Conversion and discernment are not once-off events. We have major moments of understanding and conversion and commitment to a life direction and lifestyle – but these have to be renewed on a constant basis. Each day we need to renew our commitment. Each day we need to allow the Savior to look at us and to renew us in our journey. Admittedly it gets easier as one practices and grows in habits (and in age), but we can never let down our guard.
For the first years after his conversion, Eugene struggled to maintain its effects. The following prayer is found in his notebook of that period:
For a perfect conversion.
How still imperfect, my God, is my conversion; the root of sin lives on in me; the thoughts and memory of the world are still powerfully at work; the things I have renounced retain their hold on my imagination, and reawaken threatening images.
My heart, still weak, is quite disturbed by it, and in the midst of this disturbance it feels all its passions coming back to life; it takes but little for it to be ensnared.
Is this what it is to belong perfectly to God? My inconstancy in the little good I do, my God, is no less humiliating for me;
full of good desires, I am often satisfied with their formulation, almost all my zeal is used up in the making of plans;
I fluctuate between yielding to grace and to my own desires, while time flows by, I journey swiftly towards eternity, and I am always the same.
Shall I all my life be the plaything of the enemy of my salvation? Make firm, my God, my inconstancy, wholly change my heart; inspire within me, for my salvation, the same zeal I showed for losing myself. Sicut enim exhibuistis membra vestra servire … iniquitati … ita nunc exhibete … servire justitiae (Rm 6, 19) [ed. For just as you presented the parts of your bodies as slaves… to lawlessness … so now present them… to serve righteousness.]
Prayer for a perfect conversion, EO XIV n 24
“The church is not a theological classroom. It is a conversion, confession, repentance, reconciliation, forgiveness and sanctification center, where flawed people place their faith in Christ, gather to know and love him better, and learn to love others as he designed.” Paul David Tripp