March 12, 2024

From The Rector: The Forgotten Path of Spiritual Mastery

Dear parishioners and friends of Saint James,

Can you picture the following scenario? Two ladies are on their way back from some serious shopping. One is trying to call a mutual friend of theirs. She says, “I’m calling Janet and she won’t pick up!” The other says, “Look at what time it is. It’s Lent and she’s probably in church at a class. Don’t you know she’s training to be a Spiritual Master?” Or, “Why are we waiting for Bob? You know he isn’t coming. He’s a lector at the Mass at 5:30 and will be deep in prayer this afternoon. He’s changed a lot since he started that Catholic Spiritual Mastery course.”

Last Sunday, we had the lecture on The Forgotten Path of Spiritual Mastery. I was surprised that so many people attended and even more surprised that so many made it to the end! It is a huge topic, probably at least a semester worth of classes. We must have been there a least an hour and a half and I barely scratched the surface. The basic idea is that in the same way we expect children to mature into adults and master life skills, Christians are expected to become mature in their faith.

Although I don’t have the statistics, I’m certain that the ratio of mature Christians, masters, usually referred to these days as ‘saints’, to the number of professed Christians was much higher in earlier days. Much of Saint Paul’s anxiety and stress came about because of his desire that every Christian become a ‘holy one’. In the beginning of his Letter to the Romans, he writes, “To all God’s beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints (hagiois-holy ones). “All God’s beloved in Rome” can’t be a select, small number of people.

Jeremiah prophesied that the Lord would make a new, interior Covenant with his people. The Law would be within them and written on their hearts. Jesus tells us that a seed doesn’t produce more fruit unless it ‘dies’, stops being a seed and reaches its potential. That seed ‘dying’ and maturing to bear fruit is a process. Farmers are skilled at producing harvests and spiritual leaders are supposed to be skilled at producing Christians that are spiritually fruitful.

In many places it does appear that the Church is dying, at least limping along. Driving on my way to celebrate a Black History Month Mass with this very thought in mind, the verse came to me, “Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping” referring to the synagogue official’s daughter who was thought to be dead. Jesus said to her, “Talitha koum,” which means, “Little girl, get up!”

In his song, “City of God”, David Schutte wrote, “Awake from your slumber, Arise from your sleep. A new day is dawning, For all those who weep . . .” The Church isn’t dead but asleep, even if in some places, fast asleep. When each Christian comes to terms with the fact that we are on the Way of Perfection as disciples of Jesus, that we are called to Spiritual Mastery, then those trainers and teachers will arise and along with it the Body of Christ which is the Church.

The Church is not dead. She is just sleeping.

Ekkelsia koum! (Church, I say to you, rise!),

Fr. Bryan Patterson