A convert from Anglicanism myself, I find the emphasis on Newman’s conversion beautiful and profound. A conversion feast sets aside a day for contemplation on this experience for its own sake, and this seems meet and right.
Conversion, as we all know, means a death of the self. This is true whether the converted has been an atheist, or has simply been brought to the end of a road and told to keep going. For everyone who comes to the door, the price of admission is assent to the proposition that until you are through the door, you have not, at the very least, begun to be your truest, wholest self. You have to admit the possibility that up to that point, everything you have done and been is as nothing to you in the fact of what awaits you on the other side. Even if you have believed, you confess your unbelief. You own your blindness, even if you have seen trees walking.
And you do not do it once. In my experience, you do it again and again and again, daily, hourly, trying and trying to lay your life down and let it be bought for a price, for reasons you grant that you may never understand.
Blessed John Henry Newman, patron of conversion in my household, knows how it goes:
Somehow I am necessary for His purposes, as necessary in my place as an Archangel in his—if, indeed, I fail, He can raise another as He could make the stones children of Abraham. Yet I have a part in this great work. I am a link in a chain . . . He has not created me for naught . . . He may take away my friends, He may throw me among strangers, He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide the future from me—still He knows what He is about.