I just received an email from Catholics for Israel with its January line up of articles. Among them is the amazing and beautiful conversion story of friend and Personalist Project member Ronda Chervin.
I love the incipient personalism of her existential questioning even at a young age.
Junior High School English class. The assignment: write a page about what you want to be when you grow up. It had to be done on the spot. "How can I know what I want to be, if I don't know the meaning of life?" I wrote spontaneously. I don't think I would have remembered this precocious philosophical question, a prophecy of my later choice to become a philosophy professor, had the teacher not graded it A plus.
Hoping to find the truth she was looking for, she studied philosophy in secular universities, where it only seemed to get further away.
...skepticism was so much in vogue that by a year of graduate school I felt hopeless. Where was truth? Where was love? Why even live? In this frame of mind, Thanksgiving vacation in NYC, 1958, my mother, who never watched TV during the day and never surfed channels, turned on a program called The Catholic Hour. The guests were Dietrich Von Hildebrand and Alice Jourdain, soon to become Von Hildebrand. They were talking about truth and love.
I love the way it wasn't just the intellectual argumentation that they offered, but the personal witness of her new circle of friends that drew her further and deeper into love and truth.
What impressed me most was not the ideas of these Catholic philosophers which I didn't understand very well, but their personal vitality and joy. The skepticism, relativism, and historicism, that characterized most secular universities at that time left many of the professors sad and desiccated. Drawn to this joy, as well as the loving friendliness with which everyone in this circle of Catholics moved out to greet a newcomer, I quickly switched from Johns Hopkins to Fordham to continue my studies.
I love the role that beauty in music and art played in opening her heart to God.
In a museum in Florence I saw Da Vinci's unfinished nativity. I looked at the Virgin Mary, so simple, pure, and sweet and I wept. She had something I would never have: purity!
She was baptised at age 21, in 1959. And I love that she has spent her life since in sharing the love and truth she received with others.
Thank you, dear Ronda!
P.S. Many years back, when she was teaching in Steubenville and we were living there, she did two things that were a huge encouragement to me personally. She invited me to address her class on some topic or other (my first speaking invitation!) and she attended my mini-series on courtship—the prototype for this semester's course—giving me warm encouragement and feedback afterwards. She has a special gift of encouragement.