55 Listen readily to holy reading,
56 and devote yourself often to prayer.
57 Every day with tears and sighs, confess your past sins to God in prayer
58 and change from these evil ways in the future.

This passage is from the Rule of St. Benedict, Chapter 4, lines 57-58. In the smugness of my thinking I know it all about God, the Holy Spirit reminds me several times a day how far I actually am from “Having in me the mind of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:5) As my awareness of the practices and charisms of Cistercian spirituality slowly sink in because of my presence to Christ through the Holy Spirit, nuggets of inspiration rain down on me, most of which I let pass me by, but this morning I happened to grab one because it was actually an emotional experience that I have been having for the past ten (or is it eleven) years. Allow me to share this with you.

Of late, I have been focusing on seeking God every day as the possibility of the manifestibility of all being encountered. End of the world? Nothing changes. COVID 19? No problem. It is what it is, and I must integrate it into the worldview that makes up who I am. The accumulated life experiences allow me to grow in capacity for having God increase while my false self decreased. This is conversatio morae or conversion of life. It is at the center of my personal purpose in life, but it is also the central purpose in reality– to change from where I am to where I want to be, and that being more than I was before. I have the ability to reason, something all other animal species do not have. Is this just a freak accident of nature that humans slipped through the barrier holding back animality from rationality? Maybe? But just maybe it is God’s DNA to move towards being more than we were before that humans latched onto in their desire to survive. I know that I have reason and the freedom to make choices about what lies before me. Choice defines who I am. Bad choices mean bad views of who I am and false paths that lead to uselessness. “The wages of sin,” says Scripture, “is death.” Spirituality is all about choices. Basically, I see two choices: do what my heart tells me is right for me, what is logical, what love is, what makes me happy now, what society tells me is of value, or, do what my heart tells me what is right, based on my choice to “Have in me the mind of Christ Jesus.” The center for this last choice is outside of me, and I make a conscious decision not to listen to my heart or emotions but rather to confess that Jesus is Messiah, Son of God, Savior, so that I might come to believe in his name and have life forever. (John 20-30-31).

Consistent with human nature, not all my choices are good ones (based on God’s love) nor are all of them bad ones (based on my own sinfulness). Again, St. Benedict points out in Chapter 4:

41 Place your hope in God alone.
42 If you notice something good in yourself, give credit to God, not to yourself,
43 but be certain that the evil you commit is always your own and yours to acknowledge.

The gap between who I am and who I want to become in Christ Jesus is at the heart of conversion each day. This brings me back to the first quote: “7 Every day with tears and sighs confess your past sins to God in prayer 58 and change from these evil ways in the future.” Even those choices I made to convert myself from the evil I commit and laid at the feet of Christ to ask for mercy, I don’t get rid of those in my lifespan. I am forgiven and may think that I have converted myself to Christ, but there is a problem. I still have the residual of that imperfection, that false self in my mind, and I can’t get rid of it. It is part of who I am.

What being a Lay Cistercian and following the Rule of St. Benedict and Cistercian practices and charisms to the best of my ability based on not being in a monastery or following a schedule of prayer and penance has taught me is to continue to repent for past sins and failings as part of my conversio morae. I find myself using these past failures and sinfulness to motivate me to change from my present evil ways to Christ’s through the Holy Spirit. I share my experiences during the past ten or so years when looking at past sins and failures.

That I am a failure is no surprise. Only Jesus and the Blessed Mother were free from Original Sins but allowed themselves to experience the effects of the sin of Adam. The accumulated failures and sins we have to make up who we are, along with all those times we rise above our animal and secular nature to complete the will of God on earth as it is in Heaven. I have been waking up at night shouting, “No! No!” When I processed this, I thought about a real person I encountered in the past and how terrible I treated them. I wanted to tell them how sorry I was for being so boorish and unchristlike. This was not just a bad dream; I actually felt remorse and sorrow for treating various people, and I asked them to forgive me.

The Psalmist in Psalm 42 captures me groaning and remorse better than I can.

For the leader. A maskil of the Korahites.*


2As the deer longs for streams of water,a

so my soul longs for you, O God.

3My soul thirsts for God, the living God.

When can I enter and see the face of God?*b

4My tears have been my bread day and night,c

as they ask me every day, “Where is your God?”d

5Those times I recall

as I pour out my soul,e

When I would cross over to the shrine of the Mighty One,*

to the house of God,

Amid loud cries of thanksgiving,

with the multitude keeping festival.f

6Why are you downcast, my soul;

why do you groan within me?

Wait for God, for I shall again praise him,

my savior and my God.


7My soul is downcast within me;

therefore I remember you

From the land of the Jordan* and Hermon,

from Mount Mizar,g

8*Deep calls to deep

in the roar of your torrents,

and all your waves and breakers

sweep over me.h

9By day may the LORD send his mercy,

and by night may his righteousness be with me!

I will pray* to the God of my life,

10I will say to God, my rock:

“Why do you forget me?i

Why must I go about mourning

with the enemy oppressing me?”

11It shatters my bones, when my adversaries reproach me,

when they say to me every day: “Where is your God?”

12Why are you downcast, my soul,

why do you groan within me?

Wait for God, for I shall again praise him,

my savior and my God.

This groaning (No! No!) is my conversio morae, confessing my past sins and failings to God and asking for mercy. To receive mercy, I make amends for my insensitivities and rude treatment of people that is not consistent with “Love others as I have loved you.” The Lay Cistercian way of life, seeking God daily and praying for forgiveness and mercy, is a way I have found that channels my energies to long to be in the presence of Christ through the Holy Spirit.

When I experience these bouts of imperfections from the past, my continuous prayer is one asking God to be merciful to me, a sinner. I say it over and over and over. I ask the Holy Spirit that I require help and the energy of God. I rest in the peace of Christ, that which is not the absence of conflict as the world sees it, but the presence of God and other believers.


Conversio morae are converting the present and including those sins and failures of the past that are part of who you are.

Conversio morae is at the heart of the Heart of Christ as practiced in Lectio Divina.

I only have responsibility for converting one person each day and that is me.

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