Last Thursday’s passing of Father Richard John Neuhaus — the noteworthy editor of First Things and ex-Lutheran minister who became a Catholic priest — is marked by a nice article by George Weigel in Newsweek.
I enjoyed Fr. Neuhaus’ commentary on EWTN this past April when Pope Benedict XVI visited the United States. That was the first time I saw him on television, and I liked his dry wit!
Two or three years ago, on my own journey toward Catholicism, I read an article Neuhaus wrote entitled, “How I Became the Catholic I Was.” (I later learned that it was an excerpt from his book Catholic Matters.) The article is available as a PDF in the Coming Home Network‘s Feb. 2003 newsletter (beginning on page 3) and as HTML on the First Things site.
He recalled the story of how “the great confessional Lutheran theologian Peter Brunner regularly said that a Lutheran who does not daily ask himself why he is not a Roman Catholic cannot know why he is a Lutheran.” Neuhaus also pointed out how Lutheranism “turned against the fulfillment of its destiny as a reforming movement within the one Church of Christ. Lutheranism in all its parts, both in this country and elsewhere, had settled for being a permanently separated Protestant denomination; or, as the case may be, several Protestant denominations.”
That hit me hard — especially as someone who was a proud member of the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod since the early 1990s. The original idea of the Reformation was to work toward reform of and reconciliation with the Catholic Church, not to establish a permanently separated state. This original idea has been lost over the past 490+ years.
I cannot say that Fr. Neuhaus’ writings immediately prompted me to join the Catholic Church, but he did get the old wheels turning in my head at a much faster rate than they had in the past.
Thank you, Father Neuhaus, for all that you did in this life, and may you enter into eternal rest!