I had a few especially inspiring hours today at a seminar for people of the diocese representing parishes and chaplaincies of the diocese.
Sherry Weddell travels the world encouraging people to grow to full Christian maturity. Her research reveals that most Catholics, while having a basic trust in God and a spiritual curiosity, have little awareness that the more wonderful and life-giving adventure of the journey of faith is found through deeper openness seeking full discipleship.
From her experience Sherry suggests that 1% of Catholics are living an intentional and active discipleship while most remain at initial stages of faith.
In conversations with those present at today’s session I estimate that in the group gathered today the percentage is higher, but probably not as high as 50%, and the percentage will be no higher among priests.
Sherry’s research shows that many Catholics settle for active connection with the church without appreciating that the church exists to encourage people into relationship with Jesus who is God-with-us.
I first realised this some years ago when I struggled with the imperfection that is so evident in many of the structures, communications and people of the institutional church. I was fortunate at that time to be challenged by those I still consider to have a great spiritual maturity. They began to ask me more persistently about my personal relationship with Jesus. As a Catholic I was able to talk easily about the church, and even about God, but a personal relationship with Jesus seemed to be an unnecessary extra reserved to cloistered nuns and monks and certainly not possible for a diocesan priest!
Now I know that I would not have made it happily to where I am today without this growing relationship with Jesus who gives me stability, purpose and identity in the ups and downs of daily life.
It is also true that without the community of faith that is the Catholic Church I would have given up years ago.
To hear Sherry Weddell giving a similar presentation at St Mary of the Lake University, Mundelein listen (perhaps as a podcast on a car trip since these lectures are 50 minutes each) for part one at this link and part two here.