Looking ahead to Divine Mercy Sunday, when Pope John Paul II will be canonized, I have a wonderful example of Divine Mercy in action – in the conversion story of
Ryan McLaughlin, a former Calvinist:
My church was Reformed and vehemently so. We had a lot to say about what was wrong with other Christians: Dispensationalists, Arminians, Pentecostals, mega-churches, mainstream Protestants…all sorts of groups were frequent targets of our derision. And of course, we trashed Catholics. “I mean, if those people ever picked up a Bible, they’d figure out how dumb what they believe is, right?” We had debates–and I mean serious debates–about whether the Pope was the Antichrist (not any one Pope in particular, mind you, more just the papacy in general… the alternative Apocalyptic role for the papacy in our hermeneutic was the “whore of Babylon”). In the worldview I shared with my friends, to be Roman was to be ridiculous.
And then, in March of 2005, I inexplicably found myself engrossed in the news coverage of Pope John Paul’s final illness and eventual death. …I remember thinking, despite myself, “Maybe this guy was the vicar of Christ…”
I realized then that John Paul II had a holiness and a strength that my theology couldn’t account for: in the end, what I had believed about this man and his office was simply bigotry. There was now a gaping hole in the way I thought about the world. And as someone who was planning his life around a particular denomination and a particular theology that were opposed to the Pope in every way, that made me extremely uncomfortable. I began to silently question what I was being taught, as well as the people teaching it….