When we each spiritually flourish, one of the happy side effects of our deeper union with God is that parish life flourishes as well. The more we strive to be healthy, happy and holy by allowing God’s natural and supernatural blessings to flourish in and through us, the more parishes flourish. And the source of all spiritual flourishing comes from a healthy, happy and holy interior life with God.
The interior life refers to what occurs within our own mind, heart, will, imagination and memory. When we have a deep interior life of friendship with God by opening our mind, heart, will, imagination and memory to him, we enjoy interior (spiritual) human flourishing. For example, the supernatural virtues and gifts of the Holy Spirit—which are particular types of graces—enlighten our mind, increase good desires, and motivate our heart and will to make good choices.
These graces dispose and empower us so God’s own life and love are active in and through us. Grace helps us seek what is objectively true, good and beautiful so we can properly order our whole being to what is good for God, others and ourselves. Such right ordering of our interior life produces healthy, happy and holy life-giving relationships with God and others and flourishing parish life.
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), when we are interiorly rightly ordered to what is objectively good, true and beautiful, we are blessed with the fruits of the Holy Spirit: charity (love), joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control and chastity (CCC 1832). For, as Jesus himself said, “Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit” (Jn 15:5). The more we deepen our relationship with him, the more attentive we are to the graces he is giving us each day; the more we seek to live intentionally in relationship with him, the more fruitful we will be as his missionary disciples.
Again, this has an effect beyond ourselves. Our diocesan Set Ablaze initiative is intended to educate parishioners on the current spiritual reality of parishes throughout the diocese and encourage a deepening focus on our interior lives, knowing that as a result parish life will be invigorated as we each respond daily to the grace of God. This is not a work of our own accomplishing, as Jesus also says in the verse quoted above, “Without me you can do nothing.”
In both our personal relationships with God and in the communal lives of our parishes, spiritual flourishing comes as the result of our own cooperation with the abundant graces God pours out on us. He first gives us each the grace to follow him more closely, and then as we are aware of and respond to that grace, we become holier…we flourish.
And because we are joined to one another in the Body of Christ, his Church, as we each flourish, so too does the rest of the Church, including our parishes. As Christians, none of us are an island unto ourselves; every act of love or of sin we each do or commit impacts not only us and our relationship with God, but also impacts every other Christian. As we each flourish, so does the entire Church, including our own parishes.
It is my hope and prayer, therefore, that the active engagement of people in our diocese will allow for the Holy Spirit to work in powerful ways as we strive individually and in our parishes for Lifelong Catholic Missionary Discipleship Through God’s Love. Come Holy Spirit, renew and invigorate each of us spiritually so your holy will can be accomplished through healthy, happy and holy parishioners, consecrated religious, clergy and parishes in our beloved diocese!