Summary of today’s show: Chuck Hall has had a long journey through just about every Christian denomination until finally landing in the Catholic Church, where he is now preparing for ordination as a deacon. Scot Landry and Fr. Mark O’Connell listen to Chuck tell his tale, from hippy to evangelical Christian to Catholic in 2008, and how he furthered discerned the call to the diaconate. Also the role that G.K. Chesterton played in his conversion.
Listen to the show:
Today’s host(s): Scot Landry and Fr. Mark O’Connell
Today’s guest(s): Chuck Hall
Links from today’s show:
Today’s topics: A convert becomes a Catholic deacon with help from Chesterton
1st segment: Scot asked Fr. Mark about the concert by the Three Priests that we did a show about last week. Fr. Mark said they sang all the standards and the concert hall had many priests in it. He said most of the priests were dressed casually, except they all had black pants and black socks and were easily picked out.
Scot said this week was a Mass celebrating men who have been ordained for 25 years. Fr. Mark said he was a first year theology student in the seminary when these men were fourth year. Twelve men were present for the Mass, while four more couldn’t attend because they are serving outside the archdiocese.
Fr. Mark said this week he had his third-year theology seminarians for Mass this week at the Pastoral Center.
2nd segment: Scot welcomed Chuck Hall. He’s studying for the diaconate and is a parishioner at Our Lady of Hope in Ipswich. Scot asked him about his preparation for the diaconate. Chuck said it’s been an incredible experience and it’s being revealed why God led him to this place. He has great affection for the deacon brothers and their families he’s in formation with. There are 15 men in his class from a variety of backgrounds.
Chuck said he’s so busy with formation now, he’s not as involved in his parish as he was, but he previously started the Wednesday evening prayer group and has been active in Bible studies. He’s also been involved in music in the life of the Church. This is new for him. One of the surprises of formation was that his musical past has a place in his life in the Church. His love for music in the past came flowing back to him in an unexpected way.
Scot said Chuck is halfway through the four-year program. He said the first year is a year of discernment. He talked about one of his first classes, which helps with spiritual discernment. Fr. Mark asked about the wives’ involvement. Chuck said his wife came to every single activity in the first year, but in the second year she missed a class and broke her perfect attendance. Scot recalled his time in the seminary and having the time to slow down and pray and discern, and that was tough to maintain when he left. Chuck said one of the lessons from a class this year was the understanding of a number of things about the Catholic that he never fully grasped before. As a convert, he doesn’t have the reflexive knowledge of the faith that others have. To see it broken out in the class, he understands now the why and how. He’s learned for the first time how the Mass is a sacrament, what baptism is about and how it introduces us to the life of God.
Chuck says becoming a deacon was not his idea, but when he looked into, all the doors opened, and all the other doors closed. God was telling him he as enough information and God wanted him to have more formation.
Chuck said after becoming Catholic he got involved in the parish, helping start a prayer group and responding to an ad in the bulletin for Eucharistic ministers at a local hospital, which has been very fruitful. He went to the pastor and gave him his idea for starting a prayer group in the parish. The pastor said, Ask the pastor and then go do it. He was surprised at the lack of bureaucracy. In the course of that, people he would encounter at the parish or hospital or at the software company he worked at would ask him if he’d thought about the diaconate. One time at the hospital, he visited a patient. When he came in the room, the man was talking on his phone to someone and at the end of the conversation, the man said, “I have to go,. The deacon is here to talk to me.” When he talked to his priest, he told him that God seemed to be calling him.
Chuck said the deacon has a particular role in the Church, different from priests or religious or laypeople. They have one foot in the world and one foot in the parish. They are always in places that priests or religious are not. The particular call to the diaconate is a call to be an icon in the world. It involves a deep commitment.
Scot said Chuck attended his first Mass in 2006 and only came into the Church in 2008 from Evangelical Christianity. He said one of the misconceptions of people considering the call is that it’s all up to them, but instead it’s up to both the Church and the person discerning. If the Church decides the deacon candidate is not being call to the ministry, then that’s it. Chuck said that as a convert he had a strong sense of the integrity of the Magisterium and believes that the Church isn’t going o let him down. The Church wants to help form him and discern for him and he’s going to let them do that.
Fr. Mark said he read the Chuck defended the Church even before he was Catholic. It happened around the time of the scandals and in conversations with a friend about conspiracy theories surrounding the “DaVinci Code” and gnostic writings. He had suggested that his friend should read some materials, and as he was digging into the early Church fathers, he began to see the evidence for the Church’s claims. One of the books he suggested was The Creed: What Christians Believe and Why it Matters.
As he began to hear about the scandals, despite being a Presbyterian, he began to feel that it was his Church being attacked, that all Christians had a stake in the Church. In most of the world, when people think Christians, they think Catholic. Even Hollywood always equates the two. So there must be something about theChurch is she’s always the target and always has this body of wisdom in it.
He said G.K. Chesterton is very unusual: It’s both too militant and too passive, too much this and too much the opposite. So he picked up a copy of the Catechism and see what the Church really believes. It produced a full picture of his own belief, but opening it all up even further. He began to feel that this is Jesus’ Church. Scot said its natural for a Christian man to defend what’s important to you. He said a lot of men return to the Church because they feel called to defend it and so they pick up the Catechism and take other steps to lose their faith.
