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Chapter 1

Spiritual Conversion

 

Jesus is the teacher of holiness.
I go to Him because I want Him to teach me
how to become a Saint.
Of what use to me is all I learn in school
if I do not become holy?
—St. Francis de Sales (when young)

 

 

Children are the hope of the future.  We look to the youth for hope and promise even as we pass on to them the best that we have.  This “passing on” is tradition, our gift to the next generation.  The word “tradition” comes from the Latin word “traditio” which means “a giving over, a handing down.”  St. Paul writes, “Therefore, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by a letter of ours.” (2 Thes. 2:15)  Tradition, together with a spiritual conversion to Christ, is the antidote to hedonism, secular humanism, philosophies or religions that are more or less mistaken and misleading, and counterfeit spiritualities such as New Age syncretism where truth and error, Christian and non-Christian religions, are mixed together.  In this last trap, we are thought to be, supposedly, “the Christ” or divine, ultimately able to save and heal ourselves.  In reality, God is God and we are not, although the goal of life is, in truth, to become one with God without becoming God, fully united to Him in heart and soul, mind and strength by the power of the Holy Spirit, through Jesus Christ Our Lord, who is “the same, yesterday, today, and forever.  Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings.” (Heb. 13:8-9)

It is not enough for Catholics to receive the sacraments, to celebrate Mass regularly and to pray routine prayers.  They must also go through a true spiritual conversion of their mind and heart to Jesus Christ the Lord that opens the door to a real relationship with God which is internal and personal.  This generally requires the prayers of others and some kind of crisis or cross, problem or pain, sickness or suffering, loss or loneliness, disappointment or desolation that will open their heart and soul to the Lord of Love and to loving the Lord.  Every true Christian has had some type of spiritual conversion, by the grace of God, where they willingly chose to follow the Lord and not their own will, to the best of their ability.

Spiritual conversions come in all shapes and sizes.  There is the direct and dramatic conversion of St. Paul and the no less effective gentle and directed conversion of the Ethiopian Eunuch. (Acts 9:1-19)(Acts 8:26-39)  There is the sudden and unexpected conversion at a retreat or rally and the gradual intentional conversion in a twelve-step program.  There is the crisis conversion (“God help!”) and the boredom conversion (“There must be more to life than this!”).  Yet, in whatever way a spiritual conversion comes about, it is rightly to be considered the most important event in life, for without it we will never see heaven, but will go to hell for all eternity.  As for those who die before the age of reason, such as infants or the unborn, we believe that they are somehow with the Lord through the merits and mercy of Christ Our Lord who said, “Let the little children come to me, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 19:14)

After the grace of a first conversion is complete, whether that came immediately or gradually, the newborn Christian can truly say with Mary, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” (Luke 1:46-47)  They may even want to share this experience with others, like Mary did with Elizabeth. (Luke 1:39-40)  But after a certain period of time, and not too long, they should return home, in a certain manner, like Mary did, coming down from the hill country of a spiritual “high,” and pick up where they left off in their daily duties and humble hidden life. (Luke 1:56)  No matter how dramatic or amazing the conversion may be, it is still only the beginning, not the end, of the spiritual journey to holiness and union with God.  It is the first conversion, the all-important beginning of the spiritual life.  “The Spirit breathes where he will; you hear his voice, but you do not know where he comes from or where he goes.  So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8) 

 

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