Friday, December 13, 2019

3rd Sunday of Advent, Year A (Matthew 11:2-11) Harvard atheist professor becomes Catholic

Roy Shoeman: atheist become Catholic
Today I would like to share with you an amazing conversion story I heard during the week, about a man by the name of Roy Shoeman, (born 1951). If you can watch the video of his story I would highly recommend it, as it is one of the most inspiring stories I have heard in a long time.  Here is the link:

Roy Shoeman was born and raised in a very Jewish family, the son of Jewish, German holocaust refugees. He received a very Jewish upbringing and education. He then went to MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), which is a very a technical and scientific institute. He says that in college he lost his faith and became an atheist. Having graduated from MIT, he went on to Harvard business school, and completed his degree in marketing. When he graduated at the age of 29, he was invited back to work on the faculty as professor of marketing. Obviously he was a very clever man.

As a child he always believed there must be a God and purpose to life. When he made his Bar mitzva, which is similar to Confirmation, he hoped that that it would be the beginning of a personal relationship with God, but it was not. He said that it was one of the saddest days of his life. He then got caught up with worldly living and went on through high school and college. But having become a Harvard professor and more successful than he ever dreamed of, he fell into the darkest despair of his life. He had everything, except meaning and purpose; in other words he had nothing.

One day he was out walking in nature and he had the most extraordinary experience of his life. He said that suddenly the veil between earth and heaven disappeared and he could see the spiritual world. He was intensely aware that he was in the presence of God and he could also see back over his life. He says that in an instant he saw most of what is taught in the Catholic faith, that we live for all eternity, that every action has a moral content which is recorded for all eternity; that everything that had every happened to him was perfect and in the hands of an all-knowing, all-loving God, not only including the things which had caused him the most suffering, but especially those things, that they all fitted together perfectly in God’s plan. He was also shown the two greatest regrets he would have if he had died. The first was all the time he had spent thinking he was not loved, when in fact he was held in perfect love all his life, by God. The second regret was all the time he had wasted doing things of no value in the eyes of heaven. While he felt that life had no meaning, he was shown that in fact life has an infinitely deep meaning and value. He was also shown that every moment has the possibility of doing something of value in the eyes of heaven and that each valued action we do, will be rewarded for all eternity.

He says that the most transformative part of this experience was being shown that not only was God with him all throughout his life and held him in the deepest love, but that God was with him through every joy and sorrow he ever experienced. What made him happy, made God happy and what made him sad, made God sad. He realized that we are created to worship and serve God for all eternity. He says he began praying and asking God what his name was. He wanted to know who God was so that he could follow that religion. He didn’t mind if it was the Buddha and he had to become Buddhist, or Krishna and he had to become Hindu, just so long as it wasn’t Christ and he would have to become Christian. He felt that way because coming from a Jewish background he said he would feel that he was going over to the enemy side, as it were. However, God respected this and did not reveal any name to him.

He then went home, happier than he had ever been in his life and began looking into various mystical ideas to try and find out who God was. Initially he tried New Age ideas, but he soon realized this was going in the wrong direction. He prayed every night that God might show him who He is.

A year to the day after this experience, he went asleep and was awoken and led to a room where he found himself in the presence of the most beautiful young woman he had ever seen. Without being told, he knew immediately that this was Our Lady. She said to him, ‘Are there any questions you would like me to answer for you.’ He says that he wished he knew the Hail Mary, so as to show her honor and respect, but he didn’t. So, hoping to learn the Hail Mary, but being too embarrassed to admit he didn’t know it, he asked her what her favorite prayer was. She recited a prayer in Portuguese, which he remembered phonetically and later asked a Portuguese Catholic woman what it meant. She said it was the prayer ‘O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.’ In the dream he found himself asking her how it was that she was so profoundly glorious and majestic. In response, she looked at him with pity and said, ‘Oh no. You don’t understand. I am nothing. I am only a creature, a created thing. He is everything.’ When he woke the next morning he knew immediately that the God who had revealed himself to him was Christ and that he wanted to become Christian.

Right away he found himself going to a phone book, looking up the nearest Christian Church. He knew nothing about Christianity and the difference between Protestants and Catholics, but he found himself talking to a Protestant pastor. When he shyly asked him about Our Lady, the pastor was not respectful in how he referred to her and this made him realize that he was in the wrong place. In the days and weeks that followed he found himself visiting Marian shrines and realizing that they were all part of the Catholic Church. He also found himself going to mass at times. When he did this, he felt a profound desire, a greed, almost a lust, to receive the Eucharist, even though he had no idea what the Eucharist was. Within a short time, this led him to becoming a Catholic.

He says that not only did he find himself not leaving behind Judaism, but in fact he realized he was more Jewish than ever, because he was a Jew who had recognized the Messiah and was now following him. That’s exactly what the Apostles did. As Jews, they recognized Jesus as the Messiah and followed him. One leads directly to the other, which is exactly what we believe.

After he became a Catholic, he says he still struggled with some of the teachings of the Church and it was about 18 months before he fully realized that all the teachings of the Church were true, because they are from God. The one he struggled with most was the teaching that people could be condemned to hell for all eternity. Talking to a priest that was guiding him, he expressed his doubt about this teaching. But the priest said to him, 'But it is a dogma (official teaching) of our faith.' In other words we are obliged to believe it, as part of our faith because it comes from God. He realized that he had been deciding what he should and should not believe, as opposed to accepting the teachings of the Church, because we believe they come from God. Who was he to decide what should be believed and what should not be believed. If God had revealed them, then they must be true. From then on he was able to accept what was taught by the Church as coming from God, even when he found it difficult to understand. This can be a challenge for all of us, but if we really believe that what the Church teaches is God's teaching, then who are we to decide whether we will believe it or not?

God gives us the experiences of people like Roy, to help us believe. We all need help and encouragement, but testimonies like this are ongoing reminders of God's wonderful providence among us, guiding us and encouraging us.

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