Five Conversions

Do not hate toilsome labor, or farm work,
Which were created by the Most High…
Do you have cattle? Look after them;
If they are profitable to you, keep them.
Sirach 7:15, 22

I’ve experienced five major conversions in my life.

When I was seven, I was baptized a Lutheran. This was my first conversion, though at the time, I was so oblivious to this that it hardly took.

When I was eighteen, I brashly claimed to be a scientific materialist, with no need for God. I thought Jesus was the child of a space traveler and a primitive earth woman.

When I was twenty-one, God had enough of my craziness. Like flicking a speck from His sleave, He belted me with His grace, and mercifully allowed me to see Jesus. This was my second conversion, and my life has never been the same.

At age thirty-one, after six years of industry and four of seminary, I was ordained a Protestant minister. I wanted to help others see Jesus.

At age thirty-two I met Marilyn and at thirty-four we were married. This was my third conversion, for now I was complete, melded on to a far better half. And my life has never been the same.

At age thirty-five, we had our first son, Jon Marc, and once again, our lives have never been the same, Praise be to Jesus.

When I was thirty-eight, through the witness of a seminary friend, I “saw” for the first time 1 Timothy 3:15, and once again, our lives have never been the same.

At age thirty-nine, God blessed us with our second son, Peter, and again our lives have never been the same.

When I was forty, Marilyn, our two sons, and I were received into the Catholic Church. Praise be to God! This was my fourth conversion, and again, our lives have never been the same!

Much much has happened since then! God has opened many doors: the Light and Life Foundation; Franciscan University; the Coming Home Network International; EWTN; many opportunities to speak and write, and I have been far more blessed than I deserve!

And one of those blessings was the birth of our third son, Richard, and once again our lives have never been the same!

And then Jon Marc met Teresa and they were married, and blessed us with our first grand son, Dominic! Praise be to God! And our lives have never been the same!

All of this has been an unfolding of innumerable blessings, all of which have changed our lives for the better, and for the glory of God!

But this is not to mention my fifth conversion.

It all happened back when I was forty-four. Marilyn was given, by her mother, ten acres of land on the old family farm. We designed a home, and had it built in a whittled out section of woods, overlooking a hundred-year-old sheep barn that had been built by Marilyn’s grandfather John.

One morning, sitting out on our porch, overlooking a valley, across to the barn, it occurred to me that that barn was made for a purpose. In the same way that a house without a family is not a home, that barn without critters was not fulfilling its purpose. This land, which had been hand-cleared by the first settler and his family back in 1825, was not fulfilling it purpose. And in these revelations our lives have never been the same.

On this feast of St. Isidore, the Patron of Farmers, I thank God for all of my conversions, and pray for the grace to fully understand and fulfill this last one―though of course, I doubt if it will be my last, for our lives are but one continual journey of conversion.


When I was a boy, I learned that the definition of a farmer is a man outstanding in his field. Now at age sixty, with my son Richard helping me herd six grass-fed cattle between eleven paddocks of pasture and my wife Marilyn trying desperately to put up with my craziness, I ask St. Isidore to pray for me, that I might have even an inkling of the worthiness of a farmer.

And by the grace of God, our lives will continue to never be the same.

12 thoughts on “Five Conversions

  1. Thank you, Marcus, for this blog, this post, and all that you do through the Coming Home Network, including the Journey Home. You have been instrumental in my conversion to the Catholic Faith, and in the conversions of many others. In the book of Daniel in the Old Testament, it is written that those who turn many from paths of unrighteousness to righteousness will shine like the stars in the world to come. You will no doubt go off like a supernova. God bless you, and your whole wonderful family, the likes of which I hope to aspire to one day, as a young man myself.

  2. What does this mean about “The Journey Home” program? Are you retiring? If so, can I have your job…. (smile).

    Seriously, if you leave the Journey Home it is going to be so sad for us out here. You are so kind and gentle. (And it is rare to find such a good listener.) I love the show and the radio program AND the wonderful bulletins I get from Coming Home International.

  3. No, no, sorry for the implication! As long as EWTN will put up with me, I’ll gladly continue hosting the Journey Home. And thank you for your kind comments.

