Tuesday, 26 April 2016

147: The Importance of Leading a Spiritual Life

The mission of the School of Mary is to teach Spiritual Life to adults giving them the minimum necessary knowledge in order to have a personal spiritual life and allow our personal relationship with the Lord to grow and reach its fullness.

Teaching plays a very important part in allowing a healthy spiritual life to initiate and empower every person. Without that teaching, one remains ignorant of many vital and practical elements of our faith and therefore, unconsciously, are subject to random results in what one is doing in order to get closer to God. The reception of Grace, even with a sacramental life, can remain very limited, or even clogged.

Ignorance is sadly a key factor in that. Why? Because the person is not yet in control of his or her own personal spiritual life. Things are done randomly, just as they come, in an amateurish way. The consequences of this is an “under-life”, a limited life, an under-developed life. Even if the person has some success in their family life or work, deep inside, the core is lacking. His or her Christian life cannot blossom with only the commitment of an hour every week at Mass.

Without teaching there is no awareness. Without teaching one can’t handle properly ones spiritual responsibilities. We are talking here about a teaching that has practical implications, not just mere theory. The practical teaching shows us how to do something, which if we put it into practice will help us receive new graces. Consequently, our spiritual life blossoms like a flower in Spring. On the other hand, if we don’t receive practical teaching, we will not know what God wants us to realise in our life; the gifts He wants to give us because we have not learned how to receive his grace in a fruitful way. Practical knowledge is vital because it reveals our identity and shows us what we are to do. We need to know how to react when God moves us. He needs our cooperation. He will not force Himself on us and we need to have this awareness on how to receive his grace.

Teaching Dogma, Liturgy and Sacraments, teaching Moral Theology is good, but it will never work without a proper spiritual life, and without a practical teaching that facilitates it. The Catechism tells us this. Pope Benedict XV1 tells us this in his first encyclical, Deus caritas est (English: "God is Love" ). This is not new!

‘Great is the mystery of the faith!’. The Church professes this mystery in the Apostles' Creed (Part One) and celebrates it in the sacramental liturgy (Part Two), so that the life of the faithful may be conformed to Christ in the Holy Spirit to the glory of God the Father (Part Three). This mystery, then, requires that the faithful believe in it, that they celebrate it, and that they live from it in a vital and personal relationship with the living and true God. This relationship is prayer. (CCC 2558)

But receiving a new Teaching, new to you, if not in itself, pushes you out of your actual boundaries, out of your comfort zone. Who likes that? Very few people like the experience unless it is for a good reason. Even so, one can find it too pushy. One was living in a blissful state of ignorance but now the sudden arrival of this teaching on spiritual life upsets it! However, one has the opportunity now to control ones spiritual life; one can feel more responsibility for ones his own life and the future, the spiritual future. The more you know, the more you receive, the more God asks you later to give an account of what you received. God is just. He will not ask you to give what you don’t have, or work on talents or gifts that you don’t have or what you are not aware of. But now you start to discover the richness of the Gift of God. You can explore at the same time all what is needed to correspond to His Gift and receive the Graces God wants to give you, now you have more work. You need to move on from the lethargic state you were in to a more pro-active state. Staying still now means one is rooted in Jesus through silent prayer. Wouldn’t we want to remain rooted in Jesus in everything? Advantageously, what is happening is that a deep spiritual life is offered to allow us to remain centred, grounded and rooted in God. This gives a great peace and contentment. Curiously, the majority of human beings don’t find it, do it, so they remain agitated, wandering here and there without a goal. Isn’t it preferable to remain still in your busy life?

This requires effort and is indeed demanding. This is why, many years ago, while teaching, toward the end of one of my courses, a gentleman, attending the same First Level Course of Initiation into Spiritual Life (also called: “Solid Foundations”) said to me in front of everybody: “Jean, why are you teaching us all this? Why are you giving us all this information about Spiritual Life?”

I thought he knew! And he knew! But his question in fact was saying between the lines: our lives now have became more responsible. Do we like that? Oh that state of blissful ignorance, how we miss it! Yes, if God created us without our consent, He will not save us without our consent! (pro-active consent, active collaboration). As a consequence of that Teaching, things are becoming more complex, we need to move and do things! We need to learn more, practise, read!! 

The other day, while teaching the First level Course a lady said to me: “what happens if people don’t know all these things? Can they still receive the Graces God wants to give them? What will happen to them?” 

Hmm… I replied: the aim of this Course is to take the student from a “random” life in the Grace of God to a “responsible” life. Random to Responsible! St Paul says in his letter to the Romans:

“But how are men to call upon Him in whom they have not believed?

And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?

And how are they to hear without a preacher?” (Romans 10:14)

How will they know if they haven’t heard the Good News? This is why the Lord commands us to Evangelise, to Preach, to Teach, to “Form Disciples” for Him. It is not a choice, it is an order: go and preach the Good News! Life is vital. Feeding your children is vital, it is not optional.

One of the greatest truths taught to us by Pope St John Paul II is that every baptised person, by virtue of his or her Baptism, is a missionary. You can see that in his Encyclical letter “Redemptoris Missio”. It is by the virtue of Baptism that we receive the mandatum (order), the “sending in mission”. Let us remember as well that the Priest at the end of the Mass when he says: “Go in peace”, he is not saying: “...that’s it, the Mass is ended, go back to your normal life”. On the contrary, he is saying: “Now that you received Christ in your heart, in your mind, in your will, in your emotions and in your imagination, I (as your Parish Priest, and in His name) am reminding you that now you have a Mission from Christ, to transmit Him to others, starting with your family, your neighbours and your work place!

So, people can’t know what God wants to give them on a daily basis (“Give us our daily Bread”) if nobody explains it to them. There is a “Body of Teaching” dedicated to that: the science of knowing what God wants to give us (God’s Gift) and how we can receive it on a daily basis. If nobody specialises in this Science, if nobody teaches that, we end up by having empty teaching, non edible bread, and our life becomes stagnant. If nobody teaches me, how will I know? If I don’t know, I won’t be able to do anything. I might receive a strong grace from time to time, like once a year during a Retreat, but nothing else! Instead of receiving “grace upon grace” (John 1), discovering the richness of the Gift of God, diving into its immensity, discovering the Love of Jesus and how it fills all dimensions of life I won’t be able to know Jesus, to fall in love with Him, to receive his “Daily Bread”. I will be an “under-developed Christian”.

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