Ebbs and Flows of Spiritual Life

Maybe its the constant rain and floods in the UK this week that has me pondering on the ebbs and flows of the currents of spiritual life.  

The words of Cardinal Martini who held that the church is out of date, reinforce my own belief that we need changes. 

I believe that the church is immutable in its mission but not in all of its structures.

The thought of organisational change bothers some who think that the present structure of the church was established by Christ himself. But Christ left the particularities and peculiarities (!), of structure up to us as the Body of Christ.  

Many Catholics who strive to be faithful including laity, priests and bishops believe that discussion of the meaning of authority and obedience is in urgent need of an overhaul.

Why a healthy discussion and diversity of opinion on these matters within the Catholic community cannot be fostered and managed without suppression beats me

 Flannery O'Connor In a letter  she wrote said "I think there is no suffering greater than what is caused by the doubts of those who want to believe. I know what torment this is, but I can only see it, in myself anyway, as the process by which faith is deepened" 

This article by Fr.Michael Paul Gallagher S.J has some thought provoking reflections on complacency and the difficult task of balancing tradition with change.

Diversity has long been recognised as the work of the Holy Spirit, as a manifest sign that we are a changing church and that for its revival, if not survival, that growth will entail change.

Advocates of the contemporary view are not suggesting that the organisational church be done away with.  I need and value the Pope as the successor of Peter as the central person charged with fostering unity and order. I value and love some of its traditions which are embedded in my life but there are others that I hold loosely.

Dr. Jonathan Sacks, Chief Rabbi of the Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, when speaking about the importance of religious education in schools. He said: “You defend a country by armies. But you defend a civilisation by schools.” In a time of social instability, children needed more than ever a sense of “rootedness in a living tradition. We need to teach our children to hear the sound of eternity in the midst of change.” (quoted in The Tablet, 9 July, 1994, p.875)

 How do we do that ???

At present the idea of Catholic religious authority is built on a model that more befits the expectation of subservience from its subjects as in a Roman Empire, an antiquated remnant of a culture clearly no longer fit for purpose.  

The question being asked by many Catholics today is : Is there any way to retain the essential doctrine of the primacy of Peter without falling into authoritarian absolutism so abhorrent to contemporary humans ?

Ah well, time for some quotes.....

The soul is partly in time and partly in eternity. 

We might remember the part that resides in eternity when we feel despair over the part that is in life.

~Thomas Moore, Care of the Soul

I was browsing through my books today and came across a wonderful book from the late Cardinal Hume called Basil in Blunderland . He said with characteristic humility and wisdom, that his life had  much more often been a wandering in Blunderland than a resting and relaxing in Wonderland.

He says " I would guess that most of us would say the same of ourselves. We have experienced much effort, false starts, wrong decisions, clumsiness. We have no grounds for pride or self-congratulation. That cheers me up rather than depresses. To realise and acknowledge that we are inept and blunderers is healthy...... What matters, however, is that minds and hearts should be involved in the search for God, where the seeking and the finding go hand in hand. 

It is the process of getting to know God and learning to love Him. It is intimacy with Him that we seek.

We try to go beyond every experience of knowledge and love, which we have now, to another experience, which is beyond our grasp but not entirely out of our reach."

The book ends with some encouraging words from the seventeenth century philosopher Pascal, which the Cardinal imagines Christ whispering into our ear

" Be consoled, you could not be seeking me if you had not found me already. Yes, He says to you : I want you, of course I do, and I know you want me. Go in search of me and you will certainly find me."

Julian of Norwich also recognises how a personal encounter with God reveals our inadequacy but always holds out hope that if we take care to really stop and listen then no matter how many times we fall short of the ideal, the Holy Spirit will always be at work in our lives.

Julian of Norwich
Julian of Norwich (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“If there is anywhere on earth a lover of God who is always kept safe, I know nothing of it, for it was not shown to me. 

But this was shown: that in falling and rising again we are always kept in that same precious love.”

Julian of Norwich

Thanks to Rachel for her kind permission to use her poster image.

Rachel's blog Il Bel FAr Niente " The Beauty of Doing Nothing"
is here 

The complete text from Julian of Norwich is below.

The sorrowing, the sick, the unwanted, the lonely, both young and old, rich and poor, all come to my window. 
No one listens, they tell me,and so I listen and tell them what they have just told me. 

And, I sit in silence, listening, letting them grieve. 

‘Julian, you are wise,’ they say, ‘You have been gifted with understanding.’
All I did was listen. 

For I believe full surely that God’s spirit is in us all, giving light, wisdom, understanding,
speaking words in us when we cannot speak, 
showing us gently what we would not see;
what we are afraid to see;

so that we may show pity, mercy, forgiveness to ourselves.” 

Julian of Norwich

and I'll finish on this..................

                                          Sculpture : Leap of Faith by Jim Rennert. Image source

The world has changed:
Wake up; smell
the possibility.

The world
has changed:
It did not
your prayers
your faith
your determination
in liberation
through the years
that had

The world has changed:
It did not

of self
it did not

your strength.

The world has changed:
Wake up!
Give yourself
the gift
of a new

The world has changed: This does not mean
you were never


The world has changed:


Resist the siren

The world has changed:
Don’t let

~Alice Walker, Hard Times Require Furious Dancing

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