The following column and two which will follow were the basis for three articles that recently ran on the Catholic Exchange website.
For those who are unfamiliar, I am Deacon Tom Fox. I serve the people of God and the Catholic Church in north central Arizona. In addition to typical parish ministry, I’ve been involved with a number of new media evangelization sites (my own repository for storing some earlier homilies – deacontomonline.com), this wonderful Catholic Mom site, audio reflections over some four years on the Catholic Moments Podcast, the Paul’s Men Podcast, and others).
Currently, my lovely wife Dee and I do a podcast called Catholic Vitamins. You can listen to any of our three and a half years of those shows on your computer by going to www.catholicvitamins.com. Virtually all of our work on this show is based on interviews with bishops, priests, deacons, nuns, authors, evangelists and singers and musicians. We have really been blessed with some wonderful faith topics (vitamins) and guests. We also have contributing ‘correspondents’ who add their own perspectives and experience on Catholic Vitamins.
Over a month ago, the folks at Marian Press sent us a copy of a new book by Felix Carroll LOVE, LOST, FOUND: 17 Divine Mercy Conversions. The author is a Massachusetts-born Irish Catholic who admits to being so Irish, that he doesn’t always have a good handle on his emotions, and still pines for the Motherland. Felix has been and remains a drummer with enough music in his soul, as well as angst and the Irish yen to see what’s over the next hill or across the body of water he’s looking upon, that he has worked at making music, escaping by oyster farming, joining traveling tent circuses, and then going to work for newspapers.
It was in this work he was given an almost sacramental grace of learning how to craft sentences. Sentences that quickly involve the reader and bring emotions off the page and into the mind and heart. And long story shortened, Felix has worked for good newspapers and has won a ‘bunch of journalism awards.’
Such was what I discovered when, after reading… no, rather devouring his new book on Divine Mercy that I reached out to Felix and asked if I could be favored with my first electronic, evolving interview. He agreed to this and we’ve shared back and forth. And now I’d like to share this first of three articles as my own effort to promote a book that will be a great read for every Catholic, every former Catholic, every sinner, every wanna-be saint, every abortionist doctor, every priest. You get the idea.
Thank you Felix Carroll for giving us the gift of 17 Stories of Divine Mercy Conversions. Thank you Felix for allowing me to have pretty significant access to you and who you are, and about your crafting of this book. The LOVED, LOST, FOUND book is available at the Marian Press site: https://secure.marianweb.net/giftshop/product.php?PID=07110176&DID=101
LOVED, LOST, FOUND Interview With Felix Carroll. Part One
DT: Felix, I’ve shared with you that I have been a student of, and a preacher about conversion stories. Why has Divine Mercy played such an important role in these conversion stories?
FC: Writing the book was the greatest spiritual experience of my life, next to the birth of my boy! So many of the people who experience conversions through Divine Mercy seem to receive the Divine Nudge from others who have experienced conversions through Divine Mercy. As I’m sure you know, personal witness can be the most powerful means of conversion. And I hope that’s what works for the readers of the book who need the Divine Nudge.
Through St. Faustina, Jesus says in no uncertain terms that there is nothing (NOTHING) we could ever do that could make Him give up on us. This is not idle chatter made in polite company. This is “big stuff” we’re dealing with here. And His promise of mercy for sinners strikes most powerfully in people who have no time or patience to pussyfoot around anymore. They need God. They know they need God. They just don’t know who or what He or “it” is, and have no clue how to find Him. They’ve been through way too much — been let down, have let others down, have been bamboozled or have been the perpetrators of bamboozlement. They’ve been raised in a world of broken trust — trust broken in families, friendships, marriages, the Church, certainly, the government, certainly — you name it.
That’s why God, through St. Faustina and all those whose spiritual formation came about through her, sees to it to convert the hardest of hearts; only the hardest of hearts can appeal to the hardest of hearts.
Many of the people featured in this book have been through the wringer. They don’t take anything at face value. They’re circumspect. They’re on edge. They refuse to be fooled. They’ve been around, the block. They need evidence. And even a guy with a collar who says “God loves you,” that doesn’t quite cut it anymore in our jaded age. Saying “Turn to Him in mercy and know that he will fill your heart with an abundance of graces” — though that’s true — just saying those words probably won’t do most unbelievers any good. That’s like saying, “Tonight: free beer and hot wings at Manny’s Bar and Grill.” Unless you believe there actually is a Manny’s it’s nonsense. For people who have been around the block, so to speak, who have been around the town and know darn right well there IS no Manny’s Bar and Grill, to hear that there are free beer and wings there is just sort of sadistic, really. Or it’s a spiel, and, it behooves us to remember that we’re in an age of crass advertisements — “lose 20 pounds in four days” … “or earn $500 a day while working at home.” I don’t mean to be disrespectful. I’m just being honest. How do you reach people with the message of mercy with all this noise? How do you cut through the crap of our culture?
My favorite quote in St. Faustina’s Diary — well, the one that’s most apropos for our book — is when Jesus says, “If you do not believe My words, at least believe My wounds.”
For most of the people I wrote about in the book, it wasn’t enough to hear from believers that “Jesus loves you” or that His mercy for poor sinners is “unfathomable.” They needed to feel it in their hearts. If we refuse to know Him by His words, we can know Him by His wounds. Today, for many of us, the wounds come first — our own wounds — and only through the wounds can we understand the words — that is to say, the Word, capital W.
DT: Well, the format of our Catholic Vitamins podcast is to have a different, sequential letter of the alphabet, and Catholic Vitamin W for Wounds sounds like a show in our future.
Tell us who Felix Carroll is and share a bit of the personal side if you will.
FC: I’m married. My wife’s name is Cara. She’s my gal. We have a 10-year-old boy named Henry. He’s my guy. They’re my pack. We stick together. We growl when we sense danger. We have a 12-acre farm in a teeny-tiny town in western Massachusetts. It’s still the “old days” where we live. The milk we drink comes from a cow we know by name. Everyone here helps each other out when help is needed, and when help is not needed we all drive each other nuts. In addition to my work with the Marians, I’m a firefighter and newspaper columnist, and I have insomnia and epilepsy.
DT: Are you a lifelong Catholic?
DT: Have you always been faithful to faith practice?
FC: No. Not even close. But, still, I never ever veered from the belief that Jesus was the Best we’ve ever seen here on earth and that His teachings in the Gospels are the most beautiful and sensible blueprint for life. I don’t consider my experience of returning to the Sacraments as a “re-conversion.” It’s more like Mary stepped out from the Church door and shouted at me, “Young man, you come back in here this instant!” She grabbed my ear and led me back in to the pews, and I love her for it. So, my return to the Church is not of the St. Paul-knocked-off-the-horse variety. It was pretty much inevitable.
In a way, it feels like Mary sent me to my room, and as every parent these days knows, sending a child to his room really isn’t the punishment it once was, because children’s room now have all the supplies they need to enjoy themselves: Legos, comic books, privacy, silence, whatever you need at a given moment, etc.
My “room” — the Church — has all the things I love, too. God. Stained-glass. Scripture. Kneelers. Quiet. And the people — the most courageous people I’ve ever met. Beautiful people — people like those in the book.
DT: Have you had a long time devotion to Divine Mercy?
FC: I had never heard of it until I started working for the Marians about eight years ago.
DT: Okay – that’s the end of our introduction to Felix Carroll. There is much more that I learned, and I’d like to continue to explore his story. But we are saved by grace and the Divine Mercy of Jesus. And that’s the story I want to move on to in the next article.
Copyright 2013 Deacon Tom Fox