Saturday, March 24, 2012

Ongoing Conversion

As part of my study assignment for ongoing formation as a lay Dominican, the question was posed: "Have you experienced conversion to the Lord Jesus? How? Was it gradual or sudden? Was it once only or is it ongoing?"  Here's my (slightly edited and extended) answer.

As a child, growing up as a non-denominational, evangelical Protestant, I had many conversions. They certainly have the idea of a main conversion moment, where you "accept Jesus into your heart," but there were other conversion moments most of us experienced. Our thinking was that if you “backslid,” then you needed to repent and “rededicate” your life to God. Sometimes there would be a question if our earlier conversion was real, especially for those who had more (unconscious) Calvinist leanings. I will say that I had some significant spiritual experiences during this time and have no doubt they have had an impact on my overall formation and sanctification.

I also had a longish conversion to Catholicism, starting in college. All told, it was about five years of fairly in-depth searching, learning, and praying. I had many difficulties to overcome from a doctrinal/understanding perspective. One that had a special conversion moment was when I first prayed to Mary—I asked her to pray for me, that if I should come to a Catholic understanding of her/her place in salvation history that it was up to her to bring me there by her prayers (something like that). It had a profound impact on me, and I felt an immediate closeness to her and thereafter struggled less with Marian doctrine.

Since becoming Catholic, I have regular conversions—turning away from sin and back towards God. This happens each time I make an act of contrition (almost daily) and especially in Confession, as I experienced again today. It is often prompted by going to mass, sometimes by the LOTH, and sometimes just by the Holy Spirit pricking my conscience.

So I guess you could say my conversion is gradual ongoing, much like St. Paul speaks of in his letter to the Philippians (chapter three):
More than that, I even consider everything as a loss because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have accepted the loss of all things and I consider them so much rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having any righteousness of my own based on the law but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God, depending on faith to know him and the power of his resurrection and sharing of his sufferings by being conformed to his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
It is not that I have already taken hold of it or have already attained perfect maturity, but I continue my pursuit in hope that I may possess it, since I have indeed been taken possession of by Christ Jesus.
Brothers, I for my part do not consider myself to have taken possession. Just one thing: forgetting what lies behind but straining forward to what lies ahead, I continue my pursuit toward the goal, the prize of God’s upward calling, in Christ Jesus.
Let us, then, who are “perfectly mature” adopt this attitude. And if you have a different attitude, this too God will reveal to you. Only, with regard to what we have attained, continue on the same course.
P.S. I couldn't help but notice what seems to be a slightly snarky comment towards the end there--basically, to all those who think they've already attained perfection, just wait, God will reveal to you that you're wrong. LOL. :)