After the vows of stability and obedience is the third vow of Conversion of Life. This is the part where the spiritual life gets some kick and zing. Obedience and stability seem dull and pedestrian, but conversion of life is what it is all about.
Conversion of life is not just that a person seeks to be converted the way an Evangelical ‘gets saved.’ Its certainly a good thing to repent and accept Christ’s saving work, but for the Catholic ‘conversion of life’ means much more. First of all, it means a life that is constantly, every moment seeking to be converted. ‘Converted’ means changed, and the Benedictine way is always alive, always alert to change and growth–always looking for new ways the Spirit is seeking to convert the soul.
There is a larger dimension to it still: we seek conversion not just of our own individual life, but of Life–meaning the transformation of our entire existence. We work with the Spirit to change our family, transform our communities, transform our world through the conversion of our own lives. We are all interconnected and the best thing I can do therefore for the conversion of the world is to be truly and completely converted myself.
Conversion of Life is the central, driving goal of the whole spiritual life. Everything else–the liturgy, the prayer, the discipline, the service and the self denial–all are focussed on this greater goal of conversion of life. We pray and read and work so that we may be totally transformed into the image of Christ. For the Catholic this is a constant opportunity and reality. We do not believe that sanctification is accomplished for us like magic, or that it is a legal fiction the way some Protestants do. Instead it is a work of grace, through which we participate in the great adventure of becoming saints. We work with God to complete this work so that in the end we live the life of grace in joyous freedom–then as St Benedict says, “we will run on the path of God’s commandments, our hearts overflowing with an inexpressible delight of love.”