Jan 8, 2018
It's said that Robert Hugh Benson's conversion to Roman Catholicism was an act of rebellion against his father, Edward White Benson, Archbishop of Canterbury from 1883 until his death in 1896. Whether it was or wasn't, the younger Benson's spiritual autobiography at least offers grounds for seeing his conversion in that light.
But if so, what difference does it make? God can use inclinations and fears we may prefer not to recognize in ourselves as portals for grace to enter our lives. If latent conflict with a formidable father played a part in this son's decision to become a Catholic, it doesn't follow that the conversion was any less sincere.
Robert Hugh Benson (1871-1914) was a prolific author of fiction, apologetics and devotional works, best remembered for the apocalyptic novel Lord of the World, which Pope Francis calls one of his favorite books. His spiritual autobiography, Confessions of a Convert, first published in 1912 and republished by Ave Maria Press, ranks among his best. It's no exaggeration to call it a minor classic.
At its heart stands the imposing figure of Archbishop Benson. The relationship of father and son is summed up in a boyhood incident whose excruciating pain apparently stayed with Benson for the rest of his life.