David Gregory's unlikely spiritual journey

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Journalist David Gregory is best known for his interviews with politicians and Washington insiders. But when he spoke to the Catholic Business Network of Northern Virginia during a luncheon at Maggiano's restaurant in the Tysons Galleria May 10, Gregory's topic was a self-described "unlikely spiritual journey."

Gregory, the son of an Irish, lapsed Catholic mother and a Jewish father, was raised culturally Jewish, but with "no real belief," he said. His identity seemed permanently tied to his career as a journalist, where he achieved success as a chief White House correspondent for NBC and then as host of "Meet the Press."

But after he was fired from the Sunday talk show in 2014, Gregory was devastated - leading him to greater spiritual growth and humility. His book, How's Your Faith? An Unlikely Spiritual Journey, published last year, explores his faith journey, including the difficulties of "religious compromise" in an interfaith marriage, and features insights from well-known religious leaders. It details Gregory's struggles growing up with an alcoholic mother, his ultimate reconciliation with his father and struggling to find a religious identity.

"It was certainly not the book that anyone expected me to write," Gregory said. "It was not about politics. It was not about media. It was about issues that we all grapple with."

Gregory, who said he had to constantly work at curbing his arrogance and anger, struggled with issues of faith in a way that might be expected of a longtime political journalist. He interviewed high-profile faith leaders, including the Joel Osteen, Rick Warren and New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan, asking them for their insights.

Gregory recalled that after an interview with Dolan, "I got to have the conversation that I really wanted to have." They spoke about Gregory's spiritual journey and the cardinal advised him not to treat faith as "a project" or "an intellectual journey."

"He said ultimately faith is a dare. It's an act of love," Gregory said.

Gregory became more devout after he had children with his wife, Beth Wilkinson, a Methodist. She agreed to raise the children Jewish, but only if they practiced the faith. Only years later did she admit how hard that was.

"There is a sacrifice," said Gregory. "There is a tremendous compromise by not passing down your faith traditions to your children."

Many couples struggle with the same compromise: According to a 2015 Pew Research Center survey, 39 percent of marriages in the United States are interfaith.

"It's not an easy issue for any mixed religion couple to deal with," said Rich Fanelli, CBN president, who invited Gregory to speak after reading his book.

"I thought, even though this guy is not Catholic, if you look at the CBN bylaws … the Catholic Business Network embraces people of all religions."

Still, some attendees were curious if Gregory had ever felt drawn to Catholicism.

"I had thought about conversion at some points," Gregory said, then recalled a meeting with Washington Cardinal Donald Wuerl. "He said, 'You're on a wonderful path, I'd love for you to go all the way.'"

But ultimately, Gregory said, "the more I read the Scriptures, the more Jewish I feel."

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016