  4. Farming tends to run in the blood (or in the mind) even when we get far from it. My parents and grandparents were farmers and even though I live an urban life, the rhythms of seasons and the perspective of generations who eked out a living from an often uncooperative land have shaped how I think and even how I worship. Your conversions–as you see–are all of a piece and how wonderful they are!

  5. what a good idea to honor St. Isidore – blog as back porch communion-of-saints in unending liturgical praise (I noted the opened i-Breviary before the column of text rolled over it)

    My own way of honoring this Doctor of the Church? My browser start-up window placeholder features an intercessory prayer

    Almighty and eternal God, who created us in Thy image
    and bade us to seek after all that is good, true and beautiful,
    especially in the divine person of Thy Only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, grant, we beseech Thee, that, through the intercession of Saint Isidore, Bishop and Doctor, during our journeys through the Internet we will direct our hands and eyes only to that which is pleasing to Thee and treat with charity and patience all those souls whom we encounter. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

    This site (and the Coming Home broadcasts) most definitely qualifies as “that which is pleasing to Thee” and as Teresa said, your gift to “treat with charity and patience all those souls whom you encounter” is rare and thus all the more admirable.

    God Bless your expansion of the apostolate into stewardship of nature!

  6. Do you ever tire from hearing of your impact and your witness, as God’s fine instrument, to so many conversions, of which I am but one more? I was looking for something uplifting this evening to raise my flagging spirits and, once again, our kind God sends us you. You, with your delightful little story and fresh as spring pictures! Thank you, Marcus. May our Father bless your life with your darling Marilyn and dear sons and all your family.

  7. I just read your conversion story on your personal website. It is always a blessing to hear the story behind the story. I find it fascinating to hear what life was like on the other side of the fence.

    I am a cradle Catholic and my wife (cradle Catholic as well) and I have been trying to learn the Faith more and more. To hear how much you and your lovely wife yearned for Christ while you knelt in the pew before coming home makes me wonder why we take take these things (or at least use to) for granted.

    I loved this post because you are talking about your farm in Ohio. It is beautiful there and I think we would love to live there one day. My wife and I were in Ohio with our daughter last June because that is where my truck accident was on June 1st and where I had my 1st surgery. I was rushed to Genesis Good Samaritan in Zanesville and then to Grant Medical in Columbus (4 fractured vertebrae and 3 fractured ribs). I was a truck driver and the first and last time in a semi truck was in Ohio. Not sure what God was trying to say. The accident was on I-70 westbound near New Concord.

    What is good book to give someone who left the Faith to read? A lady who lives below us is a Pentecostal Pastor (newly ordained). We love her and she absolutely adores our daughter but she makes a lot of comments that my wife is worried about. Is Deacon Alex Jones book a good book for her to read? Any recommendations?

    Sorry for the long comment. I love this post. Thank you and God Bless you Marcus and your family.

  8. I agree with all of the folks who are obviously taken with your quiet and gentle nature. Your work means a lot to many of us who watch EWTN. You have many good guests, but the apparent goodness of your program goes beyond your guests (quite a diverse bunch of folks). Yours is the only program that I enjoy watching the “encore” presentations. God be with you, now and always.

  9. Your life progression is moving, Marcus. I wonder where God is leading you with the return to farming. There is something fundamental in the desire of a man directly to provide his family’s food, and at the same time “tend his garden”. The rotational grazing paradigm is a modern adaptation of the child taking the herd to pasture, and we think it may be the lost key to successful husbandry.

  10. I recently discovered your blog, but I’ve been watching your program for several years. You’ve helped me transition from the Episcopal church into the Catholic Church, and I’ve been blessed and inspired by the stories of your guests, and by your own. I don’t think I’ve ever said “thank you” for all these things, so I’m doing it now. Thank you!

  11. Dear Marcus, thank you for your program and EWTN, I enjoy it so much. And yes to be on the land is a real privilege as we ourselves enjoy. I always work in our garden but in fact it is God’s Garden, and we are simply the caretakers. All the best Marianne