A student in my class made a simple, but profound observation the other day. I showed the class the first 40 minutes of “Entertaining Angels,” a movie about the life of Catholic Worker founder, Dorothy Day. The movie makes it appear as if her interest in Catholicism came upon her suddenly, making her conversion appear quite dramatic (I guess that was the point!). But then we read the first part of her autobiography, The Long Loneliness, in which it becomes clear that Dorothy had sporadic experiences of other people’s Christian faith and practice throughout her childhood and young adult life, and that she was quite taken with it. My student said that she was glad we read the book, because this more gradual experience of conversion seemed to make much more sense.
Indeed, our conversions—even our “conversions” to the faith we have grown up in—are rarely so dramatic as the movies often portray them. It is usually a more gradual process, in which a series of experiences and insights gel and suddenly “make sense” in a way they didn’t before. For me, there was kind of a dramatic moment when God challenged me to make a decision about whether or not I was going to be a priest. But, what finally led to that decision was not a conviction based on that experience, but a realization that so many of the things I had done, believed, and was excited and passionate about in the years of young adulthood leading up to that decision had been and were now, as I saw them all as of a piece, pointing me in that direction.
When you look back at the important and poignant experiences of your young adult life up until now, what direction are they pointing?