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Spiritual Demography of a Parish

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.

Objections

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:

  1. What is then mortal sin and the need for Christian conversion?
  2. What is the need for an ordered and moral life?
  3. What are the duties of a Christian?
  4. 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”?)
  5. What is a committed Prayer Life?
  6. 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.

Articles

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:

– Defining Spiritual Theology (1)

– Defining Spiritual Theology (2)

– Defining Spiritual Theology (3)

Different topics:

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).

What is Holiness (1)?

What is Holiness (2)?

What is Holiness (3)?

Can Holiness be Planned?

The Call for Holiness for Married People.

Getting Ready to Receive Jesus’ Call.

A Call is a Call.

Hearing Jesus’ Call.

St Teresa’s (second) Conversion.

A Day with St Elisabeth of the Trinity on the occasion of her Canonisation

On Saturday 15th October, we are happy to present a one day course on Elisabeth of the Trinity. She was a French Carmelite nun whose messages on the Interior Life would be of great value to us all. She will be canonised on Sunday 16th October and we invite you to attend the course to learn about the life and message of this courageous nun.
A day with Elisabeth of the Trinity
 
Saturday 15th October 2016
 

What content is covered?
The lectures during this day with her will focus on four key areas:
 
1. Knowing her life
2. An introduction to her writings
3. An introduction to her doctrine
4. Discovering and praying her “Prayer to the Trinity”
Dates and times of the Course are:
 15th October 2016, from 10 am to 4:30 pm.
 Refreshments are provided. Please bring a packed lunch.
 

Where does the course take place? 

The course will take place at St Mary of the Angels, Moorhouse Road, Bayswater, London, W2 5DJ. (‘Notting Hill Gate’ or ‘Bayswater’ Tube Stations and Buses 7, 23, 27, 28, 31, 70, 328)
 
Who will teach the course? 
 
The course will be taught by Jean Khoury, a full-time theologian who has studied and taught Spiritual Life in the Church for over twenty years. As well as lecturing world-wide on spiritual life and meditation, Jean is the author of several books, articles and studies on spiritual life and the founder of the School of Mary, a three-level formation in spiritual life (www.amorvincit.com).
 
Jean obtained a degree in Philosophy from the Institut Catholique de Toulouse (France), a Licence in Theology from the Teresianum (Rome) and a Masters in Spiritual Theology from the Institute Catholique de Toulouse (France). He is currently completing his PhD in Spiritual Theology at the Angelicum (Rome) with Monsignor François-Marie Léthel. Courses at the School of Mary constitute his sole source of income.
 
How much will the course cost?
 
The cost for the course is £25 for the day.
* Email schoolofmarylondon@gmail.com with your name and contact details and we will be in touch with details of how to pay the fee by bank transfer.
 
* If you have any questions, please do phone Rufaro at: 07940904834
 
Who is Elisabeth of the Trinity? 
 
Elisabeth of the Trinity is a French Carmelite nun. She was born is 1880 at Bourges, France, entered at the age of 21 at the Carmelite Monastery of Dijon, and lived only 5 years and died at the age of 26 on the 9th of November 1906. 
 
She is much less known than her other French sister, St Therese of the Child Jesus, but deserves to be known as well for her life and message to the world. She is more discreet and her message is mainly on interiority. Her doctrine is so rich and deserves to be discovered. 
 
She said: “I think that in Heaven my mission will be to draw souls by helping them to go out of themselves in order to cling to God by a wholly simple and loving movement, and to keep them in this great silence within which will allow God to communicate Himself to them and to transform them into Himself”.

St James explains Lectio Divina 1

In his beautiful letter, St James explains to us Lectio Divina and its conditions. “Know this, my beloved brethren. Let every man be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger, for the anger of man does not work the righteousness of God. Therefore put away all filthiness and rank growth of wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if any one is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who observes his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But he who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer that forgets but a doer that acts, he shall be blessed in his doing. If any one thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this man’s religion is vain. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” (James 1:19-27)

Let us see how this presentation of Lectio Divina goes and let us discover a deeper understanding of this outstanding analysis of Lectio Divina.

Lectio Divina is about listening to Jesus’ Word for us every day. Can we really listen to him? Should we prepare our heart in order to become able to listen?

Original deafness

First and foremost it is important to remember that with the Fall (the Original Sin) we lose the capacity to listen and speak directly to God.

