When I was in college, I would sometimes call my high school religion teacher just to talk. We would cover a multitude of topics—academic pressures, dorm life, family, spiritual stuff, etc.—but it was mostly me just complaining about how hard my life was while he patiently listened and offered spiritual counsel. During the winter break of my senior year, I went to go see him and he gave me a tour of his rectory—he was a priest—which included a visit to his personal chapel next to the bedroom. Right there, next to the prie-dieu kneeler and before the tabernacle, was the telephone. He had been talking to me on the phone, on his knees, before the Blessed Sacrament.
February 1 marked the beginning of Black History Month, an annual observance honoring African Americans and recognizing their importance in American history. This year’s celebration is especially important due to the continued prominence of racism and the national failure to make tangible progress with regard to race relations, especially in the treatment of African Americans.
Best Picture nominee Jojo Rabbit, directed by New Zealand’s Taika Waititi, is bookended by two anachronisms: German-language versions of The Beatles’ “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and David Bowie’s “Heroes.” These breaks in the historical tone help remove the viewer from the momentous cultural and political events of World War II. Waititi instead invites us into the life and mind of our protagonist: ten-year-old Johannes “Jojo” Betzler (played by Roman Griffin Davis), who is riding out the end of the war with his mother, Rosie (Scarlett Johansson), and his imaginary friend and idol, Adolph Hitler (Taika Waititi).
In the sacrament of baptism, which we recall at Easter, each of us received both a new identity as a child of God and a vocation to live a life transformed by our encounter with the Lord. We received these gifts not only for our own benefit, but also for the benefit of others.
I love a good conversion story. From Augustine’s Confessions to Jennifer Fulwiler’s Something Other than God, I am drawn to the stories of those who have been transformed by the Truth found in Christ. Since I don’t fit the standard definition of a “convert,” I used to read these beautiful stories of conversion for the simple yet profound way they inspired me to appreciate my own faith and see it with a new perspective. But then I became a parent. I began a journey that changed my outlook on conversion and challenged me to see it as an absolutely essential element of faith for any Christian.