Saints of Conversion

I very rarely tell people what I dream about at night. I know that if I started sharing the fruits of my subconscious I would unwillingly reveal too much, and whoever I was telling would know all of the secrets that I didn’t even know. The only occasions on which I share a dream are those during which it would be a sin against humor to keep the bizarre-ness to myself.

But I share nearly everything else about my life, and blogging can be no less revelatory than a dream journal (though with fewer crayon drawings of secret rooms in my apartment or surprise visits from liturgical composers). Thinking about my last few weeks of posts I see a theme that readers may have noticed before I did: change. My Lenten prayer and practices keep leading me back to that fundamental call of the Gospel, the one I heard on Ash Wednesday when I was told to repent. To turn one’s life around is to change.

Change has never come easy for me. In my battle against the chaos I have ordered things for consistency. Seeing the ways that life changes in spite of our best efforts has helped me not to clutch at the status quo, and I am able to hold in my heart the twin truths that I am constantly in need of change for the better and that ‘the better’ is what I am wired for.

If today you hear God’s voice, harden not your hearts. How often, when I hear the voice calling me to something better, do I dig in my heels, deciding that I like what I have more than what I am promised? Whatever our religious stripes, we all have a voice that calls to us. We give that voice sundry names, and may even let nomenclature distract us from the persistence of the call. Improvement, maturity, repentance – they call out, waiting for us to surrender to the sanctity (or wholeness, or whatever) for which we were made.

Last week we remembered the martyrdom of Archbishop Oscar Romero, who is a role model for so many not because of his violent death but because of his inspirational life. Initially hoping not to make waves among the episcopacy and upper classes of El Salvador, he heard the voices of the campesinos. By letting his heart be moved and offering an authentic response to the cry of the poor he became empowered to raise his voice on their behalf, even though there was great danger in doing so.

I have a great affinity for the saints who matured. I often imagine there are people out there for whom it is easy to be good, and I am happy for them, but I don’t know if they have anything to teach me. Repentance is brutal, messy stuff, and if we are sincere in wanting what is best for ourselves it is literally the story of our lives. No matter how difficult I find it, change is proof we’re alive. Sometimes our growth comes like a thunderbolt in stained-glass-sunshine-drenched moments of prayer, and sometimes it comes by way of a refiner’s fire.

May we answer the call of the voices that invite us to more.

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