Excerpt from Living Large, pages 22-23
Anthony Bloom had a rather remarkable conversion moment. And it wasn’t something he anticipated at all. He was born in 1914 and grew up in Russia. His childhood had taught him “that life was violent, brutal, heartless” and that people were “adversaries.” There were “just a few, the closest around you,” that you could trust. To survive, he had to fight, “to hit back as hard as one could in order to win the day” (God and Man 12).
By the time he was in his teens, his family had immigrated to Paris. Bloom was placed in a boarding school there, and he belonged to a “Russian youth organization.” But as his life became happier and easier, it also lost its meaning and direction. And so he drifted until a priest came to speak to his youth group. He resisted attending the gathering because, as he said, he “had no use for the Church.” As Bloom sat through the priest’s lecture, he got more and more stirred up, even “indignant” at what he was hearing (Beginning to Pray 8-9).
When he got home, he started reading Mark’s Gospel—more as a test than anything else and with no expectations whatsoever. And then something happened. As Bloom described it:
While I was reading the beginning of St. Mark’s Gospel, before I reached the third chapter, I suddenly became aware that on the other side of my desk there was a presence. And the certainty was so strong that it was Christ standing there that it has never left me. (Beginning to Pray 10)
And so, as Bloom would later explain, the Gospel account didn’t begin as a story for him, something he could believe or disbelieve, “it began as an event that left all problems of disbelief behind because it was a direct and personal experience” (Beginning to Pray 10).