Bottom Line Upfront: Conversion is continualAs we contemplate resolutions in the New Year, it is natural to think of them as significant changes that occur all of a sudden. Once we decide to change, it happens! However, this is not so with the spiritual life. Conversion is ongoing, growth takes times, and transformation comes from a repetition of good choices. We are always growing and should therefore continually pursue knowledge and wisdom in the spiritual life. If we are honest, we can recognize those areas in our life that we have neglected. Even strong Christians can grow complacent in believing that we are “okay” spiritually and that further conversion is for others who need it more, not for us. However, God chastises those who act in such ways:
“For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man…” (Romans 1:21-23).Conversion is continual. Each day, in fact, is a new day and a chance to begin again in our relationship with God. In order to do so, however, St. Francis de Sales, suggests in the Introduction to the Devout Life that we are both patient and hard on ourselves at the same time:
“It is a woeful thing to see souls beginning to chafe and grow disheartened because they find themselves still subject to imperfection after having made some attempt at leading a devout life, and well-nigh yielding to the temptation to give up in despair and fall back; but, on the other hand, there is an extreme danger surrounding those souls who, through the opposite temptation, are disposed to imagine themselves purified from all imperfection at the very outset of their purgation; who count themselves as full-grown almost before they are born, and seek to fly before they have wings.”
There are many ways we can grow in our faith. Perhaps one of the most meaningful habits we can begin today is to be quiet for 10 minutes every day. We often think of prayer as being formal and structured, yet Mother Teresa said that “Listening is the beginning of prayer.” A quiet heart that allows the mind to think of God is, in itself, a prayer. While silence will prove a great boon to your spiritual life, the important thing to remember is the need to practice the resolution every day. It is the repeated choice to pray which will transform our lives.
Another way to enrich our spiritual life is to read a good spiritual book. The following are a few recommendations (from the Catholic Company):
- Saint Francis de Sales’ Philothea (or Introduction to the Devout Life)
- Live Today Well:St. Francis de Sales Simple Approach to Holiness by Fr. Thomas F. Dailey, O.S.F.S.
- Experience Grace in Abundance: Ten Strategies for Your Spiritual Life by Johnette Benkovic,
- Getting Free: How to Overcome Persistent Personal Problems by Bert Ghezzi