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.