>> Friday, February 27, 2009
"Even now, says the LORD, return to me with your whole heart..." (Joel 2:12).
Lent is a great opportunity for conversion. Holy Mother Church gives us this season of 40 days and 40 nights to "Rend [our] hearts, not [our] garments,and return to the LORD, [our] God. For gracious and merciful is He, slow to anger, rich in kindness, and relenting in punishment" (Joel 2:13).
For many of us, we have been blessed to grow up as "cradle Catholics"--that is, we were baptized as infants and raised in the faith. So our conversion is a process of "turn[ing] away from sin and be[ing] faithful to the Gospel," of "[putting] away the old self of your former way of life, corrupted through deceitful desires...and [putting] on the new self, created in God's way in righteousness and holiness of truth" (Eph 4:22, 24). We are called to die with Christ, die to this world and to ourselves, that we may rise to a new life in Him.
However, for many others this is also a time of actual conversion. Around the world thousands of people are nearing the end of their journey home to the Catholic Church. These catechumens will be received on the Holy Saturday Easter Vigil; when the world is dark and the Paschal Fire is lit, the waters of baptism will be poured over their heads and the stain of original sin will be washed away. Over the years, it has been my pleasure to encounter several converts to the Church, and I am often impressed by their commitment to and knowledge of their new faith which would put many cradle Catholics--myself included--to shame. Often we forget that many of them have to sacrifice much in order to follow Christ who spoke to their hearts and called them to the fullness of Truth in His Bride, the Church. They have had to make large sacrifices to be Catholic: rejection of friends and family members, and in certain countries of the world choosing to be Catholic means choosing social rejection, financial ruin, imprisonment, and even death. In a sense, Christians are still being fed to the lions. For example, at last year's Easter Vigil, Pope Benedict XVI baptized Magdi Allam, a convert from Islam. Since his baptism, Magdi has received numerous death threats.
So, then let us pray for Magdi, for all those who are preparing for baptism, for those who are persecuted because of their faith, martyrs who have shed their blood for the Gospel, and for our own conversion during Lent and the conversion of all sinners--especially for those who advocate abortion and for our relatives and friends who have turned away from Christ and His Church.
Thus, throughout Lent I am going to post the conversion stories of people who entered the Church or returned to the faith like the Prodigal Son returning home.
Our first story is that of Mr. Alex Jones, a former Pentecostal pastor. Please feel free to post your own conversion or reversion story.
Here is the first part of his testimony. Click on this post to watch the rest.
"Where the bishop is present...there is the Catholic Church."
-St. Ignatius of Antioch
"I was able to go back to sleep, resting in this truth: I have found His Church!"