Former atheist poet reveals details of her Catholic conversion

By David Kerr

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Poet Sally Read speaks with EWTN News in Rome on July 24, 2012.

“Untiltwo years ago, I was a really committed atheist and I really hatedthe Catholic Church,” said poet Sally Read, as she explained howall that dramatically changed during nine months in 2010.

“Thewhole process took from March to December, and I was received intothe Catholic Church at the Vatican in December, so it was a bit of alightning flash,” she told EWTN News on July 24.

A41-year-old Englishwoman, Sally Read is regarded as a rising starwithin the world of poetry. Her publisher describes the formerpsychiatric nurse as “one of a new generation of younger poetsshaping the future of British poetry.”

Shenow lives in the Italian seaside town of Santa Marinella with herhusband and their daughter. It was there that her conversion storybegan two years ago while she was writing an anthology based on herexperiences with psychiatric patients.

“AsI was writing this book, I became very aware that I didn’t knowwhere the soul was and I didn’t know if the soul existed. And itwas really driving me crazy.” Her frustration led her intodiscussion, and often heated debate, with a Canadian priest who wasbased in the coastal resort town.

“So,while I was talking to this priest about, well, is there a God andall of that kind of stuff, I kind of had this feeling as a poet thatGod was the ultimate poet and the ultimate Creator, and I was simplybeing used as an instrument,” she recalled.

Itwas at that point that she phoned the priest to say, “I don’tthink I’m an atheist after all.” But she refused to make theintellectual leap to Christianity, insisting to her priest friendthat he would never convert her.

“Hewas very patient and very good.” He said, ‘Christ will convertyou, I’m not going to convert you ... .”

Readwas raised in a strictly anti-religious household and, so, she nowfelt like “everything I had ever believed in (was) being turnedupside down.”

“Itwas very, very difficult. I mean, I wasn’t sleeping at all. I wasvery emotionally traumatized,” she said, describing those months in2010 as “the most disrupted period in my whole life.”

Herturmoil ended abruptly one afternoon when she stepped into a localCatholic Church.

“Justone day, I was in tears and said to this icon of Christ, ‘If you’rethere, then you have to help me.’ And, this thing happened which isvery hard to explain, but I felt as if I was being physically liftedup and my tears stopped, and I felt this presence.”

Shedescribed the sensation as “utterly tangible,” so much so thatfrom then on she “knew that life was devoted to Christ. There wasnothing else.”

Herjourney into the Catholic Church quickly followed.

“Irealized that there was only one Church and the way to be closest toChrist was to be a Catholic, because it’s the Eucharist and takingCommunion.”

Sincethen she has faced opposition from family members and shock from asocially-liberal artistic establishment. And, yet, “I’m stillhappier than I’ve ever been,” she said with a broad grin on herface.

Asfor writing, her third anthology of poetry will be released thisyear. But the philosophical outlook underpinning her work has now changed dramatically.

“So,I don’t know where it’s going to go with poetry, but I think it’sgoing to be interesting,” Read said.

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