Moses is one of the first human beings to speak directly to God, face to face. People were scared of God.

Sin, separates us from God, and radical grave sin, stops us from hearing, and hardens our heart. We need a deep operation that will change our heart of stone to the heart of flesh.

This is why Jesus will perform a very important act on the Cross: he will open our “hearing” and our “speech” (capacity to talk), so we become, fort the first time capable to hearing the Word of God directly and talk to God directly and personally.

Even if this event happens during Jesus’ ministry, it centrally happens on the Cross where Jesus accomplishes our Redemption, this is why we have this long sigh:

“31 Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, through the region of the Decapolis. 32 And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had an impediment in his speech; and they besought him to lay his hand upon him. 33 And taking him aside from the multitude privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue; 34 and looking up to heaven, he sighed, and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” 35 And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. 36 And he charged them to tell no one; but the more he charged them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. 37 And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, “He has done all things well; he even makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak.”” (Mark 7:31-37)

On the Cross Jesus brings us back from our darkness, our deafness to the fluency of communication with God (listening-speaking). It is on the Cross that Jesus opens us to God, changes us, gives us a new heart, a heart of flesh (Ez 36:26), (like Mary’s one), capable of listening. “Give thy servant therefore a heart that listens” (1 Kings 3:9).

The old man, by definition isn’t capable of listening. This is why among many other rites, during Baptism, the Minister performs that same act that Jesus did and touches the ears of the person who is baptised and his or her mouth, saying after Jesus: “Ephphatha” that is: be opened.

When we sit down, in order to listen to Jesus, we need to remember that listening to Him is a Grace, not something obvious and automatic. This is why Jesus gives a very special Grace of the Holy Spirit to us, in order for us to listen to Him, hear his voice, See him in the Scripture: he “opened their minds to understand the Scriptures” (Luke 24:45). Without this supernatural intervention of Jesus in our mind/heart, we can’t really hear him, see him, be touched by his words deeply, be moved by them.

It is important to acknowledge that we can’t take Lectio Divina (listening to Jesus) for granted, and that it is a huge Grace, that we need to ask for humbly and insistently.

Note: For these reasons Mary is considered by Luke to be the only one who was capable of Listening to the Word of God and obey it, put it into practice. This is why we need her, New Eve, our Mother, to generate our new heart, at the image of her heart, capable of listening and putting into practice Jesus’ Words.

Impurity makes us deaf

St James will explain to us some of the dispositions in order to become capable of listening to Jesus-God:

“19 Know this, my beloved brethren. Let every man be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger, 20 for the anger of man does not work the righteousness of God.” (James 1:19)

The goal is to become “quick to hear”. In order to do so, there are plenty of other operations of our soul (mind and will) that should stop: speaking and being angry. “chatter” could be the expression of anger. We can’t in the same time hate somebody and want to listen to Jesus. Because “hating” is an act of inner silent speech, where with our thoughts we direct the arrows of our anger against this person. The word of Jesus doesn’t have a space in us.

We can’t expect two things that are opposite to dwell in us: anger and God’s action in us. “Anger” has many forms in us. Frustration for instance can makes us angry.

The Word of God needs and awaits for a clean heart. There is a cleanness that we can perform, which is refusing to surrender to anger and ask from God to give us a new heart, a heart of flesh, a heart “quick to hear”.

“21 Therefore put away all filthiness and rank growth of wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted Word, which is able to save your souls.”

St James will clarify his thought: “anger” is for him any “filthiness and rank growth of wickedness”. If we want to receive the “implanted Word” of Jesus, we need to put away all what goes against it. Remember the thorns in the third soil in the Parable of the Sower. It has thorns that suffocate the Word of Jesus implanted in us. These thorns are all what is against the Word of God, all the desires that are not “the desire of God” (richness, worries,…).

God wants to save us. He has two means for that: His Word (his preaching), and His Body and Blood (the Cross). Jesus’ word is capable of Saving our soul, changing it, purifying it, helping it to walk the path from the land of the darkness to God who is Light and Love. God’s Word is powerful and we need it everyday so we can be saved: each day bears its effort, and each day has its own Bread. For man doesn’t live alone from Bread but from the Real Bread: Jesus’ Words.

“A heart quick to hear give me O Lord! A meek heart.”

