For my community of the Daughters of St. Paul, January 25 is a major feastday: the Conversion of St. Paul. Usually we celebrate it with a novena, but since I have neglected to blog and there are only three days left to prepare, I’d like to make a little “online triduum” of musings on St. Paul’s conversion.
Saint Paul’s is the only conversion that the Church officially celebrates as a feastday, although countless other saints have had notable conversions. Partly the feast highlights the greatness of Paul’s legacy to the Church. But also, Paul’s conversion is so classic, so well-described in the Acts of the Apostles, that it can provide insight into all conversions, whether they seem sudden, like St. Paul’s, or whether they are more gradual.
When I first entered the convent, I used to get tired of all the talk about conversion. I participated at Mass every day, I had entered the convent. How did I need “conversion”? Wasn’t conversion just for people who were “big sinners”? Yet I knew I must be missing something. Our Founder, Blessed James Alberione, was so convinced of the importance of ongoing (daily) conversion in our lives that he began the tradition of inscribing the words, “Have a penitent heart,” on the walls of every Pauline chapel around the globe. (He also inscribed three other phrases: “Do not fear. I am with you. From here [the Eucharist] I will enlighten.”]
Since my early days in the convent, Alberione’s writings have helped me discover an important truth about myself: the deeper I enter into my relationship with Jesus, the more I can see how deeply sin has a hold on me. Daily conversion is now an essential part of my relationship with God.
One of the coolest things I’ve discovered about conversion is that it constantly shifts the focus from me to him. Living in continual conversion doesn’t mean that I go around with my head hanging low, or that I focus on how I fail. Daily conversion means reminding myself of what my deepest call truly is, and how I can live that call today. When I am trying to live a life of true conformity with Christ, then it’s inevitable that I realize not only how much I need God’s grace, but how abundant God’s grace is when I reach out to him. St. Augustine describes God’s interaction with us as “sheer grace.” If I were to describe my life in two words, I think those would be the words I’d choose today.
How does the upcoming feast of St. Paul’s Conversion relate to your life?