the book about Frank’s reversion to the Catholic Church, which I want to tell you about.

It’s impressive that Frank was so thorough and disciplined in improving his baseball skills. He would soon use that same discipline to tackle theological issues.

Frank turns the other cheek to a playground bully

One day his dad’s friend left a copy of the Good News for Modern Man, a popular edition of the New Testament, on their kitchen table. Frank picked up this “Good News” book and was fascinated by what he read about Jesus. He didn’t even realize he was reading a Bible. He just thought it was a book about Jesus.

Young Frank absorbed the Gospels like a sponge.

When a bully at school punched him in the playground, Frank remembered what Jesus had said in the book. So, he literally turned the other cheek and offered it to the bully for a second punch. What the bully did next was surprising. You’ll read what happened on page 33 of Frank’s book, which I want to send you.

At the age of 13, Frank was confirmed in the Catholic Church.

He still attended Mass with his parents, but he also accepted an invitation to visit a Jesus People church known as Maranatha House. Frank noticed that the Jesus People Christians were on fire for the Lord. They worshipped with enthusiasm. Frank was impressed.

He couldn’t help noticing the contrast between his Catholic parish and the Jesus People church.

Kumbaya and leftist politics replace the Catechism

Changes were in the air in the years after Vatican II. In many parishes, Catholic worship was in shambles. Kneelers, statues, and crucifixes were removed. The Eucharist was often trivialized. Many nuns became wild and worldly, wearing polyester pant suits and getting their hair done in beauty parlors.

The Baltimore Catechism was out. Kumbaya and leftist politics were in.

Catechesis was a disaster. One Catholic teacher told Frank’s class that sins and good deeds are balanced on a scale to determine whether you go to Heaven or Hell. I wonder where she came up with that.

By the time Frank entered college, he was an evangelical and was no longer attending Mass. He fell in love with a girl but was devastated when she told him she wanted to be “just friends.”

Instead of getting down on his knees and begging her to return his feelings, he wisely took a different approach, which took incredible discipline because of the pain of rejection.

His approach worked. The girl who had wanted to be “just friends” became his beloved wife. To find out what he did to win her affections, see pages 56-57 of Frank’s book, which I want to send you.

In time, Frank became not only an ordained Protestant minister and theologian, but one of America’s most esteemed Protestant scholars. In the process, Frank and his wife discovered liturgical worship. It resonated with them. Instead of attending non-liturgical evangelical services they began worshipping in an Episcopalian church. For Frank, it was much like the Catholic worship that he knew as a child. His wife liked it too.

One day his wife asked him, “Why aren’t we Catholic?” He gave her some reasons why they were Protestant. She deferred to his judgment because she knew he’d studied the theological arguments.

A while later a professor asked him, “Why aren’t you Catholic?” Frank replied, “You’re Jewish, so why do you care?” Then Frank gave him some reasons why he was Protestant. The Jewish professor said, “Those aren’t good reasons.”

The question kept on popping up: “Why aren’t you Catholic”

Two years later, Frank’s eight-year-old niece asked him, “Why aren’t you Catholic?” He gave her some reasons. She replied, “We’ll pray for you.”

His niece’s dad was praying too. He’s the one who had asked the Jewish professor to ask Frank why he wasn’t Catholic.

A year later, Frank presented a paper, “What John Paul II Can Teach Evangelicals,” at a conference at Boston College. Afterwards, a Catholic convert asked him this question:

“Your paper seems to imply the necessity of creeds in the first centuries of the Church. But that assumes the necessity of a Magisterium that has the authority to issue such creeds and declare them normative for all Christians. Why aren’t you a Catholic?”

He gave some reasons for remaining Protestant, but his reasons weren’t convincing — even to him. He knew he was losing his grip on Protestant beliefs.

When Frank told his wife he had decided to return to the Catholic Church, she said, “It’s about time!” She too wanted to become Catholic.

But there was a PROBLEM: Frank was the President of the Evangelical Theological Society. He was considered the quintessential Protestant — an Evangelical’s Evangelical. Announcing his return to the Catholic Church would send shockwaves throughout Evangelical America.

Frank couldn’t decide when would be the right time to announce his return to the Church. Then one of his nephews, a Catholic, unexpectedly called him and asked: “Would you be my Confirmation sponsor?” To be his Confirmation sponsor, Frank would have to be a Catholic.

