Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The Continual Influence of St. Paul's Conversion

Could there be any more appropriate a figure for our times than St. Paul? Or a more appropriate time for conversion for all the world than now? The Feast Day of our great founder’--as Blessed James Alberione would himself adamantly call St. Paul the Apostle--is January 25th. Surely we are all quite familiar with the Conversion of St. Paul (cf. Acts 9:1-19) and we might have even experienced our own Pauline ‘conversion’ in a way that still surprises us and/or confuses our own family and friends. Yet we have come to realize that such a moment of conversion must be always ongoing, always necessary, and always timely. But what can we do, as Paulines, that might not only aid us but help us aid others who are still ‘awaiting’ their conversion or ‘yearning’ for a deepening of their conversion?

Well, a genuine conversion is about experiencing a metanoia or a “transformative change of heart; especially a spiritual conversion” This change of heart can certainly occur in many ways and even without notice, but it must always begin with the Holy Spirit and be received by the person in such a way that he or she desires to act on this gift of a new heart--one that a Pauline knows well to be when “Christ is formed in you”. And whether this is our first, our second, our third, or our thirty-third metanoia, it must always be deepened by ‘living with a penitent heart’  - some of the divinely revealed words to Blessed James by Christ Himself in the 1920’s when he was gravely ill and which have been inscribed in every chapel of the five Congregations of the Pauline Family throughout the world.

Yet many of us come back to ask, Is there an easy way to do this?” “Is there an easier way to live this conversion daily?” Well, yes there is, and not only is it practical but even more importantly it is part of our Pauline spirituality. The manner in which we can move more quickly and consistently in encountering Jesus Master, Way, Truth and Life is through His very own WORD, the WORD of GOD.

Inscribed into the constitutions of the Congregations and Institutes of the Pauline Family is the prescription for spending time with the WORD daily. This can be done in any number of ways: in a systematic manner of reading the Bible, meditating on the daily Mass readings, celebrating Lectio Divina (individually or in a small group setting) or spontaneously praying to the Holy Spirit and opening the Scriptures to a page & verse. But the more time we spend daily encountering the WORD outside of participating in the Mass itself and/or outside of praying the Liturgy of the Hours (when often we are hearing it for the first time without time for reflection), the more we are saturating ourselves with the Grace of the LORD--the Grace that frees us from our sins and enlightens our soul with the true joy, the Joy of the Gospel!

When we begin to read the WORD of GOD in a more probing manner we often call it a scrutiny of the WORD or an “examining carefully in a critical way”. St. Paul himself was a Pharisee and an ‘expert’ in the Hebrew Scriptures of his time, one who read and re-read the Scriptures. But he had not yet encountered the LORD as he eventually did on the road to Damascus, because the Gift of the Holy Spirit was not yet with him. It was only after his encounter on the road to Damascus, when eventually the ‘scales fell from his eyes,’ that he could ‘see’ the fulfillment of the Hebrew Scriptures in Christ. Eventually, his own Letters would become part of the Holy Scriptures we now commonly call the New Testament. It is these very Scriptures that would eventually provide countless conversions for nearly 2,000 years and become the inspiration for the saints of yesterday, today and tomorrow, including (as we pray for the canonization) for our own beloved Maestro, Blessed James Alberione!

One practical way for all--like me!--who consider themselves neophytes in reading the Scriptures is to utilize some of the many popular Bible Study programs on-line or in books available at your local bookstore of the Society of St. Paul, Daughters of St. Paul or Sister Disciples of the Divine Master! So, if ever there was a time for true conversion--like now--we should not only feel confident to find daily grace in the WORD of GOD but we should then reach out and invite others to join us. Then maybe even our own family and friends, fellow parishioners and neighbors, will no longer think of us as crazy but rather join us in this great family founded by St. Paul to bring about the change of heart when Christ is formed in all people!

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Fr. Ed was ordained to the priesthood in May 2000 for the Archdiocese of Boston. He was assigned to three different parishes in the Archdiocese from 2000-2010, when he was appointed to the Faculty of Saint John's Seminary, Boston, where he is Dean of Men and Director of Pastoral Formation. He is also the Spiritual Director & Liaison in the Archdiocese to Homeschooling Families as well as the Spiritual Director for the World Apostolate of Fatima (Boston Division). He recently made his First Profession in the Pauline Family Institute of Jesus the Priest.

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