Models of conversion: Weekly Message for 01-04-2022

Dear Friends in Christ,

January 4 is the feast day of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, the first native-born American citizen to be canonized.

Among her many works, she founded the first American congregation of religious sisters, the Sisters of Charity.

This was remarkable for a woman who grew up Episcopalian and who endured the trauma of widowhood and losing two of her five children to early deaths.

There is something quintessential about her story. Converts to the Catholic faith sometimes turn out to be exceptional figures in their particular walks of life and apostolically energetic for the Church. 

Such stories abound. Sprinkled throughout the history of the 19th and 20th centuries are figures such as John Henry Newman, G.K. Chesterton, Orestes Brownson, Graham Greene, Evelyn Waugh, Dorothy Day, and Avery Dulles. To this day, converts such as Scott Hahn and Bishop James Conley of Lincoln have their impact, too.

What can help make converts so zealous is the personal, intellectual and social struggle that precedes their decision to join the Church.

Embracing the faith requires them to rethink deeply held ideas and to risk ties with friends and family members.

But it’s that willingness to sacrifice for what they know to be true that can fuel their zeal for their faith.

Like St. Paul before them, the converts’ profound encounter with Christ transformed them and helped them to become dynamos of one sort or another. Lurking in all that is a lesson for cradle Catholics.

Living the faith well in this era will require the kind of stalwartness displayed by Mother Seton and others.

For a dose of encouragement in that direction, you might want to pray along with “Be Not Afraid: A Retreat Guide on John Paul II.”

Start the year right, with hope and courage ablaze.

In Christ,

Father Edward McIlmail, LC
Ask a Priest contributor

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