The Priest Won

Many and sometimes tortuous are the paths to Rome. Few are stuffed with as much contradiction (or as much logic) as the path pursued seventy-six years ago by the British writer and mountaineer Sir Arnold Lunn.

Before his conversion, Lunn was one of the most vigorous intellects writing in the English language against Roman Catholicism. After his conversion, he was as articulate an apologist as ever served the church. He was spectacularly catapulted from one extreme to the other in 1932 with the publication of the book Difficulties. Today Lunn is best known in the sport of skiing as the inventor of the modern slalom race. His close friend William F. Buckley Jr., who met him on the slopes, described him as standing “about five feet ten inches...his hair thick, unruly, and white...his face weather-beaten red. He spoke with animation and laughed a cackly laugh after every sentence or two, almost always provoking in his listeners similar laughter.”

He was the eldest son of Henry Lunn, an ardent Methodist and head of a British travel agency, which had originated in the work of organizing Christian conferences in the Swiss Alps. The young man became a fervent skier and climber, and his adoration of the mountains soon became mixed with religious feelings. When he was nineteen years old, he found himself “resting on an Alpine pass after a climb and a sunset of supreme beauty. Suddenly I knew beyond...

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About the Author

John Fry is the author of The Story of Modern Skiing (2006). He lives in Katonah, New York.