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Lent is a season for conversion

February 22nd, 2015 Posted in Catechetical Corner Tags: ,

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It’s time to decide to ‘turn your heart around’ in imitation of the saints

 

Lent is here and it is during this season that, in addition to praying and fasting, we are called to turn ourselves back to God. It is a time of conversion.

 

Take me to your liter

There are lots of conversions we experience in life, like when we convert measurements from imperial measure (inches, feet) to that of the metric system (centimeters, meters). In the format wars of the early video era, there were people who converted from BetaMax to VHS. In the cell phone carrier battle, conversion from AT&T to Verizon to Sprint to Nextel happens all the time. There are other conversions, too: Moving from caffeinated to decaf, from PCs to Macs, and even betraying the logic of the universe and moving from McDonalds to Burger King.

However, having a conversion or change of heart in the realm of faith is a little tougher than going from a Big Mac to Whopper. (Although for me, it might be a comparable challenge.) But, tough though it may be, we are called to conversion. Read more »

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Pope Francis warns against ‘spirituality of ease’ that he calls a ‘state of sin’

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Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Christians must guard against a “spirituality of ease” and putting up appearances, and respond to the constant call of Jesus to conversion, said Pope Francis.

Pope Francis prays during his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Nov.19. (CNS photo/Tony Gentile, Reuters)

Pope Francis prays during his general audience in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Nov.19. (CNS photo/Tony Gentile, Reuters)

The pope described the thinking behind a spirituality of ease: “I do things as I can, but I am at peace as long as no one comes to disturb me with strange things. I lack nothing. I go to Mass on Sundays. I pray sometimes. I feel good. I’m in the grace of God. I’m rich. I don’t need anything. I’m fine.”

But this spiritual state “is a state of sin,” he said in his homily Nov. 18 at morning Mass in the chapel of his residence, the Casa Santa Marta.

Reflecting on the day’s first reading, the pope said Jesus reprimands Christians who have a “lukewarm” spirit, calling them to “dress themselves” because “they are naked.”

Jesus also calls to conversion those Christians who are “putting up appearances.” These Christians believe they are living, but they are not, said the pope.

“The appearances they put up are their shroud; they are dead,” he said, according to Vatican Radio.

The pope urged Christians to examine their faith life: “Am I among these Christians who put up appearances? Am I alive within? Do I have a spiritual life? Do I feel the Holy Spirit? Do I listen to the Holy Spirit?”

Some will answer, “but everything seems fine. I have nothing for which to reproach myself. I have a good family. People do not speak ill of me. I have everything I need. I was married in church. I’m in the grace of God. I’m calm,” he said. But these are “appearances. Christians of appearances, they are (spiritually) dead.”

The pope said Christians must seek to reinvigorate their interior lives and he urged them to convert “from appearances to reality, from tepidness to fervor.”

Reflecting on the day’s Gospel (Lk 19:1-10), the Pope said Zacchaeus, the tax collector, was “like many managers we know, corrupt, those who, instead of serving the people, exploit the people to serve themselves.”

Zacchaeus was neither tepid nor dead, he continued. “He was in a state of putrefaction, truly corrupt” but impelled by curiosity to see Jesus. The Holy Spirit sowed the seed of curiosity into Zacchaeus’ heart and, unrestrained by shame, he did something “a little ridiculous” to see Jesus; he climbed a tree. The pope said the Holy Spirit worked within Zacchaeus, who received the gift of joy upon accepting the Word of God in his heart, and promised to pay back four times the amount he had stolen.

“When conversion hits the pockets, then it is definite,” the pope said. “Christians at heart? Yes, everyone. Christians in spirit? Everyone. But Christians with pockets? Few, eh?” Despite Zacchaeus’ instant conversion, there were others who refused to convert and who criticized Jesus for entering his house, the pope continued.

The pope then offered a reflection on the importance of the Word of God in the life of the Christian. The Word, he said, “is able to change everything,” but “we do not always have the courage to believe in the Word of God, to receive this Word, which heals us interiorly.”

In the final weeks of the liturgical year, he said, the church is urging Christians to think very seriously about conversion and to recall the Word of God and to obey it, in order to move forward in the Christian life.

— By Laura Ieraci

 

 

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Narrative history tells tales of conversion from 17th, 20th centuries

December 16th, 2011 Posted in Books Tags: ,

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“Conversions: Two Family Stories from the Reformation and Modern America” by Craig Harline. Yale University Press (New Haven, Conn., 2011). 320 pp., $27.50.

 

Reviewed by Eugene J. Fisher

Catholic News Service

 

Craig Harline, the author of “Conversions,” a highly readable and in many ways fascinating exercise in “narrative history,” is a Mormon, a fact not unrelated to his study, and professor of history at Brigham Young University.

The basic narrative is that of a young man, Jacob Rolandus, son of a Reformed preacher and grandson of a famous Reformed preacher and scholar, who in the 17th century left his family and his home in the Netherlands, fleeing to the Spanish Netherlands (now Belgium) to become a Catholic, ultimately joining the Jesuits and becoming a missionary.

CNS photo

Jacob’s story, written in novelistic fashion, is based upon his journals and extensive correspondence, especially with his sister, who remained staunchly Reformed despite Jacob’s lengthy treatises proving, to his satisfaction if not hers, the superiority of Catholicism to Reformed Christianity. Her counterarguments likewise fail to move Jacob from his faith commitment, which he sincerely believes to be a response to God’s call.

In the sister’s letters and in statements especially from Jacob’s father, one sees an astounding display of anti-Catholic diatribe, misinterpretation of Catholic doctrine, and invective in which terms such as “papist” for “Catholic” and “whore of Babylon” to refer to the pope are among the less incendiary, with Jacob returning anti-Reformed rhetoric common to Catholic usage of the time.

Though Harline does not go into the issue (as I believe he should have), it is no wonder that our immigrant Irish, Italian, Polish and now Hispanic ancestors encountered and still encounter today so much systematic anti-Catholicism and discrimination.

The Rolandus narrative is helpful for contemporary Catholics to understand our not-so-distant past in this country, while the inability of the Rolandus family to reconcile themselves to Jacob’s “apostasy” can help Catholic families to overcome and embrace similar situations of Protestant, Jewish, Muslim and other non-Catholic.

We live today, thanks to the Second Vatican Council, in an ecumenical age in which Catholic families can place love over sectarian differences without diminishing their own basic faith commitments.

Interspersed with the historical narrative is one from the 1960s and 1970s in which a young evangelical Christian becomes a Mormon, which is hard enough on his parents, but then in effect leaves Mormonism as he realizes he is homosexual and enters into a relationship that will last over three decades until his partner dies. Again, the lesson of the author is that family love should overcome not only religious difference but also sexual orientation.

On the pastoral level Catholic families will relate to the ability to continue to love and embrace one’s children and siblings despite serious differences. But the analogy between religious conversion and homosexuality, which is simply presumed and discussed by the author, is not really an automatic equivalency on all levels. And while accepting the principle of family love which is espoused, Catholics will need to look to Catholic sources to understand church teaching on the biblical, theological and moral issues involved.

 

Fisher is a professor of Catholic-Jewish studies at St. Leo University in Florida.

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