The Times has just reported the death of Cardinal Avery Dulles, SJ, theologian, who died on December 12, 2008, aged 90.
Of his conversion to Catholicism he said in his conversion memoir, A Testimonial to Grace (1946):
"[In 1939] one grey February afternoon [in Harvard’s Widener Library] I was irresistibly prompted to go out into the open air . . . . The slush of melting snow formed a deep mud along the banks of the River Charles, which I followed down toward Boston . . . . As I wandered aimlessly, something impelled me to look contemplatively at a young tree. On its frail, supple branches were young buds . . . . While my eye rested on them, the thought came to me suddenly, with all the strength and novelty of a revelation, that these little buds in their innocence and meekness followed a rule, a law of which I as yet knew nothing . . . . That night, for the first time in years, I prayed.”
He of course later was made a cardinal.
"After his consecration as a cardinal in Rome on February 21, 2001, the Gregorian University hosted a meal in his honour. Over the rattle of after-dinner coffee cups, various high-ranking ecclesial figures rose to praise Dulles’s life and work.
The most revealing moment, however, may have come when, unexpectedly, one of his Dulles cousins stepped to the podium.
An aristocrat of that strange, old American variety — tall and puritanically thin, well but primly dressed, a daughter of stern Protestant New England — she explained that she had overheard as a child the outraged family discussions of the young Avery’s conversion.
Uncle Allen, Aunt Eleanor, John Foster, all the senior family members gathered around to complain that the best and brightest of the family’s next generation seemed determined to throw his promising life away.
“And, of course, they were right,” she said. “He did throw that life away. He threw it away for God.”