Memorial of St. Stanislaus at Mississippi Abbey

[Scripture Readings: Acts 6:8-15; Jn 6:22-29]

St. Stanislaus was a Polish bishop who was killed while saying Mass. He was killed by a cruel and tyrannical ruler, Boleslaus, whom Stanislaus had condemned for grossly immoral behavior and refused to admit to the Eucharist. Boreslaus knew there was only two ways to kill the bishop: run him through with a sword, or tell him a Pole would someday be elected pope. The two men each fed on different foods.

What made Stanislaus (and Stephen) willing to die for Christ? The answer is in yesterday and today's gospels. First, today we are told, “This is the work of God: that you believe in the One He sent.” It is faith in Jesus Christ, the teacher, the healer, the One risen from the dead.

Secondly, from yesterday's Gospel is our call to follow Christ. A vocation, marital, monastic, or the single life, is also a call to faith, a radical, life-staking faith in Jesus Christ. Like Jesus, we are called to show this faith by acts of “preferring.” Yesterday when Jesus predicted Peter's martyrdom, it was emphasized that the death would be “for the glory of God.” The glory of God is to be preferred to one's own life. It is the reason for living.

For us, the place where this preferring takes place, this dying to self, is in community. In community we are confronted by those alternations of affections that lead to a crisis of meaning. One's spirit suffers at exactly the limits of her faith, hope, and love.

Conversion is not a matter of “getting it right.” It is way beyond that. What we are and what we are already doing will not work anymore. We need a different principle of operation.

Going through this, one may try to dodge the confrontations by experiencing community as mere socialization: learning how to think, talk, and act like other members. This amounts to simply “being cool.” Hopefully this is not all that one is offered.

Or one may enter community seeking, and being offered, conversion. In a certain sense it is preferences that are converted. One must have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, the One the Father sent, if she is (in times of interior confusion) to prefer the glory of God to self. This would be a second conversion, going beyond the one that brought her to the monastery.

Conversion is found in experience: the experience of blindness turning to seeing. Jesus tells us it requires nourishment. Socialization is the food that perishes; conversion is the food that endures unto eternal life.