At the most recent meeting of our Presbyteral Council — indeed at several recent meetings of the body — there has been a good deal of conversation about spiritual renewal. I remember in particular one strong expression of that yearning offered by one of the members: “We should spend as much time and energy on spiritual renewal as we spent on Partners in Faith.”
Expressed quite that way or not, the theme keeps coming back at the Presbyteral Council, just as it has throughout our ongoing strategic-planning process. Whenever the theme is mentioned, there is a consistent set of responses. Heads nod in agreement. The energy of participants spikes. There is a true engagement in conversation. Enthusiasm is apparent.
Something is happening that is important to people, that obviously speaks to their hearts. In conversations about the theme of spiritual renewal, people use a variety of terms. They speak such things as spirituality, conversion, friendship with the Lord, growth in the Spirit or becoming all that the Lord wants them to be — for God, self and others.
While those desires are deeply noble and worthy in themselves, people also speak of them as doors to other values they prize very deeply. Among these are a sense of purpose and direction in life, a framework for understanding the world and their own humanity, participation in a strong and supportive community, a sense of joy even in the hard times, and a hope that ever sustains.
The yearning or thirst for something deeper and lasting is often triggered by an awareness — grace-touched, I think — that things are not just as they ought to be in one’s personal life or the life of the community. I mention a few that I hear quite often: too much work; high and sometimes conflicting expectations; lack of solid, sustaining relationships and consequent sense of isolation; polarization; and an inability to develop rhythms of life that allow time for enough prayer, exercise, recreation, intellectual stimulation, thinking and friendships.
How do we — any of us who thirst for this kind of renewal — go about achieving it? And how do we help one another get where we want to be? We know that we cannot adopt a “Stop the world, I want to get off” attitude. After all, we do have responsibilities we must meet and obligations that we must satisfy.
We know as well — from the Lords’ words and example — that our union with him will join us to his suffering and death. Union with Christ does not promise us exemption from suffering, but it does promise the strength to bear it. And we know that there are no quick, magical fixes to life’s challenge. Rather, they demand patience, mutual support, some humor and oceans of faith.
I don’t know what you think about this theme, but I would guess that there is in you some desire for spiritual renewal, however you might name it.
Perhaps I could leave you with a few questions that might lead you to think and pray about the idea. There’s no charge for the questions, but if you can share any of your reflections with me, I’d be happy to receive them.
Do you yearn for some kind of spiritual renewal? If so, how would you name it? What life experiences — joyful or painful — put you in touch with that longing? What elements of life make change or progress in this area difficult? What elements foster it? How can your spouse, family, loved ones and parish community encourage and support the growth you seek?
Peace to all.