Bernard's On Conversion

This is based on the treatise itself.

I.1 God's will is that we be converted, that we turn around, repent, think again. Because God has said he wants us to be converted (Ps 89:3) it can happen. We have to make the effort, but he will give us the strength.

I.2 We have to be freed from our sluggishness. Our soul isn't really happy, but is sluggish any way, because at lesat it's in control. When I'm in habitual sin, I know the pattern: I can anticipate, I'm in control. But if I follow God, I don't know what will happen; our sluggishness comes out of our fear of relinquishing control over our lives.

VI.8 Bernard speaks of an "overflowing sewer" contaminating the house of our soul. The only way to get the sewage out is to shut the door and window, where it's coming in from; and to get to the door and window, you have to wade through sewage. Conversion is a messy business. Stop sinning, live a disciplined life. You can't repent while you're still in sin. When we see the sewage, it's so nasty that we want to avoid it, but we do need to engage it to clean it up.

VI.10 He talks about how our very self resists our conversion. He describes our diseased, ill-formed will as an ulcerous, nasty old woman, who complains at our beginning conversion. We've been our whole life satisfying our will's desire for pleasure: our will feels it has something like a conjugal right to pleasure, which you're now denying it. This is why we resist our conversion so very strongly.

VI.11 Evil comes into our self through the will.

VII.12 Bernard applies the beatitude of the poor in spirit to those who are starting their conversion and finding that their will is opposing them. "Who is poorer in spirit than he who in the whole of his own spirit finds no rest, nowhere to lay his head?"

IX.23 Similarly does he talk of "blessed are they who mourn". Bernard applies this to the person whose flesh is opposing their converting spirit, and who mourns his condition and hopes for consolation from God.

And this is Dr Lilles' reflection based on Bernard's treatise.

If a man discerns out of the seminary, he shouldn't date for about a year. At that point he is as vulnurable as he's going to be; women are attractive particularly because we can in them hide from the ugliness inside us; we're vulnerable to fantasy (ie oh she goes to daily Mass. She's perfect for me) and need to live in reality. If we let ourself get distracted with a woman, we can ignore the things that are wrong with us; but we must see the ugly part of our souls; don't run from it, don't hide; embrace it; you must not run away; embrace it, and submit it to Christ. Women are particularly attractive for the seminarian because they give us an opportunity to hide from self; and if we run to that, we will live superficially, never able to help anyone (eg her, kids, neighbours).

How is it that we're able to stop sinning? What Jesus did for us counts. His blood is more powerful than sin. O blood and water, which gushed forth from the heart of Jesus, as a fount of mercy for us, I trust in you. It is God's will that we be converted: if I rely on God alone, I will commit no mortal sin; if you rely on God's will, you won't fall into mortal sin. We must have confidence..we must have confidence.
Make this your prayer: "Jesus, help me. I am a sinner."
My sin has no chance against Jesus: he created the universe by willing it. The only problem is me; my self-sufficiency get in the way.
Jesus could never sin, because he loved/trusted in God the Father so totally. Mary had this. We can acquire this by grace. But when you receive this grace don't assume that your conversion will be easy: one cannot love God except at one's own expense. You must do the work of fighting, keeping vigil, being strong, and never wavering. Ask the Lord to be with you in the fight, and you'll be victorious.
Protestants' theology can get in the way of their conversion, in its aversion to works. You have to work with God in your conversion. That is the gist of the statement that you can't love God except at your own expense. It isn't easy, you don't just accept Jesus as your lord and saviour and it's over. There's a ton of work after that. Jesus won't bring you to conversion; he invites you, and gives you the grace, but you have to actually do it yourself. Conversion is a hell of a struggle: it is a fight for life or death.
We can resist the divine voice by gluttony, curiousity, and pride. Too much food/drink makes us spiritually lazy. Watch your snacking: when you're tired and want a snack for a pick me up, go instead to pray, to the chapel, rather than the refectory/kitchen. Ask Christ for refreshment. Living such a disciplined life will give us strength. If you really like the soup today, only have one bowl. Leave half a cookie on your plate so that you can more attentively engage the brother next to you.

I live with the illusion that I'm a pretty good guy; that I'm a fixer-upper; but I'm not a fixer-upper--I am a train wreck. We need to face the ugly nasty sin in our life. Basically we're so used to the stench of our sin that we can't even smell it anymore.

Try to recognize the lack of love in yourself, and weep for it: this is compunction, the gift of tears.

We run from our inner self because it is too painful to see. St John Vianney got a glimpse of this and wanted nothing but to run to a monastery and atone. I must accept myself, and be completely honest with both God and myself. "Lord Jesus, reveal to me the truth of who I really am." "Lord, pierce me to the heart." "I do not have a sense of why you needed to die for me." "Please let me have sorrow." Let me have sorrow over my life: not to wallow, but recognize self and offer those wounds and thank God for revealing them to me. God isn't going to despise me because of my sin; but he will save me because of it. Have the courage to go in and confront your spiritual sewage.

In each of us is an abyss of misery, created by our and other's sin. But there is an abyss deeper than my misery: the abyss of his mercy. We can be healed by submerging our misery in his mercy.

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