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Katie van Schaijik

Ronda Chervin’s conversion story

Jan. 24 at 4:52pm

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.


 

Colleen Toder

I have met Ronda through her friend Marti Armstrong. She was at the baptism/entrance into the church of my good friend  and her family in Poughkeepsie. I also know of her through the Hebrew Catholic group founded by Dave Moss. 

May she prosper and continue doing the work of the Lord!

#1 - Jan. 24 at 9:05pm | quote

Katie van Schaijik

David Moss is also a friend of ours.  One of these days, Colleen, we're bound to bump into each other somewhere, don't you think?

#2 - Jan. 24 at 9:24pm | quote

 

Samantha

Thank you so much for sharing this, Katie! 

An excerpt that particularly struck me:

‎"After a few months at Fordham, I could not help but wonder how come the brilliant lay Catholics and the brilliant Jesuits in the philosophy department could believe those ideas such as the existence of God, the divinity of Christ, the reality of objective truth, moral absolutes, and the need for Church-going. Obviously it was not only stupid and weak people who thought this way. What is more they could prove that the mind could know truth and that there were universal ethical truths in a few sentences."

#3 - Jan. 25 at 11:54am | quote

Katie van Schaijik

That quote mirrors Jules' experience too.  When he "accidentally" ended up in Steubenville, he was a nominal Catholic who more or less took it for granted that religion was for stupid and weak people who couldn't come to  terms with the fact that reality was basically just molecules.

It was in meeting so many intelligent, articulate, devout believers, who had given essential questions a lot more thoughtful attention than he ever had that made him realize how stupid and weak his own position actually was.  

Then he started reading C.S. Lewis.  And the rest is history.

#4 - Jan. 25 at 11:59am | quote

 

Jules van Schaijik

Katie van Schaijik, Jan. 25 at 10:59am

Then he started reading C.S. Lewis. And the rest is history.

My wife modestly left out a crucial detail:

Then he started taking long walks with Katie, and having lovely picnics, eating baguettes, brie, and grapes, and discussing everything under the sun. And the rest is history indeed.

#5 - Jan. 25 at 9:57pm | quote

 

Samantha

Katie van Schaijik, Jan. 25 at 10:59am

That quote mirrors Jules' experience too.  When he "accidentally" ended up in Steubenville, he was a nominal Catholic who more or less took it for granted that religion was for stupid and weak people who couldn't come to  terms with the fact that reality was basically just molecules.

Jules (or Katie): how did you "accidentally" end up at Steubenville? I am applying this week to their masters program in philosophy, and I am wondering what you can tell me about your experience.

#6 - Jan. 26 at 2:57pm | quote

 

Samantha

Jules van Schaijik, Jan. 25 at 8:57pm

Katie van Schaijik, Jan. 25 at 10:59am

Then he started reading C.S. Lewis. And the rest is history.

My wife modestly left out a crucial detail:

Then he started taking long walks with Katie, and having lovely picnics, eating baguettes, brie, and grapes, and discussing everything under the sun. And the rest is history indeed.

.Awww! How long was your courtship?

So Jules, what was the first C.S. Lewis text you read? Have either you or Katie ever read "A Severe Mercy"? 

#7 - Jan. 26 at 2:59pm | quote

Katie van Schaijik

Samantha Schroeder, Jan. 26 at 1:59pm

Awww! How long was your courtship?

So Jules, what was the first C.S. Lewis text you read? Have either you or Katie ever read "A Severe Mercy"? 

The length depends on how you count.  We knew each for three years before we got engaged, then were engaged one year before marriage.

The first year was a year of ever-deepening friendship; the second year was a year of confusion.  The latter half of it we call "the silent semester", because we had broken off all contact.  That was the semester we also both took Dr. Healy's course on the Nature of Love.  He assigned a paper on A Severe Mercy.  

By the end of that semester, we knew our love was real, and our more formal courtship began.

God is good.

#8 - Jan. 26 at 4:17pm | quote

 

Jules van Schaijik

OOPS! I wrote this comment before reading Katie's.

Samantha Schroeder, Jan. 26 at 1:59pm

How long was your courtship? 

It depends when you start counting. We met during my first week (freshman year) at Steubenville, and hit it off right away. Katie was amazing: intelligent, fun, beautiful, radiant and somehow pure or transparent. And boy, she knew how to argue a point. (Not to win, but to get to the truth as she saw it.)

what was the first C.S. Lewis text you read?

I think it was Mere Christianity. But is was Miracles that shatterer my materialsm. (Ch. 3: "The Cardinal Difficulty of Naturalism").  That might be a good book for our reading circle one day.

Have either you or Katie ever read "A Severe Mercy"? 

Yes. We loved it! Michael Healy had us write a paper on it for his Nature of Love course. Now I see the limits of the book more clearly. Still, a great read.  (Another great candidate for the reading circle.)

#9 - Jan. 26 at 4:29pm | quote

 

Colleen Toder

Katie van Schaijik, Jan. 24 at 8:24pm

David Moss is also a friend of ours.  One of these days, Colleen, we're bound to bump into each other somewhere, don't you think?

.I surely hope so. God is good! and there are no coincidences in this world.

#10 - Jan. 27 at 6:01pm | quote

 

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