Scot said Chuck came of age in the 60s and began to respond to Christ’s call in the 70s. He went through a lot of different Christian groups. Chuck said when he filled out his application for the diaconate program he was supposed to fill out a spiritual biography. It was pointed out to him how he zigged and zagged through is life, but from his own viewpoint it’s a straight line in how he responded to God at any particular point in time.
His first “God moment” was when he was 8 and went to see a friend and she was at Catechism class at her Catholic church. As he was walking home, he thought, “If God exists, that’s all that matters.” He recalls thinking that’s too big for him, but that it’s true.
His parents dropped him off at the local Protestant church on Sundays to get a religious education that for a faith they didn’t share with him. So there was a lot of input from religion so when his life was beginning to fall apart in the late 60s, it was natural for him to turn to God. There came a moment when he was at a party in 1971 that was next to a church. He saw a friend take drugs and nearly die and he turned to God in the church and told Him he couldn’t do it anymore. When he told his friends that, he was directed to a new pastor in town. The pastor found himself sitting with two hippies smoking away, but Chuck was told for the first time that Jesus died for him.
At school at University of New Hampshire, Chuck became involved with Campus Crusade for Christ. It took a long time for him to really start changing. He was introduced to a lot of great writers and philosophers, like C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton.
His testimony is that he cried out to God and He heard Chuck’s cry. God reached out to Chuck.
Chuck started with the conservative Baptists, where he learned to love his Bible. Then he took a turn to Reformed theology, including Presbyterian Church in America. He began to sense there was more to the picture, including the corporal works of mercy. He came to understand that these things need to be part of his life. He went to his minister and asked how to discern how to show these things in his life. The minister told Chuck that if he’s called to these, the minister will know before Chuck will. Chuck knew that was the wrong answer.
When Chuck would take communion at the Presbyterian church (not Catholic communion, they don’t believe in the Real Presence) once per month like they did, he would be in tears. This was the beginning of his move to Catholicism.
Scot said he read in Chuck’s biography of the importance of G.K. Chesterton for those thinking of converting to Catholicism. Chuck said he was introduced to Chesterton through his Father Brown mystery stories. He realized that there was a lot more in the books than just a mystery. At one point, he was at Keene State College studying classical guitar and he met a used book store owner he sold him many Chesterton books. He began to realize while he was reading “Orthodoxy” that he was becoming accustomed to the way the mind works and how one forms a philosophy.
Chesterton, who was not a theologian, but a journalist, wrote about what the Catholic mind thinks about. When Chuck finally decided to convert to Catholicism, all that Chesterton he’d read came back to him.
Fr. Mark asked where someone should start with Chesterton. Chuck said the Father Brown stories is a good place to start.
Now as we do every week at this time, we will consider the Mass readings for this Sunday, specifically the Gospel reading.
When Peter entered, Cornelius met him
and, falling at his feet, paid him homage.
Peter, however, raised him up, saying,
“Get up. I myself am also a human being.”
Then Peter proceeded to speak and said,
“In truth, I see that God shows no partiality.
Rather, in every nation whoever fears him and acts uprightly
While Peter was still speaking these things,
the Holy Spirit fell upon all who were listening to the word.
The circumcised believers who had accompanied Peter
were astounded that the gift of the Holy Spirit
should have been poured out on the Gentiles also,
for they could hear them speaking in tongues and glorifying God.
Then Peter responded,
“Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people,
who have received the Holy Spirit even as we have?”
He ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.
- Gospel for the Sixth Sunday of Easter, May 13, 2012 (John 15:9-17)
Jesus said to his disciples:
“As the Father loves me, so I also love you.
Remain in my love.
If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love,
just as I have kept my Father”s commandments
and remain in his love.”
“I have told you this so that my joy may be in you
and your joy might be complete.
This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.
No one has greater love than this,
to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
You are my friends if you do what I command you.
I no longer call you slaves,
because a slave does not know what his master is doing.
I have called you friends,
because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.
It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you
and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain,
so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you.
This I command you: love one another.”
Scot said three words jump out from the gospel: love, joy, friends. Love appears often in the Gospels, yet in contemporary society we don’t appreciate the love Jesus speaks about here. The love Jesus is talking about is agape, self-sacrificial love. He’s willing to lay down our life for us and we respond by being willing to lay down our lives for him. Chuck said he’s learned in his study of Theology of the Body is that self-giving love is the love of God for us. God gives himself to us and we do the same for one another.
Scot said in the first reading, St. Peter and the apostles are deliberating whether the love of God was for just the Jews or the whole world. Fr. Mark said the conclusion is yes, the whole world, and Peter demonstrates this with Cornelius. Like Peter choose Cornelius, so God chooses us. We’re all invited to the table of the lamb. God chooses every single one of us.
Scot said God has appointed us to go and bread fruit that will be everlasting. It’s not just for us to love Jesus back, but to go and bear fruit. Chuck said one of his great discoveries in becoming Catholic is the appreciation we have for the sense that we participate in the life of God, that he is the eternal exchange of love between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The way we participate in that is by the way go and bear fruit in the world.
Scot said as we look to Mother’s Day, consider how all our mothers have laid down their lives for us. Scott, Fr. Mark, and Chuck wished Happy Mother’s Day to mothers and wives.