Deep Conversion Deep Prayer.
Why do so many people commit the same sins for years and years without any real change? This is the question which Fr. Thomas Dubay explores in his book Deep Conversion/Deep Prayer. Paraphrasing St. Bernard of Clairvaux, he observes that relatively few people make a serious effort to give up deliberately willed venial sins and even fewer grow into heroic virtue and live as saints.
Fr. Dubay defines conversion as "a fundamental change in our willed activities from bad to good, from good to better and from better to best." The fundamental conversion consists in renouncing the pervasive egoism which stems from original sin and turning to an altruistic love for objective truth, goodness and beauty. Fr. Dubay translates the first recorded words of Jesus' ("Be converted and accept the gospel") to mean that we are to love truth (the way things are objectively), love goodness (the virtues) and love beauty (of God, of man and all creation). When honest men who love truth, goodness and beauty hear the gospel, they immediately see how it fulfils their human aspirations and needs, and they embrace the person of Jesus and his message (the gospel).
Fr. Dubay identifies three levels of conversion:
1. freedom from mortal sin (e.g. torture, murder, adultery, blasphemy, hatred, lust);
2. giving up willed venial sins (e.g. ordinary gossiping, overeating), that is, things we can control, not mere mistakes or feelings (it is not a sin to feel grouchy but it is a sin to be grouchy); and
3. total heroic goodness, loving God and neighbour without limits, with all our heart, soul, mind and soul, without the least trace of selfishness and egocentrism. There are many saints who exemplified this third degree, such as St. John Vianney and St. Maximilian Kolbe.
Fr. Dubay points out six general traits of those who reach the summit of holiness, such as the habitual practice of virtue even in painful and difficult situations, promptness in doing what needs to be done, and cheerful joy.
Fr. Dubay realizes that we have a remarkable resistance to getting rid of faults we can control. Knowledge is not enough. We need motivation and he offers several reasons why it is crucial to be cured of venial sins:
* it makes us happier and more fulfilled;
* we prove real love and offer a daily example which has an eternal impact on ourselves and others;
* it improves our supernatural vision, because God gives his light to the humble and loving;
* saints attract sincere people to the beauty of the gospel and the Church;
* it brings inexpressible joy; and
* we are improving the kind of person we will be for all eternity. The greater our holiness in this life, the greater our joy and happiness in heaven.
One of the key points of the book is that conversion involves genuine love. This gospel love means giving up self-centeredness and seeking the good of the ones we love. It means doing what we ought even when there is no attraction or inclination, and even when the other does not reciprocate or express gratitude. In other words, we love our enemies and return good for evil.
The supreme example is Jesus on the cross. Completely innocent, he is tortured to death but suffers in silence and seeks no vengeance. In fact, he forgives his enemies as he is dying and lays down his life for them as a total self-gift.
Real love requires acceptance of divine revelation and purification of our defects. This kind of love requires radical conversion. Attraction is not enough. It becomes love only when we have accepted the Christian message and have been cleansed of our self-seeking.
In other chapters Fr. Dubay emphasizes that psychology and counselling do not get to the root of the problem. We all suffer from hurts caused by our own sins and others' errors and sins. The most basic healing of our deepest wounds comes from contemplative intimacy with the Trinity. That is why he maintains that deep conversion and deep prayer go together. Fr. Dubay identifies four chief roots of hurts, disagreements and sufferings, one of which is a lack of shared vision about the main issues of life. The solution for preventing and healing human conflicts is deep conversion. The saints prove it. Saints do not inflict wounds on others and often they heal the deepest of human sufferings. The only way to overcome evil is with good. That's how Jesus responded to the most horrendous evil of his suffering and death on the cross.
Fr. Dubay concludes with a surefire program of seven B's to put genuine love into practice. He cautions that these motivations and practices will be found together or not at all.
1. Be concerned. Morally mediocre people are comfortable with their illness.
2. Be determined. As Thomas Edison said: "Genius is one per cent inspiration and ninety-nine per cent perspiration."
3. Be motivated. Here he adds four more reasons for deep conversion:
* our apostolic effectiveness is proportionate to our growth in the degrees of conversion. It is personal sanctity and goodness which touches hearts;
* it eliminates boredom;
* life is more harmonious among people who renounce their egocentrisms; and
* it equips you to handle suffering profitably and even happily.
4. Be committed to daily meditative/contemplative prayer. The main source of deep conversion is to fall in love with endless Beauty.
5. Be humble. Humility invites divine light which is necessary in order to choose wisely.
6. Be specific. Focus on clear and specific aims and plans, not vague wishes. For example, the particular examination of conscience: focusing daily on one fault to be corrected or one virtue to be acquired or improved upon.
7. Be persevering. Go over your plan one B at a time once a week. He also recommends being accountable to someone reliable such as a confessor or spiritual director.
I highly recommend this book to anyone. It is clear, simple to read and follow, and very practical. Fr. Dubay identifies the problem, provides the motivation to overcome it, and offers a simple but very effective program to become converted and stay converted. The book also has the virtue of saying a lot in only 122 pages.
Fr. Louis Di Rocco is parish priest of Sacred Heart of Mary Church, Madoc, Archdiocese of Kingston, ON.
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|Author:||Di Rocco, Louis|
|Date:||Oct 1, 2006|
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