Jim Graves is a Catholic writer and editor living in Newport Beach, California. He previously served as Managing Editor for the Diocese of Orange Bulletin, the official newspaper of the Diocese of Orange, California. His work has appeared in the National Catholic Register, Our Sunday Visitor, Cal Catholic Daily and Catholic World Report.
Mother Miriam is the founder of the Daughters of Mary, Mother of Israel’s Hope. Besides leading her small community, she is also host of Heart to Heart with Mother Miriam on the Immaculate Heart Radio network. In the Los Angeles area, she airs on week days noon to 1:00 p.m. on 930AM.
Originally a Jewish girl named Rosalind Moss from New York, she made her way into the Catholic Church through Evangelical Protestantism. She worked in an orphanage, a halfway house, was a woman’s jail chaplain for 10 years and was on the staff of an Evangelical church as director of women’s ministry. After her conversion to Catholicism, she was a staff apologist with Catholic Answers in San Diego before founding her new community.
Mother Miriam is a talented and good-natured radio personality, solidly orthodox and always has good advice to share with her callers who often come to her with difficult problems. Her community has been located in Tulsa, Oklahoma, although recent community publications have indicated that the community is searching for a new home.
I have spoken with her both by phone and email; here is some of what she has shared with me about herself.
Did you come from an observant Jewish home?
Yes, from a conservative Jewish family. We followed all the major traditions of Judaism, keeping the High Holy Days and fasts, and waiting at each Passover for the Messiah to come.
Who are your favorite characters in the Old Testament? As a woman, it has to be Ruth, right?
Actually, it's Abigail (1 Samuel 25), the wisest and most heroic of all David's wives. On the male side, I am very fond of David—the sweet psalmist of Israel and their greatest shepherd and king—and, of course, the one God chose through whose line Messiah would be born.
How did you come to enter the Catholic Church?
I came through a “holy shock” sent by God that started me on a five-year journey from Evangelical Protestantism to the Catholic Church (one of the stories related in Roy Schoeman’s “Honey From the Rock.”) Bishop Sheen’s statement describes my experience: "There are not 100 people in America who hate the Catholic Church, but millions who hate what they mistakenly think the Catholic Churches teaches."
That was my experience. It took almost five years to wade through those Evangelical Christian misconceptions, especially that of the Eucharist. I had already come to believe that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob became Man. It “simply” is a further step to believe that He also became our Food. Is anything impossible for God?
Tell me about your work at Catholic Answers.
It was “This Rock” magazine (now “Catholic Answers Magazine”) that played a major role in my coming into the Church. It was my utter joy to be invited to join their staff as a full-time apologist for nine years, writing, but primarily giving conferences on the Faith throughout the world through all forms of media (which included three teaching series on EWTN), conferences, retreats, etc., and a semi-monthly radio program on Catholic Answers Live called “From the Heart.”
How did you come to decide to enter religious life? Did you look at other religious communities first?
I desired—no, I longed—to be a “sign” to God in the world for several years before I became Catholic, and my longing to give my entire life to Him and for Him increased continually. A conversation with a holy priest one day convinced me that we cannot grow fully or be fully formed in isolation—i.e., living as a single individual, no matter how great our love for God or how active our apostolate. The accountability, coming under obedience to another, is vital.
It was never my intention to begin a new religious community—only to enter religious life so that I could at last give my life to God completely. I did visit several religious communities, each of which thought I should pursue religious life, though I was not suited for their communities (mostly because of my age). At last, an older, wise and holy priest told me that I must begin a community. The longings of my heart came together as the hope of fulfilling them took root.
But what might be the most important fact in my becoming a religious is the effect the shortening of nuns’ habits had on a 20-year-old Jewish girl in the middle of the 1960's mini-skirt era in New York. The physical “bolt” that ripped through me with that news (which, as far as I knew, had nothing to do with me) left an immediate and deep sense of loss. As I explain in the article, I lost what was not mine—but perhaps, in our Lord’s time, was to be mine—as a future Catholic and future religious who longs to restore the hemline to the floor and the habit to the world as the magnificent sign to God that it is. I do believe that longing (planted in my soul 45 years prior) was the catalyst for the seed of this new community.
How old were you when you entered religious life? Was it difficult making the adjustment?
I was 65. Yes, the adjustment was (and still is) difficult—going from a life of complete independence—doing what you wish, when and how you wish, to coming under the discipline of others and of forming other women who also have led independent lives. I quickly add, however, that it took a very short time for me to see and experience the beauty and freedom of obedience. There is no other life I would now choose.