My students, studying Catholic Morality, recently had to write a research paper about a saint who lived an immoral life, experienced a conversion, led a virtuous life, died and became a saint. One of my scholarly students came to me and shared her concern that her saint did not have a true “conversion.” He just became a more generous and caring person when he became a Cardinal. She was searching for the “conversion of Paul, being knocked to the ground with a vision and blindness.” Frankly, that’s what I thought my students would discover with the majority of their saints. The papers submitted to me were of different saints. I believe I read stories of at least 46 different saints. Some had the “knock you to the ground” experiences. However, many of their conversions were more subtle changes that took place in their lives over time. Leading me to believe what Emilie Griffin, author of Turning, claims, “Conversion is simply a matter of becoming open to God’s overflowing and powerful love. To be filled with that love is to change, to be changed, and to act lovingly towards others. Falling in love with God.” It was so encouraging to read what she says about conversion being an ongoing openness to God.
Many of us believe that if we have not experienced that “I am saved, a voice thundering from the heavens, or getting knocked to ground” conversion then we have not been converted. What my student found through her research and Emilie Griffin so eloquently writes is that we don’t have to have that “conversion” to change our lives and live for God. It is in the silence of our prayer life, the witnessing of selfless love, or being purely loved, that we slowly and cautiously open our hearts to God. It is through the calm of life when we allow ourselves to listen to the invitation of God and finally decide to respond, that we begin the process of conversion, or “falling in love with God.” We can do so subtly and without huge fanfare, quietly in our prayer life, or solemnly in our minds. It is not just in a single moment that we commit our lives to the purest sense of love and goodness, but it is in the moments of our lives that we repeatedly convert our hearts to God when true conversion continuously occurs. Hopefully, the conversion never stops but only grows deeper and more unconditional to God’s ways over time.
Lent is a wonderful time to reflect on the conversion of your soul. Reflect in prayer with God to discover those moments throughout your daily life that you fall in love with God, witness selfless giving, and you choose to love over and over again. Those are the moments that define continuous conversion to God.