Hour One: Theological Reflection
Hour Two: Discussion of Sacred Fire: A Vision for A Deeper Human and Christian Maturity, by Ronald Rolheiser
Homework: Chapters 1 & 2 AND watch the video above.
Special Guest: The Rev. Dr. Dave Scheider
I’m looking forward to our next 3-session module on the Spiritual Journey. You should be receiving a copy of the book in the next couple of days. I was going to post a PDF of the first and second chapters, but upon further reflection I thought reading more of this book would be a good idea. So, watch your mailboxes in the next few days for the book!
The Book: Sacred Fire: A vision for a deeper human and Christian maturity. On page 3 of the book Rolheiser says:
“The human soul is like a fine wine that needs to ferment in various barrels as it ages and mellows. The wisdom for this is written everywhere in nature, in scripture, in spiritual traditions, and in what is best in human science. And that wisdom is generally learned in the crucible of struggle. Growing up and maturing is precisely a process of fermentation. It does not happen easily, without effort, and without breakdown. But it happens almost despite us, because such is the effect of a conspiracy between God and nature to mellow the soul.” (p. 3-4)
This module is about this fermenting, this maturing process. Why should we look at this, when each of us is a unique human being with a unique relationship to God? The short answer is that you are priests and deacons, and so, you are spiritual guides for your communities. Looking at the spiritual journey from 10,000 feet up is like looking down at the whole journey – it helps you know where you are going – where we are all going. The journey is for the fermenting or maturing process.
Rolheiser takes a dual-pronged approach to this process. He looks at the arc of human development, and then overlays the process of a maturing Christian discipleship next to it.
There are many ways to outline the journey or create a framework. You are probably already familiar with some – such as Fowler’s stages of faith. Rolheiser divides the journey simply into three parts (which he loosely bases on John of the Cross’s teaching): Essential Discipleship; Mature Discipleship; and Radical Discipleship. We will divide our discussions this way: week 1 on essential discipleship; Week 2 on mature discipleship; and Week 3 on radical discipleship.
There is something important to keep in mind when we talk about this topic for the next few sessions: We are going to be talking about patterns of fermentation, of growth, of maturation. Even though they have been noticed by theologians, philosophers, and mystics over the centuries, they are still just patterns. This means they are not necessarily universally experienced, nor that assumptions and advice based on them should be applied to everyone equally.
While we will look at a classic pattern, we will also be reading about and discussing how different people might experience this pattern in some ways and not in others. For example – this pattern might seem most typical for people who are part of a dominant race, class, gender, and for whom societal systems are tailored. The more marginalized someone feels, the more likely they are to experience a variation in this pattern.
So, I think it is important to both know about the classic pattern, and to know how it doesn’t apply equally to everyone.
After this module, the rest of our course will be deepening our experience with several types of spiritual practices – practices based on scripture, prayer and discernment. While Rolheiser does says that human development seems to just happen despite any effort on our part, that is not necessarily the case for spiritual development. Spiritual practices are how we partner with Jesus, with the Holy Spirit in that process of fermentation, of maturation. Spiritual practices can help propel us along the journey – however that journey looks for our human life. And you, as spiritual guides for your communities, can help accompany people – all sorts of people – on their journeys, helping them grow and mature and ferment.
See you next time!