Rod Dreher discusses the forthcoming memoir by conservative pundit—and Catholic convert—Robert Novak called “Prince of Darkness” and one especially striking episode that Novak recalls as the defining moment in his road from secular Judaism to converted Catholic. It involved a single line spoken by a college student at Syracuse in 1996:
There was one woman on the College Republicans committee, seated across the table from me. She was striking looking, wearing a gold cross on her neck.
What happened next may be distorted in my memory and shaped by the religious mysteries that I see entwined in this episode. Without mentioning the cross, I was impelled to ask the woman a question that normally I would not consider posing. Was she a Catholic? I thougth she answered yes and then asked me whether I was one. “No,” I replied, “but my wife and I have been going to mass every Sunday for about four years.” “Do you plan to join the church?” she asked. I answered: “No, not at the present time.”
The the young woman looked at me and said evenly: “Mr. Novak, life is short, but eternity is forever.” I was so shaken by what she said that I could barely get through the rest of the dinner and my speech that night. Sometime during the short night before rising to catch a seven a.m. flight back to Washington, I became convinced that the Holy Spirit was speaking through this Syracuse student.
The obvious lesson is that we never know when the Holy Spirit will use us to touch a heart and that even the simple witness of wearing a cross can have grand consequences for another person. And that we should never think ourselves so lowly that we can’t give a witness to someone we normally might think above us, like a young college student and a famous conservative at the summit of his life.
It brings to mind St. Francis’ admonition: “Evangelize always and when necessary use words.”