LOPEZ: Is Pope Francis’s attraction the “Downsize and simplify” message that helped you?
PETERSON: Pope Francis is the epitome of someone who has downsized and simplified his life. When God called me to downsize and simplify, I found much more freedom from having less, and realized that ties to managing worldly stuff were a burden.
LOPEZ: What do you love most about the Catholic Church?
PETERSON: Jesus instituted “a Church,” His Church, and He feeds us with Himself in the Eucharist, forgives us in the confessional, guides His bride, the Church, with the Holy Spirit to the end of time, and gave us a mother, His own mother. I love the Catholic faith, because it is the pure form of the complete fullness of Christianity, of living as Christ taught, not vacillating on moral issues because of changing cultural opinions. It’s all here: truth, beauty, and goodness.
LOPEZ: How do you make sense of all the sins within it?
PETERSON: Catholics are humans and humans sin. We all need a Savior. But just because humans sin, that doesn’t mean that what Christ taught and gave us in the Catholic faith is in any way flawed. Jesus himself taught us that we will have Judases among you so why should we be surprised? Jesus’ own apostles denied Him and failed at times. As Christians we are called home to God’s mercy and forgiveness when we fail and sin, and then as Christians, we must also show others that same mercy and forgiveness. This is our faith.
LOPEZ: Is prayer for real? Is it practical? Is it more than something that makes us feel better in times of need?
PETERSON: Yes, yes, and yes. Prayer is communication with God — asking, listening, sharing our hearts, our needs, our weaknesses, our heartfelt intentions. Prayer combined with fasting is most beneficial. All prayers are answered. It’s just sometimes we don’t like the answer God gave us.
LOPEZ: You write, “If you speak from the heart, if you speak sincerely and with love, wonderful things can happen. Don’t be afraid. Be open and pray every day that God will grant you the grace to help lead someone to Christ, to help love somebody to heaven.” Surely there must be a more rigorous strategy?
PETERSON: Not really, for you see, God’s ways are simple and straightforward: Love God with all your heart, your soul, and strength and love your neighbor as yourself. Life — and the spiritual life — really doesn’t have to be so complicated!
LOPEZ: “Every day, all day long, God is saying to you, ‘I’m here. I love you. Return to me.’” How do you know you are not just hearing things?
PETERSON: Each one of us has a homing device in our hearts, for we were created in God’s own image and designed to return to Him. We can “hear” and feel God’s quiet voice in our heart, if we open our heart to Him. He is constantly knocking, we just need to open the door and let Him in. If our hearts are cold and stony, this may take more time. Again, our hearts soften when we free ourselves from the burden of sin, and come home to God through the sacrament of confession. If you don’t hear God’s voice, try seeking His healing love in confession. He is waiting for you and will greet you with open arms.
LOPEZ: “Accept the gift of God’s mercy. Let yourself be filled with the graces of the Holy Spirit so that the light of Christ and the love of Our Heavenly Father can overflow through you to those you meet.” You’re a busy, realistic guy. How do you do that?
PETERSON: Growing in humility and making God our top priority are the keys to experiencing God’s overflowing mercy and love. Pope Francis knows this very well.
LOPEZ: How do you know this is all true?
PETERSON: We know this is all true through the gift of faith. When we open God’s gift of faith, our souls “know that they know.” Ask any Christian who is a true believer who has “encountered the living Christ.” We just know Jesus is for real, and we can truly trust in Him. If you aren’t there, pray for God’s gift of faith. Beyond this, we can see and experience God’s majesty in the miracles of nature, in the love of a baby’s glance, in the tenderness of a mother’s or father’s sacrificial love.
LOPEZ: What have you most treasured about your Catholics Come Home work?
PETERSON: I’m so blessed that God allows and invites us to be part of His salvific mission and can live the adventure of helping to love souls to heaven.
— Kathryn Jean Lopez is editor-at-large of National Review Online and a director of Catholic Voices USA.