Conversion of Life is the wild-eyed and grace filled, unpredictable part of the spiritual way. Conversion of life means ‘change of life’ and real change entails risk, uncertainty and the adventure of going into the unknown. In the spiritual life it means accepting the work of the Holy Spirit–who may be doing things his way not our way. It means being open to the new and unfamiliar aspects of the faith, and being alert to all the wonderful ways that God may want to bring us to the fullness of our faith.
Conversion of Life in the Benedictine way is not an event, but a condition. Those who seek conversion of life are looking for it to take place in every moment of every day, and in every aspect of our lives. Each day we wait with Elijah in the cave–listening for the voice of God in the earthquake wind and fire–and finding it in the still small voice. Every day we look for the new and exciting, the strange and disturbing way of God in our little lives.
Those who seek conversion of life without the other two vows of stability and obedience will be ‘tossed about by every wind of doctrine.’ Stability and obedience provide a rock to build on and a star to steer by. Only with the other two can conversion of life really take place authentically and positively and certainly. Without them, how can we be sure that conversion of life is not really just our latest religious whim, the latest spiritual gimmick or the latest liturgical fad? Stability and obedience create the atmosphere for conversion of life to take place.
Benedict called the monastery a ‘school for the Lord’s service.’ Like any school, obedience and stability are necessary for education and growth to take place. In the monastery the education is an education in the ways of the spirit, and the growth is growth into ‘the likeness of the full humanity of Jesus Christ.”
This Fr. Longnecker is why I returned to the Catholic Church. I had grown tired of the tempestuous nature of modern and post-modern Christianity. I tried to abandon Christ only to find how much I depended on him. Every day spent in prayer is a day at least in my opinion we learn something new about ourselves and about our relationship with Christ so long as we allow the time to listen. Looking back on my life (and back on my music collection) I see so many people are seeking purpose and meaning in a life which if only at an intellectual level has become inconveniently intellectually purposeless. In my heart I wish to say there is so much more but know in my heart they cannot hear me by voice alone. This is the importance of the conversion of life. to know a tree by his fruit, to know not only that Christ dwells within the least of us but to see that action of the heart that compels the least of us to take Christ within ourselves. Thank you Fr. Longnecker, I honestly wish to hear more of what you have to say regarding the Benedictine way, it’s been entertaining and informative.
Dear Fr Dwight,You will have seen that the Holy Father has issued the Apostolic Letter de Motu Proprio on the traditional rites called, appropriately, Summorum Pontificum – “The Supreme Pontiffs”. I commend the document to you and your readers. Here are a few apposite extracts: “Up to our own times, it has been the constant concern of supreme pontiffs to ensure that the Church of Christ offers a worthy ritual to the Divine Majesty, ‘to the praise and glory of His name,’ and ‘to the benefit of all His Holy Church.’ Since time immemorial it has been necessary – as it is also for the future – to maintain the principle according to which ‘each particular Church must concur with the universal Church, not only as regards the doctrine of the faith and the sacramental signs, but also as regards the usages universally accepted by uninterrupted apostolic tradition, which must be observed not only to avoid errors but also to transmit the integrity of the faith, because the Church’s law of prayer corresponds to her law of faith.’ Among the pontiffs who showed that requisite concern, particularly outstanding is the name of St. Gregory the Great, who made every effort to ensure that the new peoples of Europe received both the Catholic faith and the treasures of worship and culture that had been accumulated by the Romans in preceding centuries. He commanded that the form of the sacred liturgy as celebrated in Rome (concerning both the Sacrifice of Mass and the Divine Office) be conserved. He took great concern to ensure the dissemination of monks and nuns who, following the Rule of St. Benedict, together with the announcement of the Gospel illustrated with their lives the wise provision of their Rule that ‘nothing should be placed before the work of God.’ In this way the sacred liturgy, celebrated according to the Roman use, enriched not only the faith and piety but also the culture of many peoples. It is known, in fact, that the Latin liturgy of the Church in its various forms, in each century of the Christian era, has been a spur to the spiritual life of many saints, has reinforced many peoples in the virtue of religion and fecundated their piety. Many other Roman pontiffs, in the course of the centuries, showed particular solicitude in ensuring that the sacred liturgy accomplished this task more effectively. Outstanding among them is St. Pius V who, sustained by great pastoral zeal and following the exhortations of the Council of Trent, renewed the entire liturgy of the Church, oversaw the publication of liturgical books amended and ‘renewed in accordance with the norms of the Fathers,’ and provided them for the use of the Latin Church.” Note this in particular which expressly demolishes the common thesis that the traditional rites were abrogated: “It is, therefore, permissible to celebrate the Sacrifice of the Mass following the typical edition of the Roman Missal promulgated by Bl. John XXIII in 1962 and never abrogated…”Note that: “never abrogated” – in the Latin “numquam abrogatam”. The very reverse of what so many have been wrongly teaching and upon which they have for so long, nearly 40 years, unjustly based their entirely false calumniations, oppressions, injustice, abuse and odium of Catholics who prefer the traditional rites. Well, we Catholics who love the traditional rites, though we remember well the injustices and claumny inflicted upon us by our brother Catholics, do, and I hope shall, return blessings for curses.And we are immensely grateful to our Holy Father for his love and solicitude in issuing this Apostolic letter.Note, too, that the Holy Father does not agree with the view that the old rite of Mass is the “Pian Mass”. It is as much the Mass of St Gregory the Great who, himself, preserved the liturgical traditions “that had been accumulated by the Romans in preceding centuries”. Thus it was as much the Mass of the City of Rome even before Gregory’s time. Note, too, that St Pius V renewed the liturgy “in accordance with the norms of the Fathers” a further rebuttal of the claim that he invented a new Mass now to be called “Pian”. The lessons are, I think clear. If we wish to show loyalty and zeal for the Holy Father we must follow his example and allow the fullest possible reasonable freedom to those amongst us who seek access to the traditional rites. I believe that this will, in fact, have a good and salutary effect upon the manner of celelbration of the new rites. Catholics should have the freedom to choose whichever they prefer.Ubi Petrus, ibi ecclesia. Where Peter is, there is the Church.Very well – let us ensure that we follow Peter, since he has now clearly spoken, and respect the wishes of those who seek access to the traditional rites, rites so much hallowed by those many Peters who preceded that Peter who is no gloriously reigning over us.James.
Indeed James, and let us also remember what good things the Holy Father says about the Novus Ordo–how it is one rite with the Mass of Blessed John XXIII, and how it remains the norm.