“If you’re there, you have to help me.”
Those are the words that poet Sally Read said to an icon of Jesus in 2010. Read, a British poet and atheist, had stopped into a church in Santa Marinella, Italy. She felt burdened. Her young daughter was having health issues. Her husband Fabio was enduring some stress at work.
“There was this incredible experience where this presence almost came down, and my tears just stopped, just dried,” Read tells CNSNews.com. “I felt almost physically carried up. It was as if someone walked into the room. I knew this person. I knew that I was a Christian.”
Up to that point Read, now 46, had been an atheist. “I was brought up an atheist,” Read notes in her just-published memoir, “Night’s Bright Darkness: A Modern Conversion Story.” “At ten I could tell you that religion was the opiate of the masses; it was [driven] into me to never kneel before anyone or anything…As a young woman I could quote Christopher Hitchens and enough of the Bible to scoff at.”
Read was born in 1971 and raised in Suffolk, England. As a young woman she worked as a nurse in a psychiatric hospital and became a critically acclaimed poet, winning the Eric Gregory Award in 2001. A few years later Read married an Italian man, Fabio, and the couple, along with new daughter Florenzia, moved to Santa Marinella, a town 30 miles from Rome.