The parish school students love feast days, and today was no exception. For them, it means a "big Mass." That's what they call it when there is incense and more hymns and a sung Gloria in excelsis. The choir is always inspiring, there is a schola of young men for the minor propers, and the added dignity and ceremony goes down well with the children.
Today's feast gave me the excuse to go into dramatic detail about the whole Damascus experience. It's a story I love, and so did the students, even those who already knew the sequence of events. I told them that St. Paul's conversion wasn't something that happened instantly in that one moment; rather, the seeds of the event were planted long before, and it included what he saw as he was holding the cloaks of those who stoned the young deacon St. Stephen.
I reminded them about our own on-going conversion, about how it's not just when someone moves from one religion to another, or when a protestant heads towards Rome. Conversion is supposed to be part of everyday life for the Catholic. Conversion means obedience -- obedience to God, obedience to our proper superiors, obedience to the Truth. Conversion means being more careful in examining our consciences and making our confessions. It means being more faithful in carrying out our duties, whether at work or in school or at home. Conversion is being more and more conformed to the image of Christ.
It's an exciting and rewarding business, this business of helping to form young Catholics in ways that will help them become more responsible and more sanctified. And following the liturgical year with them gives the very best blueprint possible. Talking about the saints, exploring the feasts, keeping the solemnities -- all of it gives countless opportunities to talk about the very things that throughout the centuries have helped to make the people of God more holy.