Putting into practice

One of the characteristics of the heart that can receive the word of God is the heart that from the beginning is ready to put it into practice, unconditionally ready for that. We know that God can fulfil any Word he would say to us. So why are we doubting God? We need to trust him, trust that he knows what is best for us today, we are his children, his dearest children and he wants to “save our souls” with his Word.

Do we really believe that we need to be saved, i.e. changed by him, by his words? Do we really entrust our being into the Hands of Jesus who then will give us each day a Word of Salvation, of change, of transformation, purification? Do we really see Jesus as our doctor, healer? Do we acknowledge the existence of this Grace every day? Are we following Jesus everyday?

So, from start, the process of “listening” bears in it the deep determination to put into practice what we will hear from Jesus, we are totally opened to him: “be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”

Being in front of Jesus is being in front of THE Truth, the truth on us. We expose ourselves to His Light. Wanting to listen to Jesus means that we want to see ourselves in Him: he sheds a light a day on us, reflects it to us, shows it to us. “For if any one is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who observes his natural face in a mirror” (James 1:23)

Jesus is our Divine Mirror

But we really need to accomplish all the operation of listening: i.e. listening and putting into practice.

Otherwise: “he observes himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like” (James 1:24)

Really we need to be persons who listen and put into practice the daily word of Jesus. This is what characterises us. We believe in the Incarnation, and part of the Incarnation is the incarnation of Jesus’ words in us. This incarnation really changes our life, modifies it radically. This is a fundamental criterion of discernment. One can claim that he or she has a life of prayer, but it can be deeply fake. We can’t fool God by just praying and doing various sacred acts of worship. If the Word of Jesus doesn’t become incarnate in us, our worship is superficial, not made “in Spirit and in Truth”, we just worship Jesus with our words, and body, but our heart doesn’t listen to Him, is not guided by Him and is not transformed by His Word. “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men” (Matthew 15:8-9)

Jesus is our living Law, Jesus is our living example and guide, he is our Way. Jesus came to free us from the darkness, bringing us to the Light and transforming our inner being into His Light.

“But he who looks into the perfect Law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer that forgets but a doer that acts, he shall be blessed in his doing.” (James 1:25)

Again and again: otherwise our worship is false, superficial, pharisaic. How can we continue to have a heart that doesn’t listen to Jesus, and is not moved by his words if from our heart come all sorts of thoughts and silent acts?

“If any one thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this man’s religion is vain.” (James 1:26)

One can say: but what will Jesus ask me to do? Loving Jesus’ Body:

“He who says he is in the light and hates his brother is in the darkness still. 10 He who loves his brother abides in the light, and in it there is no cause for stumbling. 11 But he who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.” (1 John 2:9-11) “he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen” (1 John 4:20)

Who are the most vulnerable persons on earth according to the biblical tradition? The persons that have nobody on earth to take care of them? The orphans and the widows. These are the most “poor” persons. Before reaching them, we need to open to the closest persons, then after, we will go deeper and deeper in Jesus’ Body until we reach the poorest of the poorest: “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” (James 1:27) “Religion” is worship, is to love God, is all the acts of worship. Giving what we have, who we are, letting the love of God flow from him, through our heart to the poor, Jesus’ body, is really one of the deepest and most powerful ways of “putting into Practise” Jesus’ Word: Lectio Divina.

Conclusion

We really need to meditate these few verses of St James’ letter, in order to deepen our understanding of Lectio Divina.

02: Therese and Teresa

You probably heard about this new book that came out on the 4th of September 2007.. letters of Mother Teresa of Calcutta (“Come be my light”). In these letters we find that she lived the last 50 years of her life with feelings of the absence of God etc.

 

 

Immediately, many people, and amongst them even big names in the Catholic Church said: this is a “dark night“, referring to the book of saint John of the Cross holding the same name (“The dark night”), alluding to its contents.

Some others, amongst them the Postulator of her cause in the Vatican Rev Brian K., say: this is a different issue, it is not a purification (night=purification) it is a participation to the Passion of the Lord. Of course, this position is much better than the first one.

But no one seems to understand all together the nonsense and the catastrophic aspect of the first opinion! In fact we can’t state that M. Teresa is a saint and say: she spent all her life being purified! It is complete nonsense! Lack of serious knowledge and amateurism!

