Spiritual Demography (from prefix demo- from Ancient Greek δῆμος dēmos meaning “the people”, and -graphy from γράφω graphō, implies “writing, description or measurement”) is the statistical study and analysis of populations according to the criterium of Spiritual Life. Spiritual Demographics are quantifiable spiritual characteristics of a given population. “Spiritual Demography of a Parish” is the statistical analysis and study of the Spiritual Life of the Faithful in a given Parish.
How do we “measure” and discern the Stages of Spiritual Life?
First and foremost we need to be aware of the existence of a Journey of Growth that starts with Jesus’ Call to follow Him and that leads to Holiness. The Doctors of the Church like St Bernard, St Bonaventura, St Teresa of Avila, St John of the Cross,… studied and presented the different levels of growth in spiritual life and the criteria to establish them. We cannot afford to neglect that effort. It is by having a clear understanding of the stages of growth that we can understand what “Spiritual Demographics” mean.
The Church is Mother and Mistress, and what interests her is to help us reach the fullness of our vocation, in following Jesus to union with him and to the fullness of Love.
The following video explains how we could implement “Spiritual Demography” using the masterpiece of St Teresa of Avila: “The Interior Castle”.
The Six-Minute Video
The goal of the following video is to trigger a different way of thinking and planning Pastoral work:
1- It opens the horizon to the existence of an entire journey that leads to Holiness (avoiding the reduction of the individual Christian’s spiritual life to two general elements: general random prayers, Sunday Mass, some charitable works).
2- It indicates that each stage in spiritual growth has its own needs, spiritual food and discernment.
3- It takes into consideration, within Pastoral work, the spiritual needs of each person.
4- It offers a greater impulse for motivating people to use the proper means in order to trigger growth.
Some might object that the different stages of growth of spiritual life are too artificial (excessive compartmenting) or that they should not be used in the discernment of what type of Pastoral to offer (type of teaching etc.).
To these objections one has to clarify some essential points about Spiritual Life:
1- The Church cannot on one hand claim to call everybody to Holiness and not be able to offer any explanation of how to go about reaching this goal: a- description of Holiness, b- an explanation of the stages to reach it c- presenting the practical means to reach it, d- offering the needed discernment to guide the persons in this journey of growth.
2- Claiming that these different stages of growth do not exist as St Teresa or other Doctors of the Church put them to us is a profound mistake as follows:
- What is then mortal sin and the need for Christian conversion?
- What is the need for an ordered and moral life?
- What are the duties of a Christian?
- What is Jesus’ personal Call to follow Him? (the Call for holiness becomes clearer at a certain point in one’s life! What then is the “Second Conversion”?)
- What is a committed Prayer Life?
- What is Purification, Sanctification?
These few questions show that talking about stages of growth is not lacking in deep sense. It is just that we are not used to think this way. Hence the vital need for that renewed vision of Pastoral Life.
Pope John Paul II in his Pastoral Letter, “Novo Millenium Enuente” underlined (as mentioned in the video) the need to put holiness as the fundamental plan for Parishes. Very audacious, but coherent and in tune with the Universal Call to Holiness that Vatican II reminded us of.
In order to understand the different core aspects that are part of the Journey of Spiritual Growth, please find here a series of different articles, each one explaining a needed aspect that complements the explanation given in the Video. They help us make further steps in the study of pastoral analysis and planning.
The use of Spiritual Theology as a science that helps implement this Demography:
– Mapping Spiritual Life (with St Teresa of Avila)
– The Spiritual Journey (last of 11 very important Diagrams to understand the different stages of Spiritual Life in the Gospel).