I experienced my conversion in high school, where I self-appropriated my faith and decided that I wanted to live a holy life. And while I consistently failed to live it in many areas, I thought that I knew where I still had to grow, but as the Psalms say, “Who can discern his errors? Acquit me of hidden faults” (19:12). When I arrived at college, I met a priest whose love was so great that I realized what love really meant. I had never imagined how unloving I had been. I thought, though, that I finally knew everything wrong with my action.
Last summer, more than a full five years after my commitment to live a holy life, I once again discovered I had more room for growth. While reading Sacred Scripture, I found in Ephesians an admonition to not speak of certain things. How could I have missed this? I discovered it at a time when I was being very proud, horrified at the behavior of some of my younger peers who had problems with behavior related to alcohol and didn’t see how their behavior was sinful when I spoke to them about it. How could they not see it? The same way I couldn’t see my own sins. A few months later, some of them did see.
In the middle of this past academic year, one young man, the year below me, was shocked at the language of the freshman. How could this be coming out of the mouth of Catholics? When he told them about it, some tried to reform, and others said there was nothing wrong with it. How could they not see? The list goes on and on.
It reminds me of when the president of the Gay Leadership Council wrote to The Heights in defense of homosexual relations. He said that normative human experience is one way of knowing how to live. A theologian at Boston College, Father Imbelli, questioned whether this was a clear guide, writing in response, “Now, of course, what constitutes ‘normative human experience’ is precisely what is at issue. Appeals to ‘my experience’ abound. But the Christian, instructed by Christ's call to conversion, will always seriously raise the question: Is my experience, the self I am, the meanings and values I espouse, being called to conversion?”
This is a very good way to think about mentanoia, conversion. It is something we are always seriously asking ourselves about. Where else do we need to grow? Every person, even the holiest among us, needs to ask it. It’s the related to the attitude which President Obama espoused recently at Notre Dame. While our President calls for respectful dialogue, and this is something we should all support, on ways how to lessen the number of abortions, on how to protect the environment, on how to help the poor, and on how to balance the budget, he is not truly interested in dialoguing on abortion, if he meant the words he himself used at Notre Dame. Because if, he admits, we have irreconcilable differences, then what is the purpose of dialogue?
I do think our President is treated poorly in Catholic circles, that he is demonized. I think we all know that he really does think he is helping people by letting women murder children. He’s wrong, but not evil. We need to pray for him daily, not just that he convert but for his family, his health, and other things. But one thing we can be certain about, he should not have been honored with a degree at Notre Dame. He just doesn’t get it when it comes to making laws respecting life. He is sincere, but sincerely wrong, and a sincerely bad lawmaker. His sincerity is not worthy of an honorary law degree. Hopefully, he, like all of us, Catholic and non-Catholic, can ask ourselves, “Where am I still being called to conversion?”