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2 Canucks, an Indian, a Colombian and a Cree-Métis/Italian priest walk into a bar...

Last week, we were joined by Braden Ritchie to learn about his path from an agnostic childhood to the Christian faith and the Catholic Church. We covered a ton and touched on the stories of two famous Canadians: Roméo Dallaire and Conrad Black.

Dallaire, the Canadian Lieutenant-General and Force Commander of the 1993-1994 UN Assistance Mission for Rwanda, witnessed the 1994 Rwandan genocide. He wrote in 2003:

"I know there is a God because in Rwanda I shook hands with the devil. I have seen him, I have smelled him and I have touched him. I know the devil exists and therefore I know there is a God."

Dallaire saw how we can only know evil if we can contrast it with non-evil (i.e., good). The existence of evil necessitates its opposite. Dry means nothing without wet. This was Dallaire’s path to belief in God.

Black’s path to belief in God and (ultimately) the Catholic Church was remarkably different. Black, an ultrarich newspaper publisher and businessman, shared his conversion story in 2009 and wrote:

"Islam was out of the question; too anti-western, too identified with the 13th-century decline and contemporary belligerency of the Arabs; and the Koran is alarmingly violent, even compared to the Old Testament. Judaism, though close theologically, is more tribal and philosophical than spiritual. And it was the spiritual bait that I sought, that converted me from atheism.... I thought it more likely that the 80% of the early Jews who became Christians, starting with Christ, had correctly identified the Messiah than that the proverbially “stiff-necked” rump of continuing Jewry are right still, ostensibly, to be waiting for Him.... The Eastern religions... are philosophical guides to living, not frameworks for the existence and purpose of man."

Ruling out all other religious options, Black turned to Christianity:

"Having concluded that God existed, I could not seriously entertain the thought of not trying to be in contact with Him.... It was not especially challenging, given my light Protestant upbringing, to stay in the Christian tradition. From all accounts, Christ appeared to be a divinely inspired person.... There was no reason to doubt that he told St. Peter to found a church.... As a nominal Anglican, I had always had some problems with Henry VIII as a religious leader. The Anglicans, moreover, have never really decided whether they are Protestant or Catholic.... Luther, though formidable and righteous, was less appealing to me than both the worldly Romans... and the leading papist zealots of the Counter-Reformation. The serious followers of Calvin, Dr Knox and Wesley were, to me, too puritanical, but also too barricaded into ethnic and cultural fastnesses.... In terms of real religious affiliation for me, it was [Catholicism] or nothing."

Braden’s journey borrowed elements from the stories of each of these famous Canadians. Like Dallaire, his journey led to him to realize that if good and evil are real then they must each have a source. And like Black, his journey ultimately led him to Catholic Christianity.  

A couple days after our episode with Braden was released, we found ourselves with Braden (and my wife!) at a pub, accompanied by our friend Fr. Cristino Bouvette, a (brilliant) Catholic priest who was instrumental in Braden’s conversion. So... 2 white Canadians (Braden and I), an Indian immigrant (Rigel), a mestizo Colombian refugee (my wife), and a Cree-Métis/Italian clergyman (Fr. Cristino) walked into a bar... and over beer, wine, pizza, and steak sandwiches discussed all sorts of heavy issues and shared many laughs. It was beautiful, and during the evening the Christian assertion that each of us is made in the image and likeness of God (what theologians call the “Imago Dei”) came to my mind multiple times. From the earliest pages of the Bible (i.e., Genesis 1:26-27):

"And God said, ‘Let us make man in our image and likeness and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the wild animals and reptiles that crawl upon the earth.’ God created mankind in his image…."

We are each made in God’s image irrespective our nationality, language, intelligence, biological realities, gender, or skin color. Indeed, the Church teaches that men and women have the same dignity and are of equal value because they are both (in their differences) created in the image of God and that racism is a sin that divides the human family and blots out the image of God among specific members of that family.

Which is a nice setup for this week’s episode! We’re joined by my dear friend Angelo Nwigwe, who was born to Nigerian parents in Italy where he grew up. Angelo works at the intersect of technology startups and academia and is an instructor at a university business school. He tells us about his faith journey, which took him from Catholicism to Pentecostal Christianity, and discusses how all Christians are called to share the Gospel. We explore how modern Christians can share their faith in a clandestine manner at work, chat about how the early Christians had a less formal distinction between the clergy and the laity than we do today, and discuss a few things Catholics can learn from non-Catholics to better equip us to serve as witnesses to our faith as followers of the Lord Jesus.

This white Canadian and his brown Indian co-host sure learned a lot from our black Italian brother in Christ! We're sure you'll learn something too if you tune in!

And perhaps next time you'll find a black Italian immigrant joining the 2 white Canadians, Indian immigrant, mestizo Colombian refugee, and Cree-Métis/Italian clergyman in that bar…

God bless!


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