This afternoon, I finished the fiction book I had been reading over the past few weeks and debated what I was going to pick up next. It had been the end of a series and I didn’t really want to jump right into some other fictional world just yet.
I drifted from bookcase to bookcase, glossing over titles and colored spines. Finally, I landed on a volume on my Catholic bookcase, “Apostle of the Crucified Lord,” by Michael J. Gorman. This is a book from my Pauline literature course at Seminary. We had read a good quantity of the book, but not everything. Perhaps now would be a good time to go back and read the remaining pages?
As with most of my Catholic books, I have underlined and annotated the pages as I have read, so I know that reading through the remaining pages will take me more time than reading a work of fiction. I think that I want to turn this more into a reflection/Bible study as well, so the sections where we are going to examine, E.g. Galatians, I want to read that chapter in the Bible before reading that part of the book.
Just as a disclaimer before I begin: I am not sure if I will share the entirety of my reading/studying experience here, and I will likely *not* complete the study questions at the end of each chapter. However, if I do write more blog posts for this book, I’ll tag them with apostleofthecrucifiedlord, so that you can find them more easily. 🙂
Now, for what caused me to write this blog post in the first place. I was reading about Paul’s conversion, and how he went from being a zealous persecutor of the early Christians to a zealous evangelist for Christianity, especially to the Gentiles. We probably all know the story: Paul was riding to Damascus, had a vision of the Lord, fell off his horse (was there really a horse, though?), and was blinded, etc.
As overly dramatic as that might sound to modern ears, it is clear that Saul/Paul had some intense encounter with the Lord and a swift change of heart. And, thinking about it, his experience does have some similarities to my own conversion. (You can read a little more about my joining the church here.) But, basically, I woke up one morning and without really knowing what the Catholic church was about and not knowing any Catholics, I had the conviction that I was going to be Catholic. It wasn’t really a decision, but more like a recognition of an inner truth. I haven’t looked back or questioned a thing since that day.
Prevenient Grace: The species of actual grace which, as an illumination or inspiration of the Holy Spirit, precedes the free determination of the will. It is held to mark the beginning of all activity leading to justification, which cannot be achieved without it, but its acceptance or rejection depends on man’s free choice.The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church
By prevenient grace, the Holy Spirit flipped a switch in me that day. As I read I came across this, “A conversion may be defined, more fully, as a radical reorientation of one’s fundamental commitment that is expressed in three things: convictions, or belief; conduct, or behavior; and community affiliation, or belonging.”
It doesn’t always feel that I had this radical reorientation, but my life is definitely very different and my faith has colored every aspect of my thoughts and actions. Instead, it feels comfortable and inevitable, like *of course* this is how things were always supposed to be. However, the reality is more like the drama as Paul tells it. Whether it felt momentous or not, the Holy Spirit did a Thanos Snap on me that day and my life has never been the same. Thanks be to God!