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The Key to Entering God's Presence


The explicit idea of a "second conversion" in the spiritual life was first broached by a Jesuit in the 1600s, Father Louis Lallemant, a novice master in France to one of the future North American martyrs, Saint John de Brébeuf.

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It is likely that he taught his young Jesuit novices the need to cross the threshold of a "second conversion" if serious holiness was to be attained.

His view was that a man must come to a point in life, sometime after a commitment to God is already firmly in place, in which he realizes that he has not yet fully offered his life to God. Despite what may be years of faithfulness in a vocation, a deeper offering still awaits the soul. A life may be committed and devout and externally dutiful, but it still awaits a deeper realization of an entire offering of itself as an utterly personal act before God. A man has to arrive at a decisive reckoning in which he sees now with fresh eyes what it means to give himself unreservedly to God. Until that time, a life still lacks one thing, as Jesus says to the rich young man in Saint Matthew's Gospel. A man has not surrendered himself as yet in a complete offering to God. An utterly personal prayer of absolute oblation before God is still needed, which from the day it is made changes forever a soul's relationship with Jesus Christ. The act is a deep interior release of the soul to be from then onward at the complete disposal of God's purposes.

In the setting of the 1600s and Jesuit missionary endeavors, Father Lallemant may have pointed to a readiness to face martyrdom as a test for crossing this threshold of the second conversion. And, in fact, the Jesuit martyrs of North America as a group did offer themselves to martyrdom prior to their deaths in upstate New York and Canada.

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Father Donald Haggerty. "The Key to Entering God's Presence." Conversion: Spiritual Insights into an Essential Encounter with God. Ignatius Press (2017).

Printed in the October 2023 edition of Magnificat. Used with permission.

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