The Power of Forgiveness and the Beautiful Conversion of a Jew

Some recent research on the subject of aeviternity led me to Life Everlasting, by the celebrated Dominican, Père Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange.

Tangential to his main purpose in distinguishing time, aeviternity, and eternity, the learned friar tells of the conversion of a Viennese Jew, who took up the challenge of these words in Pater Noster: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” He thereby obtained and cooperated with the grace of conversion — and then the demanding vocation of a Dominican Friar!

I include the first two paragraphs for context; it is the third that mentions this impressive conversion and its circumstances.

These different kinds of time, on earth, in purgatory, and in heaven, permit us to distinguish also in the present life two kinds of time: one corporeal, one spiritual. Corporeal time, solar time, measures the duration of our organism. Thus measured, one is eighty years of age, an old man; but, measured by spiritual time, his soul may remain very young. Thus, as we distinguish three ages of corporeal life, infancy, adult age, and old age, so in the life of the soul, we distinguish three ages, namely, the purgative life of beginners, the illuminative life of those who are progressing, the unitive way of those who are perfect.

This spiritual kind of time may explain salvation in unexpected quarters. Some great act, never retracted, has borne fruit.

I knew a young Jew, the son of an Austrian banker, in Vienna. He had decided on a lawsuit against the greatest adversary of his family, a lawsuit that would have enriched him. He suddenly recalled this word of the Pater Noster, which he had sometimes heard: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” He said to himself: “How would it be if, instead of carrying on this lawsuit, I would pardon him?” He followed the inspiration, forgave completely, renounced the lawsuit. At that same moment he received the full gift of faith. This one word of the Our Father became his pathway up the mountain of life. He became a priest, a Dominican, and died at the age of fifty years. Though nothing particularly important appeared in the remainder of his life, his soul remained at the height where it had been elevated at the moment of his conversion. Step by step he mounted to the eternal youth which is the life of heaven. The moral runs thus: One great act of self- sacrifice may decide not only our whole spiritual life on earth but also our eternity. We judge a chain of mountains by its highest peak.

How seriously we should take these words of a prayer that Christians say so often! What a treasure of grace is hidden in them!