Thursday, April 22, 2010
Review of "No Turning Back"
I had been given a copy of Fr Calloway’s video testimony "No Turning Back" by my new pastor as a welcome to the parish. Surrounded by a sea of boxes to unpack in my living room, I put on the DVD intending to listen to the simple tape focused on the young priest’s face while unpacking. Five minutes into his mesmerizing testimony, I forgot about packing, and called my children to watch Father give his remarkable witness to the power of prayer. We watched, transfixed by a story too dramatic to believe, yet somehow familiar.
A modern day St Augustine, Fr Calloway’s story is one of a youth out of control, completely devoid of responsibility and human compassion in his relentless pursuit if the perfect high; whether it be through substance abuse, sexual sin or defying the legal system. Donald felt cheated by life, somehow, perhaps by the frequent moving of an Army brat, or by his lack of attention from his father in his early years, but no amount of tough love from his mother and stepfather would be enough to overcome his life of lawlessness, promiscuity and drug addiction. He stole, he used people, he lied to his parents, ran away from home, and laughed at their efforts to reform him in rehab after rehab. He escaped jail by a hair more times than he could count, and was ejected from Japan where his father was stationed for his life of thievery and drug abuse. Only a true miracle would stop this train wreck of a teenager from hurtling towards self destruction at the tender age of nineteen.
Enter the overwhelming grace of Our Lady. His parents, new converts to Catholicism, had been praying for Donald and Our Lady’s love pierced the darkness of his soul with the force of laser beam. Though he would die rather than admit it, Donald was really searching for this love, for as St Augustine says, “our hearts are restless until they rest in thee”. His wholehearted pursuit of evil was transformed overnight into his wholehearted conversion to the faith of Church he once mocked. As dramatic as his selfishness had been in his utter disregard of others, the passion of his newfound love for Our Lady and Christ was no less dramatic. He says, “From that day forward, I almost literally began living in church. Virtually overnight, I went from being afraid to set foot in church, to feeling like it was where I was meant to be and nowhere else.”
It becomes clear why his conversion was so hard won, it has produced unimaginable fruit; a priest on fire with the message of Divine Mercy of Christ. Now Fr Calloway, armed with the awesome story of Divine Mercy in his soul, travels the world to give hope to those of us who are praying for what seems like an incorrigible soul. His story reminds us that no one is beyond the reach of Divine Mercy, and his testimony has become the means of many conversions of those like his former self.
Written in a masculine, take-no-prisoners style, in conversational language most teenagers would easily relate to, Fr Calloway’s book is a page turner, even if you know the ending. In fact, his dramatic conversion is even more moving in the book than it is in his DVD. His book is written with humility which allows us to see how this metanoia, or turning towards God was pure grace, and not his own doing. This book will be enjoyed by teens looking for a good story, by heartbroken parents of teens who have become discouraged in prayer, and by grandparents whose children have strayed from the faith. Catholics who want a modern day role model who escaped our culture of sin, can find inspiration in Fr Calloway’s whole hearted pursuit of holiness.
Because of his vivid descriptions of the depravity of modern life, this is not reading for younger children. Sexual misconduct, stealing and drug abuse are labeled the sins they are, however you might want to screen this book before allowing your child to read it. But you’d better hurry; when the teens in my family saw Fr Calloway’s photo on the cover, they lined up to be next to read the book.