Each year on January 25, the Church celebrates the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul the Apostle. The scripture readings for the day include the account from the Acts of the Apostles, of Paul encountering risen Christ on the road to Damascus. Paul had been a persecutor of the early Church, but as a result of his encounter with Jesus, he became a Christian and a powerful preacher of the Gospel. In the not-too-distant past, when one heard Catholics speak of “conversion,” it usually meant becoming Catholic and leav­ing some other faith behind. But today, becoming Catholic is a longer, more in-depth process of initiation. And “conversion” means something much more than becoming a member of the Catholic Church. If you look in the subject index of the Catechism of the Catholic Church for “conversion” in one of the first printings, it says “see Contrition.” This give us some idea of the real meaning of con­version: It’s a change of heart, a transformation that involves turning away from sin and turning toward God and his grace. Furthermore, the Catechism explains that this conversion isn’t a one-time event or even a single process. Instead, ongoing con­version is the task of all the baptized and even the Church itself. Quoting Lumen Gentium, number 8, from the Second Vatican Council, the Catechism explains that the Church “[is] at once holy and always in need of purification, [and] follows constantly the path of penance and renewal” (CCC, no. 1428). So, if you hear someone say that they’re a “convert” to Catholicism, remember that we all are called to conversion as God’s grace draws us closer to himself.



The Sacrament of Penance must be seen within the context of conversion from sin and a turn to God. Peter wept bitterly over his triple denial of Christ but received the grace of conversion and expressed it with a threefold confession of love for Jesus (cf. Lk 22:54-62; Jn 21:15-19). Paul was converted from persecut­ing Christians to becoming one of the greatest disciples of Christ who ever lived (cf. Acts 9:1-31). These moments of conversion were only the beginning of their lifelong commitment to living in fidelity to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Sin harms our relationship with God and damages our commu­nion with the Church. Conversion of heart is the beginning of our journey back to God. Liturgically this happens in the Sacrament of Penance. In the history of the Church, this Sacrament has been celebrated in different ways. Beneath the changes, there have always been two essen­tials: the acts of the penitent and the acts of Christ through the ministry of the Church. Both go hand in hand. Conversion must involve a change of heart as well as a change of actions. Neither is possible without God’s grace.

 Prayer For Christian Unitypraying hands

Let us pray for all our brothers and sisters who share our faith in Jesus Christ, that God may gather and keep together in one Church all those who seek the truth with sincerity. Almighty and eternal God, you keep together those you have united. Look kindly on all who follow Jesus, your Son. We are all consecrated to you by our common Baptism. Make us one in the fullness of faith, and keep us one in the fellowship of love. We ask this through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

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