March 2014 Evangelization Exchange – DeSiano

Lent and Conversion

Fr. Frank DeSiano, CSP


Fr. Frank DesianoLent is now upon us-a time when we celebrate the conversion of those catechumens who are joining the Church at Easter, and a time when we Catholics think about our own ongoing conversion.

There’s a mini-debate going on the church circles today and it basically centers on whether Catholics-the ordinary kind that mostly come to Mass-have experienced conversion. Or whether there is some other, lesser-level kind of religious activity going on in their lives. What, for example, do Catholics have to say to Evangelicals who ask them, “Have you accepted Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior?” Often Catholics don’t know what to make of this.

My take in this discussion is twofold: (1) ordinary Catholics are constantly experiencing conversion in one way or another, even if they are not aware of it, or even if they don’t think of it as an experience of conversion; and (2) Catholics would be strengthened if they could identify more clearly the element of conversion in their everyday lives. Of course, none of this means that Catholics, of all stripes, do not need to experience greater conversion in their lives. Of course they do. Everyone does, even the most fervent follower of Jesus. We all say, “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.”

My suggestion this Lent is for ordinary, Church-going Catholics to use the Lenten season to identify how conversion happens in their everyday lives. Here are some questions to help accomplish this:

  1. How do we pray every day? What does this prayer consist of? How can daily prayer be a more intense dialogue with the Lord Jesus?
  2. How can we pray more openly every day, at least with spouse and family? Are there invitations to pray more opening in our parishes that we can take advantage of during Lent?
  3. When I hear the Sunday readings, can I ask more consciously what those readings are demanding of my Catholic life? When I hear God’s Word what do I make of it? Can I give myself a homily on the Sunday readings?
  4. When I am at Mass, how can I intensify my sense of being identified with Jesus Christ? Of being one with him? How can I prepare myself more for Mass?  How do I make the Eucharistic Prayer—the consecration and calling of the Holy Spirit—more powerful in my life? How do I let God’s Spirit accomplish this in me?
  5. What kind of spiritual reading am I doing for Lent? A book that inspires me? One that challenges me? Maybe you can find one in your parish library, or even a free Christian classic online.
  6. What extra acts of generosity and sacrifice can I make as an expression of my conversion? How can I pay attention to people more in need than me? How do I open myself to them and feel their plight more clearly? How do I respond?

Perhaps an exercise like this can help us all feel a little more like the reality that we are—Christ’s disciples, caught up in his grace and love, called to transformation, and serving the growth of the Kingdom?