March 2007 - Volume 11, Issue 8

Spiritual Growth

By Rev. Mark Connolly

Photo of purple flowers poking through the snowI would like to share a few thoughts with you on the subject of Spiritual Growth, no matter what your vocation might be, married, single, priesthood.

First, if you don’t grow a little bit each day, you die a little bit each day. You cannot, if you want to grow have your mind in a freeze frame slot, always holding onto the past and then expect to grow. Another thought about vocations, your vocation and mine - there is no such thing as one vocation being easier than the other. There is no such thing as an easy vocation. Life is hard for most people and how you face life oftentimes through your vocation is going to determine, in part, your degree of growth and happiness.

If our aim in life is to have spiritual growth in our vocation then you have to have a kind of variety that will foster spiritual growth. Your actions on behalf of others must have a spiritual significance. That is why when you see these people go to nursing homes, just to be with and help the elderly, they are spiritually growing by the acts of charity and kindness they perform. Christ has given us a directive when he said, “wherever two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”

Making a retreat, a mission, a day of recollection, these are tried and true methods of spiritual growth. There are a variety of ways to spiritualize your actions and each one must develop them. John Milton, the famous English poet once wrote, “they also serve who only stand and wait”. Spiritualizing every action, offering it up to God, no matter whether you are doing housework or working in an office, the variety is endless. The tragedy is when we don’t see the connection between the work we do for others every day and the offering of that work in a spiritual fashion back to God.

Next in the quest for spiritual growth is that which is called the quality of appreciation. If you don’t appreciate your vocation to marriage or to the priesthood or the single life, then spiritual growth can never be yours. Appreciation in a marriage means that you never take the other for granted. Appreciation in a marriage means that you are responsible for their spiritual growth. Whether you are in the vocation to the priesthood or marriage or single life, the effects of being appreciated are the same. Feeling appreciated makes you feel good, feeling unappreciated makes us feel angry or resentful.

Feeling appreciated makes us feel that there is something in this vocation that encourages one to go on, to sacrifice. Feeling unappreciated makes one work in his vocation that much harder. The worst thing you can do in any relationship is to take the other for granted. When that happens, growing spiritually together becomes an impossibility.

The next quality for spiritual growth is what is called clinically, self actualization. Each one in his vocation has to grow. God has given to each person, five talents, two talents or one talent that must be developed in a vocation so that the person grows by using those talents. Then that the person gives honor and glory to God by using those talents well.

Photo of a single tree in a meadowHow does an individual get a type of personal fulfillment in a marriage or a vocation to the priesthood or single life without sounding selfish and self centered to those nearby? There is no question about the financial aspects of a family, but especially today where women are now such a considerable factor in the work force. How does she go out each day, expend energy in her job, get appreciation at the office, have a certain better feeling about her success in the office and then come home, exhausted to a husband who is exhausted and then claim they can develop a relationship stronger than a redwood tree? Self actualization is that which enables each one to develop and grow spiritually. Even at the office one can extend a hand to the other in an act of kindness. When you see men and women who are so devoted to Covenant House and other similar project, you are meeting men and women who are growing in their lives, jobs and careers, but also developing the time and the factors that help them grow spiritually.