Progressio 1993 - No.2
Recently I passed through Rome on my way to Ethiopia
for some work with the Jesuit Refugee Service, and one of the great benefits
of passing through Rome was the opportunity it gave me to visit the CLC
office and put faces on the names of Roswitha, Julián, Celine and Peter (and
very nice faces they are too!). In the course of our conversation, Roswitha
asked me to write some reflections on my time in the Rome Secretariat which
I left seven years ago; so maybe an apt title for this article would be The
Seven Year Itch!
To begin with ‑ and also to end with ‑ the overriding
conviction I gained (through working with José Gsell and other members of
the Exco) was of the inestimable value, wisdom and fruitfulness of our CLC
process. My years back in Australia have deepened this conviction more and
more ‑ when CLC groups are faithful to the CLC process, they generate the
best collaborative model of Church yet to be found! I say this in all
humility because it is not our doing ‑it is sheer gift from Jesus, a gift to
be gratefully accepted, absorbed, cherished and nurtured.
I also have another strong conviction: numbers of our
groups limp along because they have not really absorbed the process ‑ they
move in and out of the process. I would venture to offer a simple criterion
as to whether or not a group is in 'process' ‑ does it evaluate at the end
of each meeting? If we don't evaluate, we run the risk of "having the
experience, but missing the meaning". Meaning is only discovered "from the
inside"; and evaluation leads us back into the experience, where meaning is
discovered from within.
If we don't evaluate, we run the risk of having the experience but
missing the meaning.
Also, of course, the attitude of evaluating ‑
discerning ‑ is one of the greatest fruits of the Spiritual Exercises, which
is why the Exercises are so important in our CLC way of life. The Spiritual
Exercises are a journey into intimacy with Jesus, and this experience of
intimacy marks our whole attitude to life. When we experience intimacy, our
attitude to life is one of openness to Mystery ‑ we are prepared to live not
on our own terms, and to discover meaning in situations not of our own
choosing or making. The opposite is also true: when our experience of
intimacy is lost or flawed, we can lose our sense of Mystery so that we
only experience life on our terms and reject what doesn't fit.... which is
another way of saying that we have the experience but miss the meaning.
One further reflection on evaluation: some people find
that the time given to evaluation at the end of the meeting is not long
enough for them to sort out their reactions. No problem! It can be most
appropriate to carry on their evaluation after the meeting and then feed it
into the next meeting. This both encourages our reflective mode of living,
and also ensures that the group is in process as the experience carries over
from one meeting to the next.
In conclusion, since I have been placing so much
emphasis on our CLC process, I'd like to offer my own version of it ‑ with
not the slightest suggestion, I hope, that this is the last word!
1. Jesus died an individual and rose a community.
Consequently, an experience of community is of the essence of our living out
the Paschal Mystery. The experience of Christian community is both
redemptive and missionary.
2. Redemptive: On the personal level, the movement (or
process) of redemption is a movement of integration ‑ a movement to selfhood
‑ whereby I come to befriend those parts of myself that I keep locked in the
shadows of my heart, and gradually bring them into the light of my life, so
that my heart, instead of remaining fragmented and divided, may become 'one'
like that of Mary, who "treasured all these things in her heart". If my
heart is divided, I will never find any treasures there, and so I will never
give myself, because I'll feel I have no treasure ‑ nothing worthwhile ‑ to
This movement towards personal integration can only take place in
3. This movement towards personal integration (or
selfhood) can only take place in community, and the CLC process within a
group is an ideal way to experience and to foster this journey to
4. The vitality of our community life goes hand in hand
with our fidelity to the CLC process of:
a time for prayer ‑ a quiet time. This creates space
for Jesus to be present, and allows us to experience, subtly but really,
the underlying bonds of our faith which link us together in Jesus.
a growing awareness of what is happening in me (not
just to me), so that I see my life more and more as a journey, rather than
a series of unconnected events.
a readiness to share different aspects of my journey
with a group of 'friends in the Lord'.
a time for members to interact, by responding to what
they have heard ‑ but always in a way that respects the other person's
a time for evaluation ‑ to share what has been 'going
on in me, or what I perceive to have been going on in the group (or both).
5. The model for our CLC community process is the life
of the Trinity:
They love unconditionally (Is 49:14‑16), with a
'non‑comparing' love ‑ the Father of the Prodigal Son loves both sons
There are no shadows in their relationships ‑ so that
they never project their own unaddressed agenda onto others (Jn 14:6‑9).
They respect the freedom of those they love ‑ they
don't 'take hostages' (Jn 8:32).
They appreciate and respect differences; for them,
intimacy is never confused with 'sameness' (Lk 9:49‑50).
When the relationship between the Trinity and their
creation became 'stuck', through human sinfulness, they didn't blame us or
demand that we change. Rather, they acted out of the principle that, when
relationships are stuck, the only person we can change is ourself... so
the Trinity changed, and God became human (Ph 2: 1 ‑11).
When redemption is experienced in a CLC group, there is a natural
movement outwards, to those who live on the edge of life.
6. Missionary: When redemption is experienced in a CLC
group, there is a natural movement outwards, to those members of society who
live on the edge of life, in the shadows, and to be with them ‑ directly or
indirectly ‑ in a way that enables them to be brought into the mainstream of
life in the wider community, The Eucharist is central in keeping this
outward movement of concern alive: As long as there is hunger in the world,
our celebration of the Eucharist is incomplete (Pedro Arrupe).
7. An infallible sign that a CLC group is faithful to
its community process is that this same process of interacting on the level
of the heart becomes more and more the normal way for CLC members to
interact with people outside the group ‑ their family, their friends and
those they work with 'in the marketplace'... which can then be fed back into
the group. In other words, this particular missionary dimension is an
essential characteristic of every authentic CLC group ‑ imbuing social
structures with the spirit of the Gospel, through the quality of our
Patrick O'Sullivan SJ
Fr Patrick O'Sullivan SJ from Sydney, Australia
was World Ecclesiastical
ViceAssistant from 1980 to 1986.
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