Usually, the idea of an ecclesial renewal begins with any number of pastoral activities. Our service in Movement for a Better World, has contributed, in the past, to the renewal of the Church and has fostered projects for a more just and fraternal-sororal society. In the mid-eighties, last century, the Promoting Group, made an option to design projects to renew the pastoral in a global and integral manner, first of the parish, then religious life, and later youth and family. Later, the dioceses as a whole were included among the renewal projects.
Change and adaptations began from methods and contents of evangelization as well as with Christian education or catechesis. Changes in liturgy, the use of native tongues for celebrations, and some of the rites and symbols change, and there is a greater emphasis on participation.
Maybe some people thought that renewal of the church and society entailed only that: a well-designed project. Pretty soon, we realized that the institutional and functional change in itself was not enough; these changes were insufficient and many times superficial. Any change, in the church and in society, sooner or later, needs to face the need for a renewal of the motivations that inspire the new options. Without alive and explicit, deep rooted intentions, no human group, institution or society can resist for a long time and much less operate a true renewal. Intentions respond to the fundamental “whys” of any options, of businesses, of the requirements or even the reason to exist of any institution.
For the church, intentions and motivations are essential; they constitute her seal of identity. The “whys” of its organization and action, are not explained particularly by human sciences or historical rationality; it has Jesus and his gospel as a dominant and indispensable global motivation. It has the motivation of the Spirit. Therefore, to speak of intentions, in Christianity, is to speak of spirituality – a particular spirituality. The institutional and functional renewal of the church requires a renewal of its spirituality. Spirituality is the motivation that impregnates life commitments, it’s the motivation that inspires commitment, and it is the motivation of the Spirit.
Spirituality is not just another science or praxis in the church. It is the “juice” or sap of pastoral life, of theology and of community life, no matter what “model” it wishes to follow. The promoters of renewal have been mostly centered in methods, organizations, meetings, rather than on cultivating this “spiritual sap”.
In the dynamics of presentation of the projects I truly believe that something was left on the wayside, and that is Spirituality as the source from which the projects should sprout and not necessarily their acceptance or efficacy. There is another important point which is that the spirituality underlying the projects which continues to be practiced is a “traditional” spirituality which is related to a different vision of faith and mission, which clashes with the new ecclesial experiences being promoted. In these conditions spirituality was not a motivating factor, and in fact it turned irrelevant, in which case, many of the projects were abandoned. A spirituality that does not nurture human experience is lacking in meaning; a spirituality alien to the model presented leads to crisis. A curious fact is that after many years of using the methods and the projects, dioceses and parishes are now approaching the need of a new voice to proclaim Christian faith (a new evangelization).
We need to bear in mind that what constitutes the spirituality of a person, a community or a people, is the deepest aspect of the self; their intentions, their deep motivations, their ideal; the utopia, the passion, the mysticism through which it lives and struggles and spreads to others. It’s like the fountain that sprinkles all actions, relationships, encounters and celebrations of personal and Community life.
Every person needs to face the mystery of her own existence. She needs to decide, unmistakably, for values that vertebrate her life. Somehow the person needs to choose a point on which to build and articulate the composition of her conscience, her position and approach to reality within history. It is the fundamental option and, what is genuinely “religious” is that human deepness, before any dogma, before any rite, before any confession of faith to any particular denomination or religion. Because, in that fundamental option the person defines what values are at the core of his life, which is the Absolute, which is his or her God, or her god. The great master, Origen, said that “God is that which you place over all else”.
In this sense, spirituality is what precedes and accompanies the person and the group in their life and actions; these are not specific or occasional practices; spirituality underlies and sustains everything and every action; actions will need special moments and dedication. In this sense spirituality, sustains and nurtures, pastoral actions.
Without any doubt, the experience of the pastoral projects promoted by our Group, have contributed to the need to revise and update the Exercises as the main and principal expression, of our charisma. The Exercises are a faith experience, a shared encounter in the discipleship with Jesus, in which animated by the Spirit of Jesus we discern the Signs of the Times. The Exercises are the source of our spirituality, and therefore they have centered attention on the spirituality more than on actions. We are constituted for a Service dedicated to Spiritual Animation. Our service wishes to promote and foster a deep human transformation of the church and society.