Received into the Church by Pope John Paul II
Religion & Liberty Online

Received into the Church by Pope John Paul II

What follows below is a narrative by Kishore Jayabalan, director of the Acton Institute’s Rome office (Istituto Acton):

“My journey to the Catholic Church began in a very simple way, tried and tested over the centuries in just about every country of the world: Catholic schools. Like my non-Catholic parents in India, I was educated by priests, nuns and laypeople, first at St. Mary’s Queen of Angels in Swartz Creek, Michigan, then on to Luke M. Powers Catholic High School in Flint. The first of these was especially instrumental, as it was there that l learned the basics of the faith, through religion classes, the daily practice of the faith, and the Mass.

The seed planted in those days took years to grow into anything resembling consciousness of God’s plan and call. I always admired and felt close to the Catholic Church, but I hadn’t done anything about it until I lived in Washington, DC, after graduating from the University of Michigan. A good friend and I were volunteering as basketball coaches for a team of 12-year-olds, which gave us much time to talk about families and children as well as philosophy, literature and politics. But only when a mysterious stranger on the DC Metro noticed me reading Walker Percy’s The Moviegoer and asked what the heck I was searching for, did it all start to hit home.

My friend Reed and I asked a local parish priest about the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA), the process of welcoming non-Christians into the Church. After some normal inquiries, he said we were both ready to be received, but suggested that we go through the entire course with others in order to better understand the communal dimensions of the Church. Fair enough, I thought, but this meant I would be doing so in Toronto, where I was off to study political philosophy.

At graduate school in Toronto, all the big questions were discussed, but rarely settled. I was attending the RCIA courses at the St. Basil’s Church with a large group of mostly young adults, the majority of whom were with their Catholic spouses-to-be. I met my future godfather, Matthew Furguiele, at seminar on Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra. One day he called and asked if I would like to go to Rome and be received into the Church by Pope John Paul II. I tried every excuse in the book avoid it, but Matthew’s persistence paid off. I finally said yes.

I’m not sure exactly what Matthew had to say or do to make it all happen, but I am eternally grateful for it. It surely had something to do with a gathering of young people held every Holy Week in Rome by Opus Dei, and I can imagine what readers of The Da Vinci Code will intuit from this. But that cannot explain the presence of the Chinese, Koreans and Vietnamese I was baptized with in St. Peter’s Basilica, at the Easter Vigil Mass on April 6, 1996. Nor can it explain the Pope’s joy at the ceremony. The most memorable and daunting impression of the night was the Pope gently weeping into his own hands after the last one of us was baptized. This spiritual giant, hero of the 20th century, could still be brought to tears with the recovery of one lost coin, one lost sheep.”

Jordan J. Ballor

Jordan J. Ballor (Dr. theol., University of Zurich; Ph.D., Calvin Theological Seminary) is director of research at the Center for Religion, Culture & Democracy, an initiative of the First Liberty Institute. He has previously held research positions at the Acton Institute and Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, and has authored multiple books, including a forthcoming introduction to the public theology of Abraham Kuyper. Working with Lexham Press, he served as a general editor for the 12 volume Abraham Kuyper Collected Works in Public Theology series, and his research can be found in publications including Journal of Markets & Morality, Journal of Religion, Scottish Journal of Theology, Reformation & Renaissance Review, Journal of the History of Economic Thought, Faith & Economics, and Calvin Theological Journal. He is also associate director of the Junius Institute for Digital Reformation Research at Calvin Theological Seminary and the Henry Institute for the Study of Christianity & Politics at Calvin University.