Aron Lustiger was born on September 17, 1926 in Paris. His parents, Charles and Gisèle Lustiger, were Jews from Będzin, Poland. They left Poland during World War I. Aron Lustiger studied at the Lycée Montaigne in Paris, where he first encountered anti-Semitism. Visiting Germany in 1937, he was hosted by an anti-Nazi Protestant family whose children had been required to join the Hitler Youth. He came across a Protestant Bible and felt inexplicably attracted to it. On the outbreak of World War II in September 1939, the family moved to Orléans.
In March 1940, during Holy Week, the 13-year-old Lustiger decided to convert to Roman Catholicism. On August 21st he was baptized as Aron Jean-Marie by the Bishop of Orléans. He entered the Seminary in 1946 and he was ordained to the priesthood on April 17, 1954 and was consecrated Bishop on December 8, 1979.
Finally, he was appointed Archbishop of Paris by John Paull I in 1981. During one of the interviews that he gave during the days that he started working as Bishop in Paris, he was asked about his pastoral plan for the Archdiocese of Paris. More precisely he was asked: “what is the central point of your pastoral plan for the Archdiocese of Paris?”
“The central point of the pastoral plan is the conversion of the bishop” he answered. His answer surprised his interviewer and his listeners as well. Conversion means returning to God, so if a newly appointed bishop talks about conversion, it seems that something is wrong. Was he wrong with his answer? Of course not. He was completely right although we are not talking about a bad bishop.
The problem here is that we usually consider the return that conversion implies as a total change, as a 180-degree turn; which can be true when sometimes it is necessary to totally change our life. However, sometimes this return to God does not have to be so drastic. For someone who totally abandoned God and his faith, maybe it would be that way or for those who constantly fall into a specific mortal sin, then conversion should mean a radical change in that aspect of his life, but perhaps not necessary in all aspects of his life. For those who live in the grace of God, conversion does not mean a change but rather an approach to God.
Conversion means to be closer to God; as I said, when our life goes in the opposite direction of where God is, then of course we need to make a 180-degree turn. However, if our life is going in the direction of where God is, but not straightforward, we need to make the necessary changes to go straighter to God. We need to avoid those things that make us deviate from the path to get to heaven.
Those deviations, a venial sin, an imperfection, minor omissions, lukewarm actions, etc., do not totally change the direction of our life, since I continue in the state of grace, however, conversion can also mean changing those things in order to go more directly to heaven, and Lent is given to us as a special time to work on those things.