By Thomas M. Loarie

BOOK REVIEW: Responding to the Universal Call of Grace – riveting journey from Islam to Catholicism

April 14, 2020
Column: CEO Learnings

While attending the Napa Institute, I asked Ignatius Press’ Tony Ryan for his recommendation on a good book to read. Tony immediately told me, “From Fire by Water: My Journey to the Catholic Faith,” which was one of Ignatius’ bestsellers. I got a copy and found that Tony was right on the money. This is a very well written memoir by Iranian-American author Sohrab Ahmari. He is a gifted writer and is currently the op-ed editor of the New York Post and a contributing editor of The Catholic Herald.

Ahmari’s “From Fire by Water” tells the story of his personal conversion from Islam to Catholicism. I have read many conversion stories in the past. What makes Ahmari’s story different is that he immigrated from Iran and his conversion comes after a youthful struggle with Islam, Marxism and Atheism. He touches on the lives and influence of others – his wife, parents, grandparents, teachers, colleagues, friends and ex-friends – as he retraces the steps that took him from student atheism and materialism of his Iranian and American youth to a small chapel in central London, where he was received as a Catholic Church on December 19, 2016.

The reader will gain great insight into the Iranian Islamic culture under the rule of the Ayatollah. Ahmari shares numerous stories of “cultural” hypocrisy as his family and others circumvented religious laws and the Mullahs. He provides a good picture of the divide between the people of Iran and its ruling theocracy. The bond of the middle class to the government appears to be weak.
In the book’s preface, Ahmari explains that he believed we were created for “something more” and our hearts are restless until we find it. This was at the heart of his personal struggle and led to his search for the “something more” which he found in the Catholic Church.

Catholicism for Ahmari was the destination he reached after a long circuitous spiritual path. His path was different from other conversion stories. It cut across his Muslim background and Iranian heritage which in turn shaped its course.

Ahmari’s conversion was not the result of a lightning bolt but rather was sincere, well considered, and in line with the dictates of his conscience. He, as other converts who become stalwarts of the Church, comes to the Church and the acceptance of Christ from a position of unbelief. His doubts were many but with a desire for the Truth, he persisted and the answers that enabled him to respond to the universal call to grace.



Thomas M. Loarie is the CEO of BryoLogyx a rotating host of THE MENTORS RADIO SHOW, and a senior editorial advisor and columnist for Catholic Business Journal. He may be reached at

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