Getting trapped and mired in serious sin for an extended time is for some people never separated from a need, after a serious conversion, to give their life completely to God.
Conversions in these lives do not just provide some restoration to normality. The sins of the past do not recede into vague, distant memories. In these people, a conversion retains a youthful presence, even after long years, a never exhausted urging felt in the soul to give continually more to God.
From the outside, perhaps, it might look as though a reaction to guilt drives such lives. But the psychological interpretation neglects the more interesting truth. In every age, there are souls whose desire for God is intense because of their previous sins. The years they lived forsaking God accentuate the shock of his rescue. What follows is lifelong astonishment at God’s mercy, as if he loved in this manner only in rare instances, and they have been so favored. Divine mercy remains for them a first love, never abandoned, and this love affects everything in their subsequent lives. Not surprisingly, many of these souls follow a road that takes them increasingly toward deeper prayer. And their prayer has a common quality no matter what their external lives display. They learn soon to pray with great charity in intercession for souls like themselves who need also to receive the anonymous favor of a silent benefactor’s pleading for a soul’s conversion….
Desires for an absolute purity and generosity awaken sometimes at the edge of what could have been a ruined life, precisely where we would not expect this form of desire. Recognition that lost periods of a life can never be returned can provoke an intense desire to give completely to God what is yet remaining in a life. The soul scarred by former sin is sometimes, after grace, the soul that will give without reserve. It is not at all an exaggeration to affirm that great sinners often do become hidden saints.
Fr. Donald Haggerty. "The Ceaseless Love of a Forgiven Soul." Conversion: Spiritual Insights into an Essential Encounter with God (San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 2017).
Reprinted with permission from Ignatius Press.
Fr. Donald Haggerty, a priest of the Archdiocese of New York, is currently serving at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. He has been a Professor of Moral Theology at St. Joseph's Seminary in New York and Mount St. Mary's Seminary in Maryland and has a long association as a spiritual director for Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity. He is the author of Conversion: Spiritual Insights into an Essential Encounter with God, as well as Contemplative Provocations and The Contemplative Hunger.Copyright © 2017 Ignatius Press
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