Conversion takes time and discernment.
St. Paul defines what it is to be converted from the world to a life of holiness. He said, “You were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.” (Eph 5:8) The beauty of God is brighter, lighter, clearer than anything that the world can offer. As our soul senses the brightness of God’s light, it simultaneously, senses the world’s light growing dimmer. What we once loved in the world, no longer holds the same luster. That’s not a loss, but a gain. We’ve finally seen the light! We are converted,…but not completely. Conversion takes time and requires discernment.
Discernment of Spirits
St. Ignatius of Loyola developed the Spiritual Exercises that every Ignatian retreat applies today. Its hallmark is discernments of spirits. And it drew from Ignatius’ own experience. When a cannonball injured his leg in a battle, he convalesced at his ancestral home with nothing to do but read the only two books in the house: a life of Christ and a book of saints.
As he read, he reflected and gradually discerned the difference between how his worldly ambitions and his desire to imitate the saints, affected his soul. He dictated his insight to his secretary:
“When he was thinking about the things of the world, he took much delight in them, but afterwards, when he…put them aside,…he was dry and discontented. But when he thought of going to Jerusalem,…[and imitating the saints]…, not only was he consoled…, but even after putting them aside, he remained content and happy.” (The Discernment of Spirits, Gallagher, 13)
Likewise, as we grow in holiness, we also grow sensitive to the movements within our souls. We learn to discern what is of God and what is not. The world and the influence of evil one dazzle us for a moment, but then leave us empty. God brings the light of love and peace, and leaves our soul filled with lasting joy.
True conversion brings a desire to be near Jesus in the Eucharist.
Discernment of spirits—understanding the movements within our souls—is a great first step in our conversion. But then, what are we going to do about it? We can know the fleeting happiness of the world compared to our lasting happiness with God, but we live in the world. It’s too easy to make concessions to our holiness; to conform God to us…instead of conforming ourselves to Him. True conversion, true holiness, must bring a change of life, a heightened desire to be near Jesus:
“There is no deep conversion in a Catholic life without a new perception of the Eucharist. The attraction for Our Lord’s presence is suddenly sharp and vivid when we place ourselves near a tabernacle.” (Conversion, Haggerty, 205)
Likewise, Mass reveals a sharpness and vividness never experienced before. Adoration, Mass, prayer, Confession: the Holy Spirit started a conversion in our souls that includes countless steps in our ascent toward a deeper union with God. Begin this climb, now, taking one step at a time, being present to the Holy Spirit within your soul to help in discernment.
You are now light in the Lord
Remember, “You were darkness, but now, you are light in the Lord.” So, cherish and protect this beautiful gift of conversion, and deepen your union with Jesus through the graces of the Holy Eucharist.
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