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In her masterful book, Guidelines for Mystical Prayer, Ruth Burrows has a section within which she lists the faults of those who are beyond initial conversion. What are these faults? Burrows has her own list. What I offer here is the perspective that Henri Nouwen gives in his spiritual masterpiece, The Return of the Prodigal Son. Among many things in that book, Nouwen tells us that as persons who understand ourselves as already committed, we still need to make a three-fold conversion movement:
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Recently I was listening to a radio talk show that was debating the question: "Why are fewer and fewer people going to church?" The question sparked a lively response and the phone-lines were busy as callers voiced opinions. But they kept canceling each other out. Half the callers, more liberal in bent, made it clear that for them the reason people are not attending their churches is because the churches are too old-fashioned and not in step with the times.
In her brilliant, haunting book, Random Passage, Bernice Morgan describes the physical and psychological trials of the first families that journeyed from England to Newfoundland to settle at Cape Random. Life was hard. Food was scarce and of only one kind, fish; drinking water was bad, the climate was harsh, and sometimes people died because there were no doctors or medicines. Everyone had to work constantly. There were no luxuries. The struggle was for life itself and starvation was ever a threat. Then there were the cold winters with inadequate housing.
Contrast clarifies vision. To set two things in opposition to each other is to see both more clearly. With that in mind, it is interesting to contrast two views on God, religion and the human soul. One is the perspective of Albert Camus, a Nobel Prize winning writer and an avowed atheist; the other is that of Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, the richest man in the world and someone who appears to be rather indifferent religiously.
Having a columnist around for a number of years is a little like having a neighbour around for a while. Even if you don't like him, you can't help but be a little curious about his life and appreciate being told if he's making any major moves. With that in mind, I risk, in this column, sharing about a major new move in my own life. Last month I attended a general chapter of the religious order to which I belong, the Oblates of Mary Immaculate. Among other things, that meeting elected a new leadership for our order.