A Message from our Rector,
Fr. Charles Zlock
Jesuit Father, Joseph Tetlow offers some thoughts on “The Prayer of Consideration” based on Jesus’ words in Luke 12:27 ( “Consider the lilies of the field….”)
- The lily is where the Lord put it; it did not choose to be there. We are on this earth at this time; we did not choose the time and place of our birth.
- The lily is surrounded by grasses, other flowers and weeds; we are surrounded by family friends and even enemies.
- The lily is in the soil that the Lord put it in; we are in the country and culture and church that the Lord put is in.
- The lily receives the rain that the Lord sends; we receive graces and inspiration.
Despite the incredible interest in "spirituality" today, the challenge, according to Fr. Tetlow, is for Catholics to take this interest seriously and consider living “an examined life.” Unfortunately, this is not how most people live. Many go from one end of the year to the other, neither reflecting on the convictions by which they live, nor seriously considering the validity of their convictions (be they religious, political, social, economic, personal relations..) or whether or not they are pleasing or repellant to Jesus Christ.
This current interest on “spirituality” shows that people are looking for a “something” which will lead to a more holistic life that integrates the human, intellectual, spiritual and charitable aspects of our lives. This raises questions, issues and corresponding challenges such as:
- What am I looking for?
- Do I desire a deeper spiritual and prayer life? (Many people sense the desire but aren’t sure how to go about it)
- What do I do first in my life? What do I do next? (This is all about “discernment” although some people aren’t aware of this need or how to begin)
A parishioner recently handed me a newly published book, next Christians, by Gabe Lyons. Gabe offers one of the most cogent overviews of the landscape that the Catholic/Christian world is now facing. He speaks of four types of church/religious organizations or people found in America today:
- Pulling In - A "circle the wagons” approach attempting to strengthen and re-focus the positive aspects of the faith in the face of mounting, external anti-Catholic/Christian forces.
- Attacking / Countering – Attempting to muster resources to counter the mounting, external anti-Catholic/Christian forces they face.
- Blending / Conforming – Often seen in “mega-churches." They look at what is working in the secular world and try and “blend” them into a positive experience for their worship communities.
- “Restoring” – I see an issue or problem to be addressed right here-and-now and I address the issue/problem with talents, gifts and resources that I already possess.
Gabe doesn’t judge but merely offers his observations. He does state that many (if not most) of us fall into some of the categories that he mentions. His emphasis on the “restoration model” also offers one of the most optimistic views of the Christian/Catholic future that I have seen in a long time.
But how do “we” (individual, community, group-team-church, society) get from “Point A” (where we are now) to “Point B” (where “we” desire to be)? Quickening The Fire In Our Midst is a book written by Reverend George Aschenbrenner, S.J. which primarily covers “The challenge of diocesan priestly spirituality.” But what he says to priests has relevance to lay people and religious in moving from “A – to – B.”
“Holiness and growth in union with God always involves the full human person alive in the present concrete situation of the world. A person’s spiritual maturity does involve good actions and the full range of human emotions, but it also involves a lot more. With concern for actions and feelings, spiritual maturity also cuts into the inner core and foundation of a person. This core focuses the lenses of actions and feelings for a clear picture of God’s love radiating, whether brilliantly or behind clouds, through the whole world. The invitation is to recognize and welcome this love in every situation, and discernment of spirits is the means to such recognition.”
So “Discernment of Spirits” (the classic Ignatian spiritual idea of “the examined life”) is about allowing ourselves to be guided in focusing our relationship with Christ. This is the starting place. While discerning the Spirit alive within us (as well as other internal “spirits” both positive a negative) an eye is kept on the world to see where, and in which capacity, the Lord is calling us to serve.
How would one do this concretely? Numerous, fresh initiatives of the Holy Spirit are being seen throughout the Church. The “Church Ministry Institute” of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia was one example. The Called and Gifted Discernment Process from the “Catherine of Siena Institute” is another. “Catholic Leadership Institute’s” Tending the Talent’s is a way that parishes are collectively begin to “examine” and “discern” how the Lord is calling their community of believers to serve within the context of the “New Evangelization.”
There are numerous opportunities out there. Pray. Find one. Just get started! The Lord will lead you from there.