The Greatest New Idea

Or not so new
by Reuben Nuxoll, LC | Source:
California is a land of strong ideas – new or not. Its history in many American minds reaches back to the 1849 gold rush. It has been immortalized by the San Francisco football team and the famous Joe Montana – Jerry Rice connection of the late ‘80s, but those who have seen a Zorro movie have glimpsed further back, whether they knew it or not.

In the 1700s Jesuit and Franciscan missionaries under the Spanish crown brought the native Indians new trades and the Catholic faith. Franciscan Father Blessed Junipero Serra limped back and forth between San Diego and San Francisco founding missions; he confirmed 5309 persons in the Catholic faith, most of them converts.

In California strong ideas, a strong faith, is nothing new, nor are conversions. What follows is just one of them.


Tom showed up at a pool in Sacramento for his regular Sunday swim meet. Glancing around, he noticed his friend Bob on the other side of – at least he looked like his friend.

Tom knew what had been going on in Bob’s life, and what he saw didn’t make sense. The furrows of frustration and grief in his friend’s face had faded, and the gleam in his eyes betrayed new vigor, a new idea.

What had gotten into his friend? Marital complications had been winding through Bob’s life and making spectacular knots of it.

Tom forgot about diving into the water, and walked over to find out what was wrong … or right.

“Bob, you look great today. What’s up?”

“Tom! You know, you’re not going to believe this,” replied Bob, “but I went to Medjugorje, and….”

“Uh-oh,” thought Tom with a shiver, “I don’t want to hear about Medjugorje or any Blessed Virgin stuff. I hope Bob didn’t become some fundamentalist-faith-freak.

“Uh, right, that’s nice,” Tom replied quickly redirecting the conversation. “It’s a great day for a swim meet, isn’t it?”

The next day Our Lady of Medjugorje rang in his ears. Images of the Blessed Virgin Mary from his boyhood catechism classes swam around in Tom’s mind all week long. He couldn’t push them out.

The Sunday swim meet came around again, and Tom couldn’t resist: “Bob, remember what you told me last week about the Blessed Virgin Mary? So, what did she do?”

As Bob told his story of God’s mercy and Mary’s help, the icy wall Tom had built up against his own faith trickled, melted, and came crashing down.

“Why didn’t I see this before - in high school, or in college? Bob’s faith is beyond his troubles. Why did I get Mary and all this other stuff all wrong? My faith isn’t a drag, a burden. It’s the sturdiest foundation I’ve got. It is the greatest idea – it’s more: it’s worth living for.”

Next Sunday Tom and his family were at Mass – early – and they began to realize what was going on up at the altar. How did God ever think of sacrificing his Son like that, for love of us?

Driving home afterward, Tom had only one thought, “Thank you, Mother, for leading me back to your Son.”

Some people in California might have great ideas. Tom can look back and say he’s found the greatest – faith in Christ. His son did, and now he’s a priest.

Names have been changed.

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