Last weekend, I gave a women’s lent retreat at St. Ignatius Retreat House in New York. The theme of the retreat was Lent as a time of conversion, and God’s blessings abounded throughout the weekend.
During the opening session of the retreat, I spoke about the meaning of conversion and about the Lenten invitation to conversion. Although we frequently use the term conversion to refer to someone converting from one religion to another, at the deepest level, conversion isn’t at all about changing churches or religions, or even changing one’s mind about what doctrines one believes in.
Rather, conversion is about a fundamental reorientation of one’s life. In his General Audience on Ash Wednesday 2010, Pope Benedict XVI echoed the proclamation of the first apostles, saying that “[t]o be converted means to change direction along the way of life — not for a slight adjustment, but a true and total change of direction.”
The theme of the retreat, Lent: A Time of Conversion, reflects the fact that Lent is a very important part of our process of conversion. Lent invites us to reexamine the orientation of our lives and to deepen our commitment to living a life that is modeled on the life of Christ. (And the truth is that all of us who are Catholics – even those who do not otherwise take their faith very seriously – approach Lent with the feeling that they should be doing something to mark the time.) Joyce Rupp writes,
The church is wise in offering us the season of Lent because it can be the very time we need to find what is missing in our lives; it can be the season to deliberately seek what has been tossed away or misplaced or ignored, so that our lives can once again reflect the gospel which Jesus encouraged us to live. Lent can be a searching out and a restoration time and the means for renewed direction.
You can find a podcast of my opening talk here. (The podcast runs for 25:46.)