Intentions of the Holy Father for April

Ecology and Justice. That governments may foster the protection of creation and the just distribution of natural resources.
Hope for the Sick. That the Risen Lord may fill with hope the hearts of those who are being tested by pain and sickness.

Prototype of the Convert

Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul (Jan 25)

St. Paul's conversion becomes in our mind the very prototype for a conversion to our holy Faith because of the dramatic change he underwent. From killing Christians to proclaiming Christ seemingly overnight, if the account from Acts of the Apostles is read without interpretation.

In reality, things weren't quite as decisive as all that. Firstly, tradition holds, and the his letters themselves seem to indicate, that St. Paul spent several years in Arabia between his initial conversion and the beginning of his preaching (Gal 1:17). During this time, the zealous and violent Pharisee was transformed gradually into the zealous and gentle Apostle.

Moreover, it must be borne in mind that Saul the Pharisee did not knowingly oppose God. Quite to the contrary, according to his own best natural lights, Saul was passionately obedient to God. His problem was not caring for God too little, but knowing Him too little. "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" the Pharisee was asked. He responded with a telling question of his own, "Who are you, Lord?" (Acts 9:4-5). It hadn't occured to him earlier that the Jesus whose followers he hounded might actually have been God. The radical repositioning that changed Saul into St. Paul was, at least firstly, a recognition. He didn't change his mind about God, but about Jesus, by recognizing Him to be God. Most of us need a much more radical conversion, because even if we recognize Jesus to be God, we do not recognize God to be God - that is, we make ourselves God while paying mere lip service to the Creator. While Saul was mostly in error, we are mostly in a much more serious spiritual problem - hypocrisy.

All that said, Saul's conversion into Paul was radical and shocking enough to alarm and amaze the Christian communities he encountered (Acts 9:21). And even though his vocation needed maturation and testing in the harsh Arabian desert, his zeal was never dampered and he immediately began to preach the One whose disciples he had murdered (Acts 9:20).

Most of our conversions don't happen with the apparent pace of St. Paul's. The Holy Spirit works in all of us, but what was patent in St. Paul immediately is latent and subtle in most of the rest of us. Gradually the Holy Spirit molds and kneads our soul, strengthening from without and supporting from without. The rate of our growth is exactly equal to our willingness, and a major work of the Holy Spirit is to increase our willingness, our attitude of obedience to God. Those unbaptized persons or unconfirmed Christians who seek admission into Holy Church and so receive her holy sacraments manifest the same sort of obvious conversion that St. Paul did. Still, all of us need ongoing conversion, and some of us, even while practicing the Faith externally yet need a much more radical conversion.

I thought it would be fun to include a roughly chronological list of some cool converts who have already departed this life for the eternal, coming from different walks of life throughout the ages. Many of them paid a steep price, even martyrdom, for their integrity and commitment to Christ. May they be rewarded for it, and may we imitate them! If you can think of others, please tack them up as comments!

St. Justin Martyr, Ss. Perpetua & Felicity, St. Ambrose of Milan, St. Augustine of Hippo, St. Martin of Tours, St. Patrick of Ireland, St. Stephen the King of Hungary, St. Juan Diego, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, St. Kateri Tekakwitha, Alphonse Ratisbonne, John Henry Cardinal Newman, Buffalo Bill, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Oscar Wilde, Fr. Robert Hugh Benson, G. K. Chesterton, Fr. Ronald Knox, Sigrid Unset, Evelyn Waugh, Dorothy Day, Max Scheler, Dietrich von Hildrebrand, Edith Stein, Jacques Maritain, Salvador Dali, Graham Greene, Walker Percy, Valery Goulding (nee Monckton), Adrienne von Speyr, Malcolm Muggeridge, Thomas Merton, Andre Frossard, Rene Girard, Christopher Lasch, Jean-Marie Cardinal Lustiger, Catherine Doherty, John Wayne, Lord Alec and Lady Merula Guinness, Bob Hope

Coincidentally, this post is my 100th on the blog. Happy reading!

St. Paul and all other Holy Converts in Heaven, pray that we ourselves be converted.

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