Author’s painful experience resonates with others
Talk to Judy Landrieu Klein for five minutes, and a “God” story will have been mentioned in the conversation.
“I don’t have a story that doesn’t involve a God story,” she said. “I think I have had an inordinate amount of miracles in my life along with an inordinate amount of suffering.”
A frequently discussed God incident of late involves her late husband Bernie Klein, about whom she wrote a book, “Miracle Man” last year. It traces her family’s journey with Bernie Klein through three months in cardiac ICU after a “widow maker” heart attack and how her family learned that not only are miracles possible but they also do happen.
"It’s a personal book that touches people to the core,” Klein said. “The reaction has been amazing. The one constant comment: ‘I could not put it down. I can relate it to the suffering I am going through.’”
Klein’s decision to expose her family’s wounds so honestly in the book has revealed the commonality of suffering and how her family’s story can help others deepen their faith by dialoguing with God.
“I made myself vulnerable by putting this out there intentionally,” Klein said. “I would be transparent so people wouldn’t feel so isolated and alone in their suffering.”
She has been surprised with how the book has impacted peoples’ faith and how through her own experience, she can walk with others on their own tough journey.
“I was hoping that people would have their faith deepened and it would give them hope,” she said. “I was surprised with how it struck a chord with so many.”
Chose book over dissertation
A theologian with a master’s degree in theological studies who has taught at Our Lady of Holy Cross College, Klein said she had a future to decide after Bernie died – would she finish her dissertation to earn a doctorate degree and forge a teaching career at Notre Dame Seminary or write “Miracle Man.”
She said she turned to prayer – she has been a daily communicant for 25 years and regular adorer and stresses that a disciplined prayer life is critical to our Christian faith and has helped her strengthen her relationship with Christ – and followed the lead of the Holy Spirit to pen Bernie’s conversion story.
“I loved teaching,” she said, but she soon realized that the Holy Spirit would use her experience and talent as a storyteller and speaker as different ways of evangelizing. She could show others how to find joy, hope and peace in the midst of suffering.
“God can move mountains in the midst of people’s suffering,” as he did by keeping Bernie alive for three months, revealing himself to him and leading him to heaven.
“I can share the faith, teach the faith and evangelize without formally teaching it,” Klein said.
Not originally a theologian
Klein wasn’t always so committed to her faith. In fact, after studying at a Catholic college disillusioned her, she joined an evangelical church for five years. Openly professing Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, reading the Bible, and participating in praise and worship services were emphasized, unlike in a Catholic Church. Her time there helped her develop a love for the Bible and knowledge of Scripture that she was lacking. She parted with the evangelicals after questioning their belief that only a chosen few would be saved.
“I realized I couldn’t serve a God who would condemn his own children to hell,” she said, returning to Catholicism where God’s abundant mercy is amazing and “everyone can come to God and be saved by natural law that was written on their hearts by Christ.”
That made sense to her
“It was very clear – God is good,” she said. “He loves me, and he will work everything together for my salvation, redemption and sanctification for my good.”
Her sister-in-law Hedy – a strong Catholic who continually invited her to prayer meetings and services – played a role in her return to Catholicism, as did a conversion story Klein heard from someone who had traveled to Medjugorje.
Always the doubter, Klein asked God for a sign that Medjugorje was real. That sign was delivered one night by a strong female voice, which told her God was going to cleanse her family. Her brother then called to tell her an old Catholic man had approached him on the beach and asked if God was his personal Lord and Savior. He was converted on the spot, Klein said.
“I had been praying for the conversion of my family for years,” she said.
Another God moment came on the cusp of starting a master’s program in counseling. The Lord had other plans and sent Klein’s high school friend – a staunch Catholic – to reveal that she had become Hindu. Klein didn’t know what to say, so she went to a bookstore to research how to better defend the faith.
God was telling her “learn and defend” the Catholic faith. Shortly after, she enrolled in the University of Dallas’ first master’s in theology program in the area.
“God found me, and showed me the study of theology, because he knew it would make me blossom.”
Klein thinks she is destined to continue writing and revived Memorare Ministries as a way to communicate the Catholic Gospel through CDs of her books and talks and also through the Christian music produced by her daughter, singer Kara Klein.
She is currently revisiting a book she began before Bernie’s death that deals with another personal tragedy – her brother’s murder/suicide – but “piggybacks on what is happening in our culture today, that sense of despair because we’ve lost our sense of truth and right and wrong.” The working title is “Phonics, the Baltimore Catechism and the Collapse of Civilization.”
“I want to spend the rest of my life writing and speaking about the Catholic faith, which I absolutely love,” she said. “It is a great gift to come to know Christ and love Christ. I want to bring people to know Christ but to also love the church.”
Christine Bordelon can be reached at cbordelon@clarion herald.org