The Celebration of the Christian Mystery
Conversion is accomplished in daily life by gestures of reconcil-
iation, concern for the poor, the exercise and defense of justice and right,
by the admission of faults to one’s brethren, fraternal correction, revision
of life, examination of conscience, spiritual direction, acceptance of suffer-
ing, endurance of persecution for the sake of righteousness. Taking up
one’s cross each day and following Jesus is the surest way of penance.
Eucharist and Penance.
Daily conversion and penance find their
source and nourishment in the Eucharist, for in it is made present the
sacrifice of Christ which has reconciled us with God. Through the Eucha-
rist those who live from the life of Christ are fed and strengthened. “It is a
remedy to free us from our daily faults and to preserve us from mortal
Reading Sacred Scripture, praying the Liturgy of the Hours and
the Our Father—every sincere act of worship or devotion revives the spirit
of conversion and repentance within us and contributes to the forgiveness
of our sins.
The seasons and days of penance
in the course of the liturgical year
(Lent, and each Friday in memory of the death of the Lord) are intense
moments of the Church’s penitential practice.
These times are particu-
larly appropriate for spiritual exercises, penitential liturgies, pilgrimages
as signs of penance, voluntary self-denial such as fasting and almsgiving,
and fraternal sharing (charitable and missionary works).
The process of conversion and repentance
was described by Jesus in
the parable of the prodigal son, the center of which is the merciful father:
the fascination of illusory freedom, the abandonment of the father’s house;
the extreme misery in which the son finds himself after squandering his
fortune; his deep humiliation at finding himself obliged to feed swine, and
still worse, at wanting to feed on the husks the pigs ate; his reflection on
all he has lost; his repentance and decision to declare himself guilty before
his father; the journey back; the father’s generous welcome; the father’s joy
—all these are characteristic of the process of conversion. The beautiful
robe, the ring, and the festive banquet are symbols of that new life—pure,
worthy, and joyful—of anyone who returns to God and to the bosom of his
family, which is the Church. Only the heart of Christ who knows the
depths of his Father’s love could reveal to us the abyss of his mercy in so
simple and beautiful a way.
Sin is before all else an offense against God, a rupture of
communion with him. At the same time it damages communion
with the Church. For this reason conversion entails both God’s
35 Council of Trent (1551): DS 1638.
109-110; CIC, cann. 1249-1253; CCEO, cann. 880-883.