The funny thing is that we had the same problem with saint Thérèse of Lisieux (saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus). She had 18 months of such a mysterious trial, and we had theologians who commented and wrote about it saying: this is a purification, this is the “Dark night of the spirit” as saint John of the Cross describes it. The history repeats itself for a second time, in few years!

This demonstrates, that such an elementary thing in “Spiritual Theology”, is not known by even theologians. If is shows something, it shows how urgent it is to help this Science (spiritual theology) to grow and develop, in order to let not only the people of God grow in knowledge and wisdom in order to have a stronger spiritual life, but also to help the basic theologians to know basic theology!

What is the point of knowing Bible, Dogma etc… and not knowing Spiritual life?!! In the end of the day, what is useful it’s the Science that leads you to know better God, to receive him in fullness, and grow.

I am not saying Dogma, Bible etc… are not of importance, not at all! I am just saying: when one studies such a wide topic as Theology, one has to see how the different sub-topics are organised, what are the links, what leads to what!

It has been courageous from the part of the Rev. Brian K. to publish these letters of Mother Teresa to her spiritual directors, but are we ready to read them? Are we ready to receive them as one of the most precious gifts we ever had from 100 years or so? This is the real issue. Let us work, study, and help this Science (“Spiritual Theology”) to grow amongst us. It is the most thrilling Science that can exist, and the most useful one! And now, the most neglected one! Why? No real reason!

01: Let me explain the vision

“Mysticism”, “spirituality”, “spiritual theology” are the same Science. This latter is at the service of our spiritual life and its growth.

This science is fundamental for every human being. Many sciences in life are optional, we don’t need to learn everything. This one is of a very practical use, it helps us know what God wants to achieve, the different stages of the growth and how to respond to God, in order to collaborate with the Holy Spirit, not to loose time and energy.

There are 2 goals to reach:

1- the first one is the Union with God (the middle age of our spiritual journey) which can be named also: “spiritual marriage”, or “acquisition of the Holy Spirit”; and

2- the second is the fullness of Charity.

“Spiritual theology” shows us the means to reach these goals.

“Spiritual theology” is also the name of the Faculty that develops, explains, presents, and make research in the relationship between God and the human being that let him reach the maximum of his spiritual development.

We have a small idea of this Science in the fourth part of the “Catechism of the Catholic Church” that is dedicated to spiritual life, “prayer”, and the explanation of the Prayer of the Lord.

The three other parts of the Catechism are: 1- the Creed (what do we believe in), 2- the Celebration of that Faith (the Mass, the Sacraments etc..), 3- the Commandments.

This fourth part of the Catechism (“how to pray”) is the living source of the 3 others because it allows us to connect directly with God. In fact it is the most vital and decisive teaching for our lives here on earth. Therefore we need to become experts and well formed in this matter, in this science.

In a way, we can say that this is the only mandatory science we need to learn on earth: “how to love God with all our heart and all our energy”. The rest comes after and often is “optional”.

Unfortunately, this topic/science is today still very poorly known, exposed and taught.

Therefore we need to act, to react, and do something to revive it. This is my vision. We can’t just sit down and wait until things get done. We need to do them.

We have 2000 years of Treasures very often buried under the sand, and we need to act together in order to retrieve from the sand that Wisdom, and use it.

We need to study these texts, and make them alive. They teach us how to read the Bible in a fruitful way.

Today, our generation can be considered as the foundation of the future generations. After many cultural changes in society, mainly after the second world war, the threat for us is not to be able anymore to understand the Wisdom left in our hands, the books that we have. The mentalities now are very different, the language, the philosophy etc… The books become like sealed and we can’t understand them.

Our duty is to study them, digest them, and transmit them in a “readable” way to the next generation.

This work requires a lot of work and skill. We need to constitute what can be called a “body of doctrine”, a substantial contents of teaching in “spiritual theology”.

This work is urgent. It is the actual task and it can’t be dismissed. It has to be realised before any other work, because it is the foundations on which other generations can built their life, activities, and pastoral life (spiritual life).

We need to dedicate all our energy in building this “corpus doctrinae” (“body of doctrine” in latin) of spiritual life.We need of course to do it according to the common Living Tradition of the Eastern and Western church. The Pope John Paul II said: “we need to breath with both lungs” (Western and Eastern Living Tradition of the Church).

Peter and Andrew, West and East