Conversion spawned Spiritual and Professional Rebirth
Economist Larry Kudlow is known to many as a broadcast journalist and adviser to the Trump presidential campaign, but at his Catholic parish, he’s the head usher at the Sunday noon Mass and president of the parish council.
In contrast to his high-profile professional persona, Kudlow lives his Catholic faith quietly, but not silently, keeping his relationship to the Church largely local and his devotional life simple. “I’m a Sunday churchgoer — without fail,” he said, adding that he prays regularly — especially the Our Father — to seek direction and guidance more than outcomes. “That’s been my way. Help me today, one day at a time.”
Don’t check faith at the door…
His credo when it comes to his faith and the workplace also is simple: “Don’t check your faith at the door when you go into the office. Some people will take their hat and coat off and lose all sense of faith or morality during the day. That’s not me. I’m functioning in the newsroom and the newsrooms of big media outlets are big, rough places. I try to practice these principles in all my affairs and treat people . . . with respect. I’m not a name caller. I don’t yell. I’m not perfect. I’ve gotten angry a couple of times and said things on the air I wish I could have taken back. I’ve actually apologized on the air.”
Kudlow, who will speak to the 2018 Legatus Summit, converted to Catholicism in 1997 after a descent into alcohol and cocaine abuse landed him at a Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation treatment center in Minnesota. Since then, his embrace of the Alcoholics Anonymous 12-step recovery program has guided his practice of the faith as well as his life. He sees his ushering duties at St. Patrick’s in Redding Ridge, CT, for example, as an opportunity to serve – “like making the coffee at an AA meeting.” And his faith is not so much in the institution of the Church, but in its head. “I have a faith in Christ. I have a faith in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.”
Belief in greater power – God’s
To follow the second and third of AA’s 12 steps, Kudlow had to believe that a power greater than himself could restore him to sanity and he had to turn his will and his life over to the care of God as he understood him.
“The only way you can change and survive is by developing a faith in a power greater than yourself. I got to Hazelden and heard that and it clicked: ‘Thy will, not mine, be done.’” When Hazelden counselors recommended he not return to New York after treatment and go to a sobriety house in San Diego, he complied. “That was important in a lot of ways. I actually did turn my will and life over to a power greater than myself — in this case, the counselors at Hazelden – and did what I didn’t particularly want to do.” The move turned out to be good for his recovery, his career as an economic analyst and forecaster and his marriage. He learned to work again and his artist wife, Judith, joined him and they began to patch up their marriage.
By then, having lapsed from the Jewish faith in which he had been raised, but retaining a vague belief in God, Kudlow had begun to explore converting to Catholicism. Still, the Hazelden counselors urged him to wait and concentrate on staying sober. Again, he complied.
As a result, Kudlow’s journey to the Church took place over about seven years. “Mine was what I would call a considered act of faith or conversion. There was no burning bush. I didn’t rush into it.”
Pondering Christ crucified
Two years after his treatment, he was baptized at St. Thomas More Church on New York’s upper east side, the church where he had seen a crucifix and felt at one with the suffering Christ.
“I could never really explain it very well, but the whole idea of Christ on the cross and the Eucharist – Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again – I always sort of identified with that in an odd way the first time I went to Mass and heard that . . . I probably didn’t understand it at that point, but I always thought about it. It was like I was clutching for something hopeful and optimistic and there it was.” To this day, Kudlow said, when people ask him about his faith, he says, “Larry has died, Larry has risen, Larry has come again.”
Arising from ashes, professionally
In many ways, Kudlow has indeed risen from the dead. After becoming sober – he celebrated his 22nd anniversary of sobriety in July – he experienced a professional rebirth. A former chief economist and senior managing director of Bear Stearns & Co., he went from being an occasional commentator on CNBC and The McLaughlin Group to landing a prime-time show on CNBC with Jim Cramer.
With Cramer’s departure, the show became The Kudlow Report for another 10 years. Today, Kudlow is CNBC’s senior contributor and also host of The Larry Kudlow Show, a radio program heard in 183 cities. “The point of that story,” Kudlow said, “is God changed my career. I never saw it coming.”
JUDY ROBERTS is a Legatus magazine staff writer.