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The House With a Hundred Gates

The House With a Hundred Gates

Catholic Converts Through the Ages

By John Beaumont

366 pp

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About the Book

In this engaging and wide-ranging work, John Beaumont, the leading expert on the history of Catholic converts in the English-speaking world, takes us on a tour through the highways and byways by which many souls have entered into the Catholic Church, the “house with a hundred gates.” We are regaled with moving stories of heroic English martyrs, and the quieter but no less inspiring stories of women who brought their families and social circles to the Faith; we learn about better-known converts like Evelyn Waugh, Walker Percy, Joseph Sobran, Dietrich von Hildebrand, and Bella Dodd, and about the troubled and wandering who yet remained tethered to the Church, such as Ernest Hemingway and Oscar Wilde; we learn of deathbed conversions, such as that of Wallace Stevens. Among the dozens of figures studied, we find actors, poets, novelists, philosophers, historians, communists, journalists, musicians, martyrs, puritans, and priests; even members of the British Royal Family. In following the external and especially internal twists and turns by which converts find their way home to the Church, the author gives us a penetrating account of what it is that draws men and women to God, to Christ, and to the Church—the arguments that capture their minds, the beauty that calms their restlessness, the personal influences that captivate their hearts. Throughout, he is sensitive to the confusing situation in the Church today, where it seems that certainties and conversions have gone out of fashion, and reassures us that the essential truths for which so many converts entered the Church in the past have lost none of their abiding appeal for pilgrims in search of God.


“John Beaumont examines the lives of a substantial group of individuals who have somehow found their way to Rome. Every case is enlightening, but for contemporary readers, Catholic or non-Catholic, it is Beaumont’s final chapter that above all must demand their particular attention: for there he asks whether conversion itself is now undesirable—out of date or out of fashion—as seems to be the discernment of the current pope and his theological entourage. The ‘official’ answer seems to be Yes: ‘proselytizing’ is widely understood as an attempt to persuade a non-Catholic to become a Catholic—and that is now anathema. Beaumont retains his optimism that this current denial of what has hitherto been of the essence of the Catholic faith will pass away. No reader of his study can avoid asking whether he is right in his analysis of this important feature of what many believe the greatest challenge the Church has faced since its inception.”


co-author of Confusion in the West: Retrieving Tradition in the Modern and Post-Modern World

“John Beaumont has a long-standing and well-deserved reputation as a true scholar, meticulous academic, and insightful author, both on legal and religious matters. It was my privilege to have him as a colleague at the Lancashire Law School, Preston. Perhaps it was the fact that Preston is judicially recognized as ‘the most Catholic town in England’ that enticed him to cross the Pennines from the white rose of Yorkshire (where he had been Head of Leeds Metropolitan University’s Law School) to the red rose of Lancashire. Given his status as a born and bred Yorkshireman, that was not of course a permanent conversion, unlike the fascinating subjects of his book, whose conversions to the Catholic faith are echoed in the everyday histories of so many Catholic families in countries across the world and which will in consequence be of such great interest to a wide range of readers.”


Emeritus Professor of English Law, University of Central Lancashire, England

About the Author

JOHN BEAUMONT is an English lawyer and freelance writer on Catholic issues. He is the author of books and articles on criminal law and on the law of evidence. In the Catholic sphere, he is the author of Roads to Rome: A Guide to Notable Converts from Britain and Ireland from the Reformation to the Present Day (2010), The Mississippi Flows Into the Tiber: A Guide to Notable American  Converts to the Catholic Church (2014) and Why Be Catholic: Witnesses to the Truth (2020), together with many articles on Catholic issues.

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