Without hesitation, he told his nephew, “Yes.” Then he went to Confession and received absolution for 30 years of sins.

Frank’s return to the Catholic Church after an absence of 30 years is so remarkable that I wanted to question him about his story and what influenced him to come home to the Church. So, I sat down with him for a new interview which is now available as a DVD.

As a brilliant scholar, Frank was familiar with the theological arguments of Protestantism and Catholicism. Yet, for decades, he remained apart from the Church.

Why? What finally tipped the balance?

During our discussion Frank mentioned the late Mortimer Adler, who had one of the most brilliant minds of the 20th century. Adler was a huge fan of St. Thomas Aquinas and knew his writings like the back of his hand, yet he remained a secular Jew. When asked why he wasn’t a Christian, Adler replied, “Faith is a gift, and I have not received it.”

The sudden gift of faith moved him to tears

Adler lived nearly to the age of 100. As Frank explained, late in life Adler was in a hospital bed with pneumonia. Suddenly, the Lord’s Prayer came to his mind, and he was moved to tears and called for the chaplain to pray with him. Adler was soon baptized into the Catholic Church.

Frank brought up the Mortimer Adler conversion story to emphasize that religion is a matter of the heart. Adler converted when he was emotionally ready, and that happened when God’s grace touched his heart. By the same token, Frank wasn’t emotionally ready to return to the Catholic Church until God gave him the grace to return.

Of course, Frank believed that doctrines and theological issues are important. But at rock bottom, he came back to the Church because he turned to the grace that was calling him. The heart has its reasons. His heart was ready to come home.

For many Protestants, Marian doctrines and Purgatory are stumbling blocks. But they weren’t a problem for Frank. During his Protestant years his problem with the Catholic Church came down to four issues: justification, apostolic succession, the sacrament of confession, and the Real Presence of the Eucharist.

To resolve those four issues, a colleague urged him to read the Church Fathers. Frank did so, which made it harder to remain Protestant.

What pushed Frank over the edge was a paragraph from a book review that rocked him to the core. It said that unless you wake up every morning with strong reasons that make you determined to remain Protestant, you MUST do the decent thing and join the Catholic Church. He took that to heart!

I didn’t think I’d be able to offer you Frank’s book because it sold out and was out of print. We could only get 17 copies of it. But to meet the strong demand for this book, the publisher decided to bring a limited number of copies back into print just for our audience! I’m delighted to be able to send it to you.

In this post I’ve only scratched the surface of the insights in Frank’s book — insights that could help you influence a fallen-away loved one to return to the Church. That’s why I want you to hold this book in your hands. When you read it, you’ll find it hard to put down.

How to get the premiums I’m offering this month

As a token of thanks for your sacrificial gift in any amount, I’ll gladly send you the new DVD featuring my recent interview with Frank. Could you consider sending a gift at this time?

I’d also like to send you Frank’s amazing book in which he tells his life story and what influenced him to return to the Catholic Church. Please let me send it to you. As a token of thanks for your gift of $75 or more I’ll be happy to send you the book about his life-changing story plus the DVD mentioned earlier. Could you consider sending a gift of $75 or more?

Here’s why you’re so important to our outreach. I’m not able to reach the Protestants or the fallen-away Catholics that you know. That’s why I’m offering you Frank’s book and our new DVD featuring my recent interview with him. When you’re through with these premiums, please pass them on to someone you know who could benefit. You could help change a life.

Don’t stop praying for a loved one who has fallen away from the Church, and don’t lose hope. Reverts to the Church have become a powerhouse for the faith.

Please pray for our work. And whether your pockets are deep, shallow, or somewhere in between, please consider giving more than the suggested amount, if possible. Your gift will help the Coming Home Network get through the financially tough summer months.

Because summer is upon us — the most difficult time to raise funds — we want to be sure our important work continues unhindered. If you’re able to give more than the suggested amounts, I’m praying you’ll consider making a gift of $100, $500, or even $1,000 or more if possible. Major gifts like these make a huge difference. Could you consider sacrificing one of those amounts — or something in between?

No gift is too large, and no gift is too small. We need gifts of all sizes. Please send a sacrificial gift commensurate with the financial blessings you’ve received from the Lord, whether it’s a major gift or a widow’s mite. May God bless you, in His own best way.

Yours in Christ,
JonMarc Grodi
Executive Director

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