"Hello Maureen, this is Jon"
"Yes," I responded, concerned as his voice sounded full of tearful emotion.
"I hope you don't mind me calling you. I just have to tell you that this has been the most incredible Lent of my life and it's all because of your family."
"I don't understand Jon."
"I'm back in the Church. I've been going to daily Mass since Ash Wednesday. I hadn't been in a church since I was a child."
"This is wonderful news! I'm so happy for you! But I don't understand what my family had to do with it." I was searching my brain. I hadn't been praying for Jon's conversion. It wasn't even on my radar. I hadn't even had a single apologetics debate with him. And, oh, how I love a good apologetics debate.
"Just your example. Living next door to you and seeing how you live your lives. One day, your daughter Patricia told me, 'Jon you're my hero!' But I knew I was no hero and I had to do something about it."
You see, Jon was our next door neighbor. He was a 40-ish single man. An executive for an insurance company. He was very nice and we would exchange friendly waves and polite greetings, but not much more for the first few years we lived there.
Then he quit his job and began his own business. He was an early riser and would sit out on his front porch working on his laptop in the wee hours. Each morning, Patricia, all of 8-years old, would throw up her bedroom window and cheerfully exclaim, "Good morning Jon!"
The children began to invite Jon over for our picnic lunches in the front yard. They would then beg him to play ball afterwards. Jon loved it and looked forward to playing with the children during "recess."
Each Sunday as we loaded into the family van for Mass, the children would see Jon working in his garden and ask if they could invite him to come with us. I would tell them no, he probably already went to Mass the night before. I didn't want to break their little hearts and confess that he probably didn't attend church. Though I didn't really know since the subject never came up and he was very private about such things. But, after many weeks of asking, I finally gave them permission to invite Jon.
He never accepted the children's invitation, so it was a surprise when I picked up the phone that Good Friday to hear Jon tell me of his conversion experience.
He told me that my children saved his life. That he was heading down a destructive path and their example and their unconditional love changed his heart. He commended Rob and me for living out the Christian lessons we were teaching the children in school.
He also asked me to be his confirmation sponsor. Though he attended a Catholic church as a child, he'd never been confirmed. The sacrament would take place in a few months. He closed by saying, "Thank you for the best Easter ever!"
It's been eight years since that conversation and I am still blown away by it. A grown man brought to Christ by little children.
As St. Francis is famous for saying, "Preach the Gospel always and when necessary, use words."