Fr Donald Haggerty, a New York priest, has written a profound meditation on the meaning of conversion that should be read by all who are serious in deepening their relationship to God, whether cradle Catholics or converts.

In Conversion: Spiritual Insights Into an Essential Encounter with God (Ignatius Press, 270pp, £13), he points out that “a personal encounter with the real mystery of a personal God is at the heart of every great conversion”. This is as true for each one of us as it was for St Paul or St Augustine of Hippo. Indeed, unless we are continually renewing “the choice for God” we are in danger of faltering in our commitment and falling into a habit of perfunctory, respectable piety.

Underpinning his reflections is the challenge of sanctity in the lives of those we call saints: “They never forgot that a gratuitous intervention from Our Lord saved their lives,” the author remarks – with its implication that we, too, should never forget the transformative power of Christ in our own lives. It is only when we recognise God’s mercy towards us, despite our sins, that we grow in true charity – “the effort of seeking the conversion of other souls in need”.

Haggerty comments that today we often misunderstand the meaning of divine mercy: a sincere cry for mercy can only come “from a heart repentant for sins”, which has recognised the gulf between good and evil and glimpsed “what love on God’s part means”. This book is a modern classic. It merits reading and re-reading.


Raymond Friel, the author of Prayers for Schools (Redemptorist Publications, 168pp, £8.99), is a former teacher and headteacher. He has made a thoughtful contribution to the question of how to help young people to learn to pray in a society where they no longer grow up within a Catholic culture buttressed by home, school and parish.

​How to continue reading…

This article appears in the Catholic Herald magazine - to read it in full subscribe to our digital edition from just 30p a week

The Catholic Herald is your essential weekly guide to the Catholic world; latest news, incisive opinion, expert analysis and spiritual reflection