Monday, 4 January 2010

Spiritual Renewal

"Surely we are not human beings having a spiritual experience, but spiritual beings having a human experience." - Teilhard de Chardin

Whatever happened to Catholic spiritual renewal programs for adults?

The popular series 'Becoming Followers of Jesus' co-authored by Barbara Paleczny, SSND and Michel Cote, OP, inspired by the enthusiastic efforts of Vatican II, was a successful spiritual renewal program for many Catholic participants. Made available in various parts of Canada during the mid eighties it was specifically designed to meet the needs of the laity. This unique self directed series was designed to be practised by small groups of lay participants in a home setting. Its authors delivered an easy to follow text that encouraged participants to discover their spiritual roots based on their unique experience of God in their every- day life'. The book was divided into six separate units gradually building on the previous week and unit. The entire program could be comfortably covered in approximately two years or more. The two volume text consisted of a separate 'Participant's Manual' and 'Facilitator's Guide'.
For those who are not familiar with the program but continue to search for meaningful spiritual renewal here is an example of a typical weekly program based on Unit II Week II:

Prayer for the Week:
Scripture Prayer
Read one of the following scripture passages. Ask the Lord to give you his Spirit of wisdom and love that you may recognize what helps you to grow, especially in cherishing relationships (with the Trinity and any people you meet this week).
Mark 1:14-15
Mark 12:13-17
Mark 12:28-34
Galatians 5:1,2,13
Philippians 3:7-14
Colossians 2:2-3
We are body-persons. It was unthinkable for the Hebrew to consider being without a body; even after death, we would be transformed into a new spiritual body (I Cor. 15). We express both the good (the wholeness) and the conflict (or disintegration) that are in us in and through our bodies. Rooted in the world, we are present to things and they to us through the senses. So others and all material reality affects us, our inner reality through the body. We belong not just to ourselves but to the world in mutual interdependence. Even our actual freedom depends on the extent to which we will accept each other in love and respect.
Being human means that we are not God. We share the life of the Father, Son and Spirit and can relate intimately with them because of their initiative. Being human means that we have definite gifts and limitations. On the other hand, being human distinguishes us from animals. "Human" implies heart, intelligence, will, conscience, openness to the divine. It means being able to communicate, to be compassionate, wise, humble, caring, responsible, forgiving, interdependent, and trusting. This is far from any definition that limits being human to bursts of temper, theft and competition, addiction of any kind, especially when these are promoted as goals or criteria of acceptance.
So, being human includes being temporal, weak, depending on God and interdependent with others; it involves gradual growth in all aspects. We become more and more human
as we develop our potential, individually and collectively in the Lord. "The glory of God is person fully alive in the image of Jesus" (Irenaeus).
In fact, the Christian reality is that God became a particular man, Jesus of Nazareth, and because of this, Jesus is the criteria for what is human and reputable.

Despite its initial success, this program was never again formally re- introduced by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops or the Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Ontario. Nor will you find new or similar programs being offered by the aforementioned authorities. Why not? Are such resources not available simply because of a general lack of interest? Or, are some 'religious authorities' not comfortable when laity embark on an independent religious exercise? Have these same authorities ever considered that perhaps their presence can be quite intimidating or uncomfortable at times? Catholics must learn to be able to practise and trust in their faith outside the Church as well as in. Therefore is it not time for the authorities to re-introduce a new spiritual renewal program for adults and 'let their people go?'

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