A Journey into Wholeness in Christ

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 give. 

This movement towards personal integration can only take place in community.

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 wholeness. 

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 freedom.

  • 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 totally.

  • 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 presence.

Patrick O'Sullivan SJ
Fr Patrick O'Sullivan SJ from Sydney, Australia
was World Ecclesiastical ViceAssistant from 1980 to 1986

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