Spirituality is a fundamental aspect of our identity as missionaries. We hold dear to the heritage of Ignatian spirituality which has been handed down to us from the very beginning of our Society yet there are various spiritualties from which we can draw and learn from. Even from outside Christianity there are spiritualities that are infused with wisdom and insight for the journey. For ourselves though it is, for the most part, in the pluriform possibilities of Catholic spirituality that we find both old and new ways of living more intensely in the Spirit, more intensely the Gospel filled life we are called to live.
For us Christians Spirituality is that desire to live out more authentically, more responsibly, more fully the faith we have received (Most merciful redeemer, friend and brother, may we know you more clearly, love you more dearly and follow you more nearly day by day… St Richard of Chichester) and such a desire is a lifelong journey to grow in our relationship with God. It is a vision of life and a way of living in accord with that vision; a vision that will direct our life and help us in the choices we make, a vision that has to be constantly nurtured and refined until the day we die. Surely any Christian spirituality worthy of the name must be based on the person of Jesus and his Gospel call to love. We have been called to follow him and that is what our mission is all about – our following is our answering of that call. Jesus constantly calls us to a deeper faith, a deeper and radical following, a deeper and more radical way of living in community and witnessing to the Gospel. But as Ruth Burrows the great spiritual writer states: ‘It is one thing to have been given insight and quite another to live consistently according to it. However, with St Paul I must press on and rest satisfied with nothing else.’
We must seek God, we must seek Jesus and not ourselves, we must seek to be more rooted in him and more like him. When we are ambitious, controlling, angry, jealous, seeking only to control; when we only see our own point of view and hold on to it rigidly, when we are unconcerned for the welfare of others but caught up into our tiny ego-centric world and things unconcerned with our ministry then somehow, we are no longer in Jesus but in ourselves. Surely the spiritual path has to be a transformative path, that slowly but surely transforms me as a person, a path that brings enlightenment, peace and joy. Our spirituality is our constant thirst for God, for Jesus, for his kingdom, for transformation. The very basis of that thirst is the gnawing need and ache that is deep within us to dwell in God and He in us. God is love. Whoever dwells in love dwells in God, and God in him. (1 John 4:16)
Once again using the words of Ruth Burrows …… ‘As Christians Jesus must be our addiction, Is he? How we must desire, pray for, and prepare ourselves to receive from God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, ‘a spirit of wisdom and knowledge of him’ (Eph 1:17) and the ‘power to comprehend… the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses all knowledge’(Eph 3:18-19)
Spirituality is all about coming to terms with our original call to become a disciple. For us missionaries it is surely bound up with responding to that call of discipleship in the world today. It is an addiction to living our life at the deepest level because all that is authentic lies deep within and our awakening to such authenticity is our awakening to a life in Jesus Christ. It is said that some people lose themselves in drink, in sex, in gambling, in possessions, in money or whatever other compulsion takes hold of their lives and yet should we not rather lose ourselves in the person of Jesus so as to identify with him, with his mission and outreach.
Somehow it is about refocusing our lenses. The heart of Spirituality is Jesus and to become a new creature in him, so as transform ourselves, our community living and witness. Hopefully by living in such a way that is truly worthy of the Gospel we preach that our desire will be to empower others also to live a transformed life (even others of different faith) that even unbeknown to themselves they will be led further into the very mystery of God himself.
O Lord there are depths within me I would like to touch; And there are depths of your presence I would like to experience. Surrender within me, O lord These new depths As I give myself up in loving obedience To your holy creativity (William Clemmons)
Francis Barnes, M.Afr., 1st Assistant General