Conversion stories are overrated.
I don’t know many adult Catholics who haven’t gone through the painful and often humiliating phase of realizing their initial fervor and optimism that accompanied their faith was naive as hell.
This is good.
The Church proposes, for our consideration, humility, and betterment, the truth of second conversion. From paragraph 1428:
Christ's call to conversion continues to resound in the lives of Christians. This second conversion is an uninterrupted task for the whole Church who, "clasping sinners to her bosom, [is] at once holy and always in need of purification, [and] follows constantly the path of penance and renewal.” This endeavor of conversion is not just a human work. It is the movement of a "contrite heart," drawn and moved by grace to respond to the merciful love of God who loved us first. (emphasis original)
I suppose you could say that “second conversion” is the remainder of your Christian life, after one’s initial coming-to-faith passes. 1429 presents Peter’s three-fold denial and three-fold affirmation of love as the model of second conversion:
St. Peter's conversion after he had denied his master three times bears witness to this. Jesus' look of infinite mercy drew tears of repentance from Peter and, after the Lord's resurrection, a threefold affirmation of love for him.
Pope Emeritus Benedict picked up this theme in his General Audience on Peter in 2006:
“From the naive enthusiasm of initial acceptance, passing through the sorrowful experience of denial and weeping of conversion, Peter succeeded in entrusting himself to that Jesus who adapted himself to his poor capacity to love. And in this way he shows us the way, notwithstanding all our weakness. We know that Jesus adapts himself to this weakness of ours.”
So, yeah: Peter’s dropping of his nets was great, but far greater was the conversion of love he experienced from Holy Thursday onward.
This flies in the face of “popular” Christian thought - most evident in Christian music nowadays - where one is left with the impression that from the day one first believes, the rest of their existence is merely a giant chorus of “Everything is Awesome”.
When in reality, authentic faith is an ongoing, daily, suffering search for the face of Christ.
Lent is essentially an ecclesial exercise of second conversion. The entire Church focuses its efforts on rending its heart anew. May these paragraphs, and Peter himself, serve as inspiration for us as to what authentic, ongoing conversion looks like.
Let us weep with tears of conversion.
By Greg Hurst