Theological Reflection: Connecting Faith and Life

Overview

Many people today are asking the “meaning-making” questions. We want our lives to have meaning. We want to know how our faith informs our work life, how our family life enhances our spirituality, and how we can feel less fragmented and more whole. These are the spiritual questions of life. They are wisdom-seeking invitations stirring within the depths of our souls. These are the hungers that theological reflection can help feed.
This book offers an understanding of theological ...

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Overview

Many people today are asking the “meaning-making” questions. We want our lives to have meaning. We want to know how our faith informs our work life, how our family life enhances our spirituality, and how we can feel less fragmented and more whole. These are the spiritual questions of life. They are wisdom-seeking invitations stirring within the depths of our souls. These are the hungers that theological reflection can help feed.
This book offers an understanding of theological reflection—a model and a method. It will not only illustrate how readers may use theological reflection in their own spiritual development but will also show how to facilitate the process with others.
—From the introduction

In Theological Reflection: Connecting Faith and Life, principles of theological reflection are presented to help the believer connect faith teaching and life. Catholic Basics: A Pastoral Ministry Series offers an in-depth yet accessible understanding of the fundamentals of the Catholic faith for adults, both those active in pastoral ministry and those preparing for ministry. The series helps readers explore the Catholic tradition and apply what they have learned to their lives and ministry situations. Includes study questions and suggestions for further reading.

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Joye Gros, OP, holds a Doctor of Ministry degree from St. Mary of the Lake University and a Master's in Religious Education from Seattle University. Her ministerial experience includes elementary education and service as director of religious education, and pastoral associate. Joye has both directed and trained directors and catechists for the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. Since 1992, she has served as an educational asssociate for Development in Ministry, Archdiocese of Chicago. She developed training programs for ministers of care, bereavement ministers, and catechists. Joye taught in the Diocese of Joliet Pastoral Leadership Program and facilitated the formation component of the Institute for Spiritual Companionship. She devotes high interest and energy to ministry formation, group facilitation, retreats, and days of reflection. Joye is a Dominican Sister of St. Catharine, Kentucky, and presently serves on her community's governing board.

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Theological Reflection

Connecting Faith and Life
By Joye Gros

Loyola Press

Copyright © 2001 Joye Gros
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780829417241

About the Series


Catholic Basics: A  Pastoral Ministry Series offers an in-depth yet accessible understanding of the fundamentals of the Catholic faith for adults, both those preparing for lay ministry and those interested in the topics for their own personal growth. The series helps readers explore the Catholic tradition and apply what they have learned to their lives and ministry situations. Each title offers a reliable introduction to a specific topic and provides a foundational understanding of the concepts.
Each book in the series presents a Catholic understanding of its topic as found in Scripture and the teachings of the Church. Each of the authors has paid special attention to the documents of the Second Vatican Council and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, so that further learning can be guided by these core resources.
Chapters conclude with study questions that may be used for small group review or for individual reflection. Additionally, suggestions for further reading offer dependable guides for extra study.
The initiative of the National Conference of Catechetical Leadership led to the development of an earlier version of this series. The indispensable contribution of the series editor, Dr. Thomas Walters, helped ensure that the concepts and ideas presented here are easily accessible to a wide audience.
Certification Standards: National Resources for Church Ministry



Each book in this theology series relates to standards for theological competency identified in the resources listed below. Three national church ministry organizations provide standards for certification programs that serve their respective ministries. The standards were developed in collaboration with the United States Catholic Conference Commission on Certification and Accreditation. The fourth resource is the latest document, developed to identify common goals of the three sets of standards.
Competency Based Certification Standards for Pastoral Ministers, Pastoral Associates and Parish Life Coordinators. Chicago: National Association for Lay Ministry, Inc. (NALM), 1994.
These standards address three roles found in pastoral ministry settings in the United States. They were the earliest to receive approval from the United States Catholic Conference Commission on Certification and Accreditation. Copies are available from the National Association for Lay Ministry, 5420 S. Cornell, Chicago, IL 60615-5604.
National Certification Standards for Professional Parish Directors of Religious Education. Washington, DC: National Conference for Catechetical Leadership, 1998.
NCCL developed standards to foster appropriate initial education and formation, as well as continuing personal and professional development, of those who serve as directors of religious education (DREs). The standards address various areas of knowledge and abilities needed in the personal, theological, and professional aspects of the ministry. Also included is a code of ethics for professional catechetical
leaders. Available from the National Conference of Catechetical Leadership, 3021 Fourth Street NE, Washington, DC 20017-1102.
NFCYM Competency-Based Standards for the Coordinator of Youth Ministry. Washington, DC:  National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry, 1996.
This document lays out the wide range of knowledge and skills that support ministry with young people, as well as the successful leadership and organization of youth ministry wherever it may be situated. The standards are available from the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry, 415 Michigan Avenue NE, Suite 40, Washington, DC 20017-1518.
Merkt, Joseph T., ed. Common Formation Goals for Ministