Archive for October 2012

Conversion in the Year of Faith – 4

October 21, 2012

One of the resources to which Pope Benedict points us for inspiration, study and prayer during this Year of Faith is the documents of Vatican II:

It seemed to me that timing the launch of the Year of Faith to coincide with the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council would provide a good opportunity to help people understand that the texts bequeathed by the Council Fathers, in the words of Blessed John Paul II, “have lost nothing of their value or brilliance. They need to be read correctly, to be widely known and taken to heart as important and normative texts of the Magisterium, within the Church’s Tradition …” (Porta Fidei, n. 5)

JP2 taught us that one of the great rediscoveries of Vatican II was the universal call to holiness.  Though he doesn’t expressly use the term “conversion,” it is implicit in his description of what our growth in holiness entails:

It is necessary therefore to rediscover the full practical significance of Chapter 5 of the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, dedicated to the “universal call to holiness”.  The Council Fathers laid such stress on this point, not just to embellish ecclesiology with a kind of spiritual veneer, but to make the call to holiness an intrinsic and essential aspect of their teaching on the Church…This as it were objective gift of holiness is offered to all the baptized. ..But the gift in turn becomes a task, which must shape the whole of Christian life: “This is the will of God, your sanctification” (1 Th 4:3). It is a duty which concerns not only certain Christians: “All the Christian faithful, of whatever state or rank, are called to the fullness of the Christian life and to the perfection of charity”….It implies the conviction that, since Baptism is a true entry into the holiness of God through incorporation into Christ and the indwelling of his Spirit, it would be a contradiction to settle for a life of mediocrity, marked by a minimalist ethic and a shallow religiosity. To ask catechumens: “Do you wish to receive Baptism?” means at the same time to ask them: “Do you wish to become holy?” It means to set before them the radical nature of the Sermon on the Mount: “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt 5:48).

As the Council itself explained, this ideal of perfection must not be misunderstood as if it involved some kind of extraordinary existence, possible only for a few “uncommon heroes” of holiness. The ways of holiness are many, according to the vocation of each individual…The time has come to re-propose wholeheartedly to everyone this high standard of ordinary Christian living: the whole life of the Christian community and of Christian families must lead in this direction.

(Novo Millennio Ineunte, nn.30-31)

Having read JP2’s summary/interpretation, here are some of the lines from Vatican II’s Lumen Gentium (the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church) which inspired him:

(n. 11 – Par 3) Fortified by so many and such powerful means of salvation, all the faithful, whatever their condition or state, are called by the Lord, each in his own way, to that perfect holiness whereby the Father Himself is perfect.

35. Christ, the great Prophet, who proclaimed the Kingdom of His Father both by the testimony of His life and the power of His words, continually fulfills His prophetic office until the complete manifestation of glory. He does this not only through the hierarchy who teach in His name and with His authority, but also through the laity whom He made His witnesses and to whom He gave understanding of the faith (sensu fidei) and an attractiveness in speech so that the power of the Gospel might shine forth in their daily social and family life. They conduct themselves as children of the promise, and thus strong in faith and in hope they make the most of the present, and with patience await the glory that is to come. Let them not, then, hide this hope in the depths of their hearts, but even in the program of their secular life let them express it by a continual conversion and by wrestling “against the world-rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness.

Just as the sacraments of the New Law, by which the life and the apostolate of the faithful are nourished, prefigure a new heaven and a new earth, so too the laity go forth as powerful proclaimers of a faith in things to be hoped for, when they courageously join to their profession of faith a life springing from faith. This evangelization, that is, this announcing of Christ by a living testimony as well as by the spoken word, takes on a specific quality and a special force in that it is carried out in the ordinary surroundings of the world.

You can see from that last paragraph that Vatican II’s hope for a life of ongoing conversion and concomitant growth in holiness is that it will result in a new evangelization.  More LG:

40. The Lord Jesus, the divine Teacher and Model of all perfection, preached holiness of life to each and every one of His disciples of every condition. He Himself stands as the author and consumator of this holiness of life: “Be you therefore perfect, even as your heavenly Father is perfect”.  Indeed He sent the Holy Spirit upon all men that He might move them inwardly to love God with their whole heart and their whole soul, with all their mind and all their strength and that they might love each other as Christ loves them. The followers of Christ are called by God, not because of their works, but according to His own purpose and grace. They are justified in the Lord Jesus, because in the baptism of faith they truly become sons of God and sharers in the divine nature. In this way they are really made holy. Then too, by God’s gift, they must hold on to and complete in their lives this holiness they have received. They are warned by the Apostle to live “as becomes saints”, and to put on “as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved a heart of mercy, kindness, humility, meekness, patience”, and to possess the fruit of the Spirit in holiness. Since truly we all offend in many things  we all need God’s mercies continually and we all must daily pray: “Forgive us our debts”.

Thus it is evident to everyone, that all the faithful of Christ of whatever rank or status, are called to the fullness of the Christian life and to the perfection of charity; by this holiness as such a more human manner of living is promoted in this earthly society. In order that the faithful may reach this perfection, they must use their strength accordingly as they have received it, as a gift from Christ. They must follow in His footsteps and conform themselves to His image seeking the will of the Father in all things. They must devote themselves with all their being to the glory of God and the service of their neighbor. In this way, the holiness of the People of God will grow into an abundant harvest of good, as is admirably shown by the life of so many saints in Church history.


Conversion in the Year of Faith – 3

October 18, 2012

If you’ll be meditating on the Mysteries of Light as you pray the Rosary on this October Thursday in the Year of Faith, don’t short-change yourself on the Third Mystery.  Most people aren’t aware that Bd Pope John Paul II included “conversion” as an integral part of the Third ‘Luminous Mystery.’  (It is often excluded from the title of the mystery.  Example:  see here, here and here.) Here’s how he presented it in Rosarium Virginis Mariae, n. 21:

Moving on from the infancy and the hidden life in Nazareth to the public life of Jesus, our contemplation brings us to those mysteries which may be called in a special way “mysteries of light”. Certainly the whole mystery of Christ is a mystery of light. He is the “light of the world” (Jn 8:12). Yet this truth emerges in a special way during the years of his public life, when he proclaims the Gospel of the Kingdom. In proposing to the Christian community five significant moments – “luminous” mysteries – during this phase of Christ’s life, I think that the following can be fittingly singled out: (1) his Baptism in the Jordan, (2) his self-manifestation at the wedding of Cana, (3) his proclamation of the Kingdom of God, with his call to conversion, (4) his Transfiguration, and finally, (5) his institution of the Eucharist, as the sacramental expression of the Paschal Mystery.

Expanding upon it, he said a few lines later:

Another mystery of light is the preaching by which Jesus proclaims the coming of the Kingdom of God, calls to conversion (cf. Mk 1:15) and forgives the sins of all who draw near to him in humble trust (cf. Mk 2:3-13; Lk 7:47- 48): the inauguration of that ministry of mercy which he continues to exercise until the end of the world, particularly through the Sacrament of Reconciliation which he has entrusted to his Church (cf. Jn 20:22-23).

The praying of this mystery provides us with an excellent opportunity to reflect on the status of our own ongoing conversion.  We can ponder how the call of St John the Baptist to conversion must have affected Jesus and his soon-to-be disciples.  We can review the times when Jesus called for the conversion of his hearers (Mt 4:17)(Mk 1:15).

Pope Benedict XVI was even able to sense the call of Jesus to ongoing conversion in a little phrase from Luke 22:31-32:

Saint Luke has preserved for us one concrete element of Jesus’ prayer for unity: “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren” (Lk 22:31). Today we are once more painfully aware that Satan has been permitted to sift the disciples before the whole world. And we know that Jesus prays for the faith of Peter and his successors. We know that Peter, who walks towards the Lord upon the stormy waters of history and is in danger of sinking, is sustained ever anew by the Lord’s hand and guided over the waves. But Jesus continues with a prediction and a mandate. “When you have turned again…”. Every human being, save Mary, has constant need of conversion. Jesus tells Peter beforehand of his coming betrayal and conversion. But what did Peter need to be converted from? When first called, terrified by the Lord’s divine power and his own weakness, Peter had said: “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” (Lk 5:8). In the light of the Lord, he recognizes his own inadequacy. Precisely in this way, in the humility of one who knows that he is a sinner, is he called. He must discover this humility ever anew. At Caesarea Philippi Peter could not accept that Jesus would have to suffer and be crucified: it did not fit his image of God and the Messiah. In the Upper Room he did not want Jesus to wash his feet: it did not fit his image of the dignity of the Master. In the Garden of Olives he wielded his sword. He wanted to show his courage. Yet before the servant girl he declared that he did not know Jesus. At the time he considered it a little lie which would let him stay close to Jesus. All his heroism collapsed in a shabby bid to be at the centre of things. We too, all of us, need to learn again to accept God and Jesus Christ as he is, and not the way we want him to be. We too find it hard to accept that he bound himself to the limitations of his Church and her ministers. We too do not want to accept that he is powerless in this world. We too find excuses when being his disciples starts becoming too costly, too dangerous. All of us need the conversion which enables us to accept Jesus in his reality as God and man. We need the humility of the disciple who follows the will of his Master. Tonight we want to ask Jesus to look to us, as with kindly eyes he looked to Peter when the time was right, and to convert us.

Communion Breakfast — Saturday, October 27th

October 16, 2012

UPDATE 10/16/12:  Only a week-and-a-half to go!!  Please register soon if you haven’t already done so.

That’s right, a good ol’ fashioned Communion Breakfast.  Details on this printable flyer with registration form.  Let’s see if we can outdo these guys (click pic to enlarge):

Conversion in the Year of Faith – 2

October 14, 2012

Before we dive into some of the Church’s teaching on conversion, below are 10 bad attitudes toward conversion that I have either experienced myself or encountered in others.  Can you relate to any of these?  Can you think of any others?

1 – I don’t really care about changing.  It’s not even on my radar.

2 – I feel that I’m good enough already.  The Lord accepts us as we are.  More people should be as good as I am.

3 – I’m too busy!  Too busy with all the things going on in my life to take time to do anything about changing.  The Lord will just have to accept me as I am.

4 – I know I have some weaknesses, maybe even sins.  But, hey!  Nobody’s perfect!

5 – We all have sins and imperfections.  I’ve had mine for so long that I’ve just learned to live with them.

6 – I’m not really interested in surfacing all my “inadvertent sins” (Psalm 19:13 NABRE).  They can’t be that bad if I’m not already aware of them.  Others will just have to endure them!

7 – As long as I’m a good Catholic, God’s grace will change anything in my life that needs to be changed.  God doesn’t need my help.

8 – The way I effect change in my life is “on the fly” or “by the seat of my pants” – if it changes, it changes; if it doesn’t, it doesn’t.

9 – When I try to make changes in my life, I usually end up bouncing from one thing to another before significant progress is made.  I spend a week or two on one thing, then another area needing change pops up and I switch focus.

10 – I only try to change things in my life if the Spirit leads me to do so, based solely on my own discernment.

What should our attitude toward conversion really be like?

Preparing us for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, Bd John Paul II described our human journey in Tertio Millennio Adveniente:

The whole of the Christian life is like a great pilgrimage to the house of the Father, whose unconditional love for every human creature, and in particular for the ‘prodigal son’ (cf. Lk 15:11-32), we discover anew each day.  This pilgrimage takes place in the heart of each person, extends to the believing community and then reaches to the whole of humanity” (n. 49).

This pilgrimage – ongoing conversion – starts in our heart.  The greatest desire of our heart, and the goal of our ongoing conversion is our fulfillment of the greatest commandment:  to love God with our whole heart, mind, soul and strength — in response to his unconditional, merciful love for us.  It is our deep desire for God that will keep us motivated to strive for conversion.  Our level of desire for God should be like that which caused the Psalmist to pray

O God, you are my God – it is you I seek.
For you my body yearns; for you my soul thirsts…
…For your love is better than life, my lips shall ever praise you! (Ps 63)

Ideally, every thought, word and deed of ours should be born of our love for God, and be a means of showing our love for God.  St John Chrysotom, in a homily on “Prayer,” said this:

Our soul should be directed in God, not merely when we suddenly think of prayer, but even when we are concerned with something else. If we are looking after the poor, if we are busy in some other way, or if we are doing any type of good work, we should season our actions with the desire and the remembrance of God. Through this salt of the love of God we can all become a sweet dish for the Lord.

How do we increase our desire for God so as to stay motivated in our efforts for ongoing conversion?  At Mass on 11-October, the first day of the Year of Faith, we heard Jesus tell us this:

If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?”  (Luke 11:13)

We need to ask God each day to pour out his Holy Spirit upon us, the same Spirit that emboldened the Apostles at Pentecost.  The Holy Spirit will be the source of our sustained desire for God.

Conversion in the Year of Faith – 1

October 11, 2012

Today, we in the Catholic Church begin a special “Year of Faith” proclaimed by Pope Benedict XVI.  Hopefully by now you’ve already heard something about it.  Our Holy Father issued a document describing why it is needed and how we might celebrate it efficaciously.  The CDF also suggested some ways in which we might observe this year of grace.  I won’t bother to summarize all they’ve said.  Our hope for this Year is that, if properly observed, it will help us to better live through Jesus, with Jesus, in Jesus and for Jesus!

In his document, Pope Benedict refers in numerous instances, directly and indirectly, to conversion.  Here are a few examples:  [I’ve emboldened the words indicating conversion]

…the heart allows itself to be shaped by transforming grace…

renewed enthusiasm of the encounter with Christ…

We must rediscover a taste for feeding ourselves on the Word of God…

…follows constantly the path of penance and renewal.

…a summons to an authentic and renewed conversion

…calls us to conversion of life

purified and transformed, on a journey that is never completely finished in this life.

…self-abandonment, in a continuous crescendo, into the hands of a love that seems to grow constantly…

Reflection on the faith will have to be intensified, so as to help all believers in Christ to acquire a more conscious and vigorous adherence to the Gospel…

…we make it our prayer that believers’ witness of life may grow in credibility…

…the action of grace which acts and transforms the person deep within.

…in his sharing our human weakness so as to transform it by the power of his resurrection…

…may this Year of Faith make our relationship with Christ the Lord increasingly firm

Having read this document by our Holy Father, I was convicted by the Holy Spirit about this ‘conversion’ aspect of the “Year of Faith” perhaps because of this:  Each time we receive the Sacrament of Penance (i.e., go to Confession), one of the requirements for a worthy reception of this sacrament is a ‘firm purpose of amendment’ (cf. CCC 1452, 1490).  As I was praying prior to one of my recent Confessions, I was disappointed by the low level of “amendment” exhibited in my life, the indicator being my repetition in Confession of the same sins over the past months, perhaps even years.

Catholic teaching refers to this amendment – or change – as conversion.  Continual change is often referred to as ongoing conversion.  In this year of special graces (and indulgences!), I’m going to strive for conversion in a number of areas of my life.  I’m also going to try to learn more about ongoing conversion.  I hope to be able to share some of what I learn with you via blog posts here.

A Blessed Year of Faith to all !!