Mentioned by Pope Francis as a writer whom everyone should read, Robert Hugh Benson, author of Lord of the World, shares his spiritual journey from being an Anglican and son of the archbishop of Canterbury to becoming a Roman Catholic priest. Through his humble, honest, and memorable story, Benson invites us—in this republished classic—to think about what it means to wrestle with the deep questions of our Catholic faith while rejoicing in the power of their universal truths.
In 1907, The Ave Maria magazine invited well-known English novelist Robert Hugh Benson to share his conversion story. He began the first of eight installments with a statement that captures the perils and joys faced by converts as they attempt to “cross the Tiber.” “When one stands at last upon high ground, it is extraordinarily difficult to trace the road by which one has approached: it winds, rises, falls, broadens and narrows until the mind is bewildered.”
Benson weaves those challenges into Confessions of a Convert as he examines his own life for the signs and wonders that illuminated his way. He was astonished at how the remote God of his Anglican upbringing drew close to him, igniting a fire in his to heart and a desire to know God on a deeper level. This transformation led him to the doorstep of the Catholic Church. Reluctant to venture further because he was known as an important figure in the Anglican world, Benson grappled with the sacrifices he would make, including the loss of his vocation, family, and friends. After the death of his father, Benson finally embraced the nearness of God found in the Eucharist.
He shows us that coming closer to Christ and his Church is not always neat and tidy. Benson’s humor and humility help bridge the century-long gap between his time and ours and he teaches us to embrace the questions, struggles, and falterings of our faith in a way that’s full of God’s love.
Just as John Henry Newman’s Apologia Pro Vita Sua and G. K. Chesterton’s The Thing continue to both encourage those on their way into the Church and sustain those already in it, so too, Robert Hugh Benson’s 1913 memoir Confessions of a Convert retains its power to inspire. As a convert myself, having traveled through Judaism, agnosticism, and Evangelical Christianity before coming home to Rome, I find that Benson’s breathtakingly intimate prose does even more. It jars. It enlightens. It surprises.
—Dawn Eden, Catholic speaker and author of Remembering God’s Mercy
Between Cardinal Newman and Dr. Scott Hahn, there was Robert Hugh Benson. The son of the Archbishop of Canterbury, his entrance into the Catholic Church in 1907 caused an uproar in English-speaking Christianity. Modern readers will find Confessions of a Convert to be a reliable guide to understand why Protestant clergy and lay people come home to the Catholic Church.
—John Bergsma, author of Bible Basics for Catholics
Robert Hugh Benson’s Confessions of a Convert is a book of startling originality that charts the path of how a committed Anglican priest found himself called to Rome. The son of an Archbishop of Canterbury, Benson seemed an unlikely contender for the Catholic priesthood. But the stirrings of faith in his heart, soul, mind, and body are narrated in ways that are beautiful and moving. This account is set to surprise, inspire, nurture, nourish, and ultimately guide a new generation in its contemplation of the experience of conversion.
—Martyn Sampson, English professor at the University of the West of England
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Robert Hugh Benson (1871–1914) was born just outside of London, the youngest son of Mary Sidgwick and Edward White Benson, the Archbishop of Canterbury from 1883 to his death in 1896. Benson studied at Eton and Trinity College in Cambridge and was ordained to the Anglican priesthood by his father in 1895. Benson decided to enter an Anglican religious order, the Community of the Resurrection, however, his attraction to Rome grew as he continued his studies and deepened friendships with Roman Catholics. In 1903, he was received into the Catholic Church. After nine months of study in Rome, he was ordained a Catholic priest.