The mission of the School of Mary is to teach Spiritual Life to adults giving them the minimum necessary knowledge in order to have a personal spiritual life and allow our personal relationship with the Lord to grow and reach its fullness.
Teaching plays a very important part in allowing a healthy spiritual life to initiate and empower every person. Without that teaching, one remains ignorant of many vital and practical elements of our faith and therefore, unconsciously, is subject to random results in what one is doing in order to get closer to God. The reception of Grace, even with a sacramental life, can remain very limited, or even be obstructed.
Ignorance is sadly a key factor in this. Why? Because the person is not yet in control of his or her own personal spiritual life. Things are done randomly, just as they come, in an amateurish way. The consequences of this is an “under-life”, a limited life, an under-developed life. Even if the person has some success in their family life or work, deep inside the core is lacking. His or her Christian life cannot blossom with only the commitment of an hour every week at Mass.
Without teaching, therefore, there is no awareness. Without teaching one cannot properly handle one’s spiritual responsibilities. However, we are talking here about a teaching that has practical implications, not just mere theory. The practical teaching shows us how to do something, which if we put it into practice will help us receive new graces. Consequently, our spiritual life blossoms like a flower in Spring. On the other hand, if we do not receive practical teaching, we will not know what God wants us to realise in our life: the gifts He wants to give us because we have not learned how to receive his grace in a fruitful way. Practical knowledge is vital because it reveals our identity and shows us what we are to do. It is of the utmost importance to know how to react when God moves us. He needs our cooperation. Amazingly, He will not force Himself on us and we need to have this awareness of how to receive his grace.
Teaching Dogma, Liturgy and Sacraments, teaching Moral Theology is good, but it will never work without a proper spiritual life, and without a practical teaching that facilitates it. The Catechism tells us this. Pope Benedict XVI tells us this in his first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est (God is Love). This is not new!
‘Great is the mystery of the faith!’. The Church professes this mystery in the Apostles’ Creed (Part One) and celebrates it in the sacramental liturgy (Part Two), so that the life of the faithful may be conformed to Christ in the Holy Spirit to the glory of God the Father (Part Three). This mystery, then, requires that the faithful believe in it, that they celebrate it, and that they live from it in a vital and personal relationship with the living and true God. This relationship is prayer. (CCC 2558)
But receiving a new Teaching, new to you, if not new in itself, pushes you out of your actual boundaries, out of your comfort zone. Who likes this? Very few people like the experience unless it is for a good reason. Even so, one can find it too assertive. One was living in a blissful state of ignorance but now the sudden arrival of this teaching on spiritual life upsets it! However, one has the opportunity now to control one’s spiritual life; one can feel more responsibility for one’s own life and the future, the spiritual future. It is also true, that the more you know, the more you receive, the more God will ask you later to give an account of concerning what you have received. However, God is just. He will not ask you to give what you do not have, or work on talents or gifts that you do not have or of what you are not aware. But now that you start to discover the richness of the Gift of God, you can explore at the same time all that is needed to correspond to His Gift and receive the Graces God wants to give you – ironically, now you have more work to do. You need to move on from the lethargic state in which you were, to a more pro-active state. Staying still now will mean one is rooted in Jesus through silent prayer. Wouldn’t we want to remain rooted in Jesus in everything? To our advantage, what is happening is that a deep spiritual life is being offered to allow us to remain centred, grounded and rooted in God. The result is a great sense of peace and contentment. Curiously, the majority of human beings do not find it, or have it, so they remain agitated, wandering here and there without a goal. Isn’t it preferable to maintain a core of stillness, of quiet, in your busy life?
This requires effort and is indeed demanding. This is why, many years ago toward the end of one of my courses, while teaching, a gentleman, attending the same First Level Course of Initiation into Spiritual Life (also called, “Solid Foundations”) said to me in front of everybody: “Jean, why are you teaching us all this? Why are you giving us all this information about Spiritual Life?”
I thought he knew! And he did know! But his question in fact was saying between the lines: our lives will now have to bear more responsibility. Do we like this? Oh, that state of blissful ignorance, how we miss it! Yes, if God created us without our consent, He will not save us without our consent! (pro-active consent, active collaboration). As a consequence of this Teaching, things are becoming more complex, we ourselves need to move and do things! We need to learn more, practise, read!!
The other day, while teaching the Solid Foundations a lady said to me: “what happens if people don’t know all these things? Can they still receive the Graces God wants to give them? What will happen to them?”
Hmm… I replied: “The aim of this Course is to take the student from a ‘random’ life in the Grace of God to a ‘responsible’ life”. “Random” to “Responsible”! St. Paul says in his letter to the Romans:
“But how are men to call upon Him in whom they have not believed?
And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?
And how are they to hear without a preacher?” (Romans 10:14)
How will they know if they have not heard the Good News? This is why the Lord commands us to Evangelise, to Preach, to Teach, to “Form Disciples” for Him. It is not a choice; it is an order: go and preach the Good News! Spiritual Life is vital. Feeding your children is vital, it is not optional.
One of the greatest truths taught to us by Pope St. John Paul II is that every baptised person, by virtue of his or her Baptism, is a missionary. You can see this in his Encyclical letter Redemptoris Missio. It is by virtue of Baptism that we receive the mandatum (order), the “sending in mission”. Let us remember as well that the Priest at the end of the Mass when he says, “Go in peace”, is not saying: “…that’s it, the Mass is ended, go back to your normal life”. On the contrary, he is saying: “Now that you have received Christ in your heart, in your mind, in your will, in your emotions and in your imagination, I (as your Parish Priest, and in His name) am reminding you that now you have a Mission from Christ – to transmit Him to others, starting with your family, your neighbours and your workplace!
In sum, people cannot know what God wants to give them on a daily basis – “Give us our daily Bread” – if nobody explains it to them. There is a “Body of Teaching” dedicated to that: the science of knowing what God wants to give us (God’s Gift) and how we can receive it on a daily basis. If nobody specialises in this Science, if nobody teaches this, we end up by having empty teaching, inedible bread, and our life becomes stagnant. If nobody teaches me, how will I know? If I do not know, I will not be able to do anything. I might receive a strong grace from time to time, like once a year during a Retreat, but nothing else! Instead of receiving “grace upon grace” (John 1), discovering the richness of the Gift of God, diving into its immensity, discovering the Love of Jesus and how it fills all dimensions of life, I will not be able to know Jesus, to fall in love with Him, to receive his “Daily Bread”. I will be an “under-developed Christian…. In all honesty, would anyone consciously make a choice like this?