At the 11:00 Mass at Our Lady of Lourdes this morning, we had the Rite of Acceptance of our RCIA candidates and catechumens. The Rite of Acceptance is the first of the “threshold rites” of the RICA (the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) and the first public ritual. The Rite of Acceptance officially welcomes the candidates and catechumens as disciples and marks then with the sign of the cross as belonging to God through Christ.
I thought it was fitting that we celebrated this rite on the (optional) feast of the conversion of St. Paul. In our first reading at Mass, we heard the story so familiar to all Christians. The story of Paul’s conversion in Acts is a great story, a dramatic story. It is the kind of redemption story we love to hear.
The risk of such dramatic stories is that we see conversion as a single dramatic event. It is true that we all have some significant conversion events in our lives, moments we can look back at and say – something significant happened to me here, events after which nothing is really the same.
But looking back at those moments, and at what transpired between them, helps us to see that we are engaged in an ongoing process of conversion that continues and is not complete until we die.
Understanding conversion as process helps us understand how important are each of the steps we take along the path of our conversion journey. We have such a strong tendency to judge harshly what we in hindsight view as missteps along the way. It is so very easy for us to forget that everything we experience and learn from contributes to our growth process, is part of who we have become and how we relate to God and others, and is a potential source of grace. For me – some one who returned to Christianity after spending 20 years of her adult life as Buddhist, this meant coming to understand that my years as a Buddhist, far from being a misstep, were an integral part of my spiritual journey.
So, by all means, enjoy story like Paul’s conversion. But remember it is a process. And perhaps spend some time reflecting on what have been some of your moments of conversion.