Catholics speak of converts, and usually think of such persons as those who have “switched” from another religious practice to Catholicism. Conversion often happens when people become Catholic, but not always. The US bishops offer a definition:
Conversion is the change of our lives that comes about through the power of the Holy Spirit. (GMD 12)
The bishops offer a progression. In it, a believer accepts the Gospel and consents and cooperates with that change of life. They say we “continually put on the mind of Christ by
rejecting sin and becoming more faithful disciples in his Church.”
Many of you readers have heard the term “continuing conversion.” A few will shocked to read that continuing conversion is the essence of being a Catholic Christian disciple. There are many millions who believe. But they have not yet experienced conversion. They are unprepared for the mission of the Gospel.
Conversion can happen in many ways (GMD 13) and the bishops give some encouragement in section 14:
This is crucial: we must be converted—and we must continue to be converted! We must let the Holy Spirit change our lives! We must respond to Jesus Christ. And we must be open to the transforming power of the Holy Spirit who will continue to convert us as we follow Christ. If our faith is alive, it will be aroused again and again as we mature as disciples.
As a liturgist, I see the emphasis on participation as part of the preparation, the sowing, of conversion. Being a Christian means responding to Christ in some way. We don’t keep the knowledge of Jesus in our heads. Anybody can get knowledge. And even non-Christians write good books about Jesus. How can people do that? Because they know facts. We don’t keep the feelings of Jesus in our hearts. Anyone can watch a movie about Jesus and be moved. Or listen to sacred music and feel it deep within. Without a response, a commitment, a change in life, a movement away from sin, a deeper faithfulness, we are just human beings thinking thoughts and feeling emotions.
Faith must grow. It cannot remain stagnant.