from Deep Conversion/Deep Prayer
Fr. Thomas Dubay
An accurate synonym for conversion, as we are using the word here, would be transformation. Put simply conversion is a basic and marked improvement on the willing level of the human person. Even more pointedly, it is a fundamental change in our willed activities from bad to good, from good to better, and from better to best. Anyone who is fully alive will find this a stimulating set of ideas. We can put the matter in still another way. Conversion is a change from vice to virtue: from deceit and lying to honesty and truth. . .gluttony to temperance. . . vanity to humility. . . lust to love. . . avarice to generosity. . . rage to patience. . . laziness to zeal. . . ugliness to beauty.
From the point of view of attention to and intimacy with God, supreme Beauty, supreme Delight, conversion includes a change from little or no prayer to a determined practice of christic meditation leading eventually to contemplative intimacy, "pondering the word day and night", lending to a sublime "gazing on the beauty of the Lord" with all its varying depths and intensities (PS 1:1-2; 27:4).
I love the works of Fr. Thomas Dubay. I have read most of them. Some take a good deal longer than others to internalize. It took me over a year to read and understand The Fire Within. I still have not completed, or even fully started The Evidentiary Power of Beauty. His writing is dense, sometimes difficult, but always fulfilling. So, too, it appears with this book. The passage noted above is one that I've read every day for the last week or so, trying to encompass all that is said here. The surface of it is clear enough. Conversion is the willing change of life for a better, more intimate relationship with God. But the real depths lie in the comparisons and in the things Dubay indicates may happen and in the underlying assumption that an increased intimacy with God will connect us with both with God and with a sense of beauty and wonder at His magnificence.
Significant to me is the last of the list of transformations--from ugliness to beauty. Now, this is an interesting point. By growing closer to God, ugliness will be transformed into beauty. Obviously Fr. Dubay is speaking of something other than mere physical appearance, because we know that God's intimates run the spectrum from the exquisite beauty of Rose of Lima and Elizabeth of the Trinity or Edith Stein, to St. Margaret of Castello. Physical beauty, while surely a gift from God, is not what Fr. Dubay is talking about here. So one assumes that he is speaking of a life imbued with beauty--with the ability to perceive the beauty that is God underlying all created things, and with a life that is lived beautifully--in union with Him. When we look objectively at the life of someone like Mother Teresa, we don't immediately say, "Oh, what a beautiful life." Our initial reactions may be more along the lines of, "What a heroic life," or "What a difficult life." But when we delve a little deeper, we break in upon sheer loveliness, a loveliness that was reflected in the person of this diminutive friend of the poor. She was not beautiful to look at in strictly aesthetic terms, but her loveliness was greater than that of her near contemporary in death, Princess Diana. Her life was a beautiful jewel in the slums of India.
As I continue to read this book, I shall probably return to this passage from time to time. It ignites all sorts of thoughts, and provokes all sorts of inspirations and influences. It serves as a road map and a clear sign marking out the territory. And Fr. Dubay has clearly made growth in sanctity a beautiful and desirable thing. While this is always a vague desire in the background, I sometimes think that it really a pretty boring preoccupation alongside, say, surfing or diving or parasailing. But the interesting point is that none of these things are in conflict with sanctity--only seemingly so. One can live a life completely devoted to God and still partake of the good things of the world--certainly not to excess and not to the point where it intrudes upon ministry; however, the licit goods are good for all. St. John of the Cross went for long walks through the country, enjoying the beauty that gave ample evidence of the glory and presence of God. Pursuit of holiness does not mean that the world is tossed away. Indeed, as the great saints show us, it often means a more authentic and more realistic involvement with all the goods of creation--a proper use, a proper ordering, and a proper caring for the things God has given to us.