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Finding God in community

James O'Brien  |  30 October 2018

CLC is a lay community and public world association of women and men shaped by the spirituality of St Ignatius of Loyola. It is a way of Christian life for people drawn to attend to the presence of God in their lives.

Until two years ago I had lived all my life in close quarters with family within the Greater Sydney area bound by the Blue Mountains and Bondi. When for several months I experienced a deep and returning desire to move to Melbourne, I discerned this as a divine invitation. I arrived in July 2016, turned 29, and began a Masters of Teaching at ACU.

I experienced a newfound freedom. I was blessed with my friends. But there were challenges, and I felt adrift. Thankfully, soon after arriving I was twice invited to go to a Christian Life Community (CLC) group for young-er people. On the second invitation I responded with a tentative yes – and one Wednesday evening in the Spring I arrived for a 7pm start.

WARM WELCOME

I discovered a group of some seven people, each from varied backgrounds and different stages of life. I noticed a familiarity with one another, and a warm welcome for me the newcomer.

Soon I was introduced to a way of reflection and sharing which would make a lasting impression on me.

We begin by ‘checking in’ with how we come. We pray with Scripture and silence. We speak on how the prayer resonates with how we are each travelling personally. We listen attentively over two rounds of sharing. At the end of the meeting there is a ‘check out’ where again we name how we are.

In my first semester I studied for five Masters level subjects. I was flat-out, stressed, and fatigued. After a couple of fortnightly Wednesdays, CLC became a non-negotiable in my calendar. Each gathering was a safe resting place for my spirit.

I remember one night I turned up discouraged and tempted to despair. At the time I didn’t realise I was experiencing what St Ignatius of Loyola called ‘desolation’ (the felt absence of God). During the meeting this began to lift. I then noticed myself feeling renewed in the following days. In time I saw desolation as part of my journey to an Easter faith.

PATTERN OF SHARING

Another evening we were reflecting on Pope Francis’ ecological encyclical Laudato Si’. Members spoke with an attentiveness to the land we live on and reflections on how we respond to people experiencing homelessness. The pattern of our sharing reminded me of the Pope’s line quoting Latin American theologian Leonardo Boff on hearing ‘the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor’. I found it incredible that within one meeting we heard those cries together.

Now I am coming up on two years with my CLC group. We have supported each other in tremendous loss and abundance. We have reflected on how we live our personal call. We have welcomed two newborns, and one has been to a meeting. We have participated in events with the wider Victorian, Australian, and global dimensions of our Christian Life Community. We are also prayerfully considering our response to Plenary Council 2020.

BELONGING TO A COMMUNITY

As I experience work beyond university, I take heart that I can continue to gather with my CLC group each fortnight. I am grateful to have a discerning community where I am held, lifted up, and reminded that I am both loved and called. Ultimately, I belong to a community alive to the call of Christ, generously responding in the particular situations of our personal lives, and coming together for inspiration and renewal.

For more, visit http://www.clcaustralia.org.au

 

The CLC meeting structure

The following is a general outline of a typical CLC meeting process.

Check in: In a period of silent reflection, members may share briefly an image, a word or a phrase describing how each comes to the meeting.

Prayer: Scripture/reading, extended silence, perhaps some music. Often has a theme.

Sharing on the prayer and/or review of life since last meeting: In a pattern of listening and discerning, each person present speaks without being interrupted.

Exchange: A second round where each is invited to respond to what someone has shared, further reflect on the theme of the meeting, or seek feedback from the community.

News from wider CLC: community business.

Evaluation or check out: Noticing how movements have shifted during the meeting.

Final prayer: Sent out with a prayer such as the Glory Be, Our Father, or Hail Mary.

 

Topic tags: ourrelationshipwithgod, thecatholictradition, mensspirituality, womensspirituality

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