CV NEWS FEED // He should have been Catholic. And he almost was.
America’s 40th president, Ronald Wilson Reagan, was born on February 6, 1911. His father, Jack, was Catholic, as was his older brother, Neil. A little over a year before Reagan’s birth, however, his mother joined the Disciples of Christ and, when her second son was born, insisted he be baptized in her community. So he was.
For the next 19 years, the future president worshipped without question in his mother’s church. Then, not long after his 19th birthday, he announced to his family that he wanted to become Catholic. The pronouncement, however, proved more an act of teenage rebellion than genuine conversion, and Reagan’s enthusiasm for joining his father’s Church soon passed.
After graduating from college in 1932, Reagan worked briefly in radio, then embarked on a successful career as a film star. More successful still was his political career, which included one term as governor of California and two terms as president of the United States.
Through it all, Reagan retained his affection for his father’s Church. That affection grew in June 1981, when the visiting Mother Teresa told the president of her community’s prayers for him following the assassination attempt on his life three months earlier. She then added, “You have suffered the passion of the cross and have received grace. There is a purpose to this…this has happened to you at this time because your country and the world need you.” Reagan was noticeably moved. His wife Nancy cried.
The following year Reagan met Pope John Paul II for the first time. Three more meetings, an extensive correspondence, and a great partnership followed. One of the first fruits of that partnership was the restoration of U.S. diplomatic ties to the Holy See in 1983. The greatest fruit, however, was helping bring a peaceful resolution to the Cold War by the decade’s end.
Ronald Reagan passed away in 2004. The pope whose friendship he treasured died one year later.