Today marks the one year anniversary of Father Richard J. Neuhaus’s death. At the time of his passing, words failed me . And even now, I still find it difficult to adequately express just how deeply Father Neuhaus impacted my life.

My spiritual journey with Father Neuhaus began in earnest while I was living in South Bend, Indiana, and clerking for Judge Daniel A. Manion. During the first year of my clerkship, one of my co-clerks, Elizabeth, engaged in a not-so-subtle, but ultimately successful, campaign to get me to subscribe to First Things . We would be in the midst of a lively political or theological conversation, and, inevitably, Elizabeth would look at me, and with a teacher-knows-best smile say, “You know, there was an excellent piece on this very issue in the latest edition of First Things . You really should subscribe.” After being subjected to this gentle reproach on  more than one occasion, I finally relented, and joined the illustrious ranks of ROFTERS. And that simple decision, my friends, dramatically changed the course of my life.

You see, folks, at the time I began my subscription to First Things , I was a committed Southern Baptist with a strong Calvinist streak (and a big John Piper fan). Nevertheless, I had always been intrigued by Catholicism, and greatly admired the Church’s clear and unequivocal opposition to abortion (as well as its teachings on other societal issues). As such, the journal’s overtly Catholic tenor did not bother me in the least bit. What I cared about was further exploring the common ground between Catholics and Evangelicals on issues near and dear to all social conservatives. Needless to say, First Things did not disappoint.

But along the way, my interest in reading First Things moved beyond mere politics, and into the more weighty matters of the Christian faith. To put it plainly, Father Neuhaus’s spell-binding prose rekindled my life-long fascination with Catholicism, and this, in turn, triggered a year-long examination of faith that ultimately resulted in my conversion.

I remember thinking shortly after I joined the Church that I should write Father Neuhaus, and let him know about the significant role he played in my journey to the Catholic faith. Unfortunately, I never got around to sending that letter. Suffice it to say, this is something I deeply regret.

In any event, today is a day to remember and honor a great man by renewing our commitment to bear witness to the truth in all things (as he did), regardless of the consequences.

Father Neuhaus, pray for us.

Articles by Stephen Dillard

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