By Jimmy Patterson
West Texas Angelus
May 11, 1969.
The date has stayed with me now for over 40 years. Birthday? I wish. No, May 11, 1969 was the date that, as a 9-year-old, I was baptized at First Baptist Church in Irving. It is a rite of passage as a Baptist kid, something most all of us look to with great anticipation and excitement.
Almost as common, I remember from those kid days, was the act of rededicating yourself to the faith, needed after an almost certain downfall, and emotional return to the flock with the promise to yourself that you will do better this time.
At least that’s my recollection. There’s certainly nothing wrong with this practice for those who grow up in this tradition.
Yet I remember thinking then, and now, “OK ... so, what’s next?”
We are told as youngsters that in order to make it from this life to the next, we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. When you’re a kid going through those steps and the entire conversion, you can think: OK, I did it, where’s the big explosion? The bright shining lights? The fireworks? Is there not supposed to be trumpets and choirs of angels today and every day hereafter -- until the hereafter?
That line of thinking doesn’t necessarily stop with age. I remember thinking on a number of occasions through my adult formation: So, where’s the beef?
And then along moseyed January 25, 2011. The Conversion of St. Paul. Paul had one of those big firework moments when he was converted. A blinding light on the road to Damascus. Christ came to him in a vision, reproached him for his persecutions and converted him to the faith. Right there on the spot.
Lucky St. Paul. There was no doubt for him. One day he hated Christians. The next day he was one. I guess if Jesus Christ came to me in a vision I’d hurry on over to the believing side no questions asked myself.
But for 99 percent of us, I dare say, it doesn’t happen that way. The conversion process does not come complete with a playing of Handel’s Messiah or Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture or a Sousa march. At least not externally. You may hear those things inside, but probably not.
As the reading in the “Word Among Us” said on the Conversion of St. Paul, the spiritual transformation process does not just occur with the blaring of trumpets. Life, the devotion said, “is made up of a series of small conversions.” A little one here, one over there, another one that you might not have seen coming.
Now I get it.
We spend our entire life getting it. Conversion may start as a 9-year-old boy being immersed in baptismal waters, but it does not end there. In fact it likely never ends.
Small conversions could be anything. A nugget of wisdom shared by someone at a small Christian group meeting. A kiss by your wife on a day you’re not feeling well. A man who lets you go first in traffic or offers you his place in line at the grocery store.
Aha moments, I think they’ve been called.
My wife was ill recently with a bad flu that lasted almost a week. One night when she was at her worst, I was sitting out on the driveway grilling burgers for my son and me. It was dark. A car pulled up. Odd, I thought. Wonder what this person is going to do? The person got out of the car. The first thing I noticed was she was wearing a full habit. Meekly, almost apologetically, the Filipino sister from Our Lady of Guadalupe approached me and asked me for directions. I told her I would go inside to get my neighborhood directory and that I would welcome her in but my wife was very sick.
I came out and gave her the directions to the house she needed. Sister Isabelita thanked me, and told me she and the other sisters would pray for my wife.
Life is a series of small conversions. Little ahas.
Recognize them. They just may be part of your own personal roadmap to salvation.
Jimmy Patterson is editor of the West Texas Angelus.
Fr. Ed deLeon, pastor of Our Lady of Guadaluoe Church in MIdland and head of the dicoesan liturgy committee, composed the following prayer in recognition of the diocese's 50th anniversary, which is being celebrated throughout 2011, culminating with an anniversary Mass on October 16. PLease pray this prayer throughout the year as we seek God's blessings during this special time:
Prayer for the Diocese of San Angelo
on the Occasion of its
October 16, 2011
All praise and glory are yours, loving Father, maker and ruler of the universe;
we praise you for calling us to be your people, your beloved sons and daughters, the members of the Church of San Angelo.
We offer thanks and praise to you, for all the blessings you have showered upon us, individually and communally for the last 50 years of our diocesan community.
Guide our Diocese as we try to follow Jesus.
Fill us with love for those in need of our help and open our hearts to all.
Let your Spirit teach us to serve in love and to praise you by our work and worship. Help us to become Salt of the earth and Light of the world.
We make this prayer through Mary to Christ, Our Lord. Amen.
MIDLAND -- Dr. Jim Denison, popular former pastor of First Baptist Church-Midland and presently the author of an international daily email devotional, returns to town Thursday, February 17, 2011, as the keynote speaker at the third annual National Prayer Breakfast Midland. The event at the Midland Center begins at 7 a.m. and will conclude by 8 a.m.
Midland's St. Ann's Catholic Church hasjoined First Baptist Chruch, First Presbyterian Church, First United Methodist and other churches in presenting the program for the last three years.
A number of Midlanders will participate in the breakfast/prayer meeting to pray for our nation and leaders, including First United Methodist Pastor Dr. Tim Walker, The Gathering in Midland (Nazarene) Pastor Art Perkins, Young Life Director Jay Mac Davenport and True Lite Christian Fellowship Pastor Roy Smith. Midland Mayor Wes Perry will open the breakfast with the Pledge of Allegiance and District Judge Robin Darr will offer the benediction.
Denison, pastor of First Baptist-Midland from 1988-94, left that position to become pastor of Dallas’ Park Cities Baptist Church, where he preached to an estimated 9,000 members a week. Most recently he was named the founding president of the Center for Informed Faith, an organization that is, according to its mission statement, “joining God in building a movement of culture-changing Christians, in Dallas and around the world.”
Denison’s daily email current events update/devotional, “God Issues,” is sent to 18,000 around the world.
Denison, with almost 30 years of pastoral experience, holds master of divinity and doctor of philosophy degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and is author of five books on different aspects of the Christian faith.
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Vatican's ambassador to Egypt said he hoped the country's future would include greater social justice and greater freedom for all of the country's people.
In an interview with Vatican Radio Feb. 11, Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald said he hoped the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which is running Egypt, would follow the direction of constitutional reform and "will also respond to the other demands of the population with regard to social justice and with regard to political liberties as well."
Archbishop Fitzgerald, the Vatican nuncio in Cairo, said that even before President Hosni Mubarak resigned Feb. 11, the Egyptian leader had given his vice president the task of studying various articles of the constitution with a view of amending them in response to protesters' demands for greater democracy.
Mubarak's promises of reform were not enough for protesters, and he was forced to hand over power to the military and step down.
As Mubarak left the capital and the military took over, the nuncio told Vatican Radio, "We are still in an uncertain position, but the people are very happy -- they are rejoicing -- and we hope that this euphoria will produce a moment of solidarity for the people in this country."
The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces announced Feb. 13 a series of steps needed for a democratic transition, including the dissolution of Mubarak's parliament, a suspension of the constitution with the promise of establishing a committee to rewrite it, and the promise of elections in six months.
Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, told Vatican Radio Feb. 14 that he hoped the patient commitment to nonviolence and democracy that motivated the protesters would continue to inspire changes in Egypt for the good of all of its citizens, including the Christian minority.
"These changes could signal situations of difficulty, but they also can represent seeds of hope for a new situation," the cardinal said.
Egypt's 8 million to 10 million Coptic Orthodox and up to 250,000 Coptic Catholics have a right to express their opinions and hopes in the process of rewriting the nation's constitutions, he said.
"I certainly think they should be listened to, and I also hope that their opinions will be accepted. I also hope that in the constitution there are those fundamental principles that affirm the dignity of men and women, the freedom of all and civic coexistence with respect for others and respect for the law," Cardinal Sandri said.
"I really hope the wisdom that the Egyptians have and that they showed during the demonstrations, which were conducted in a peaceful way and in which they expressed their desire for change, will enlighten their future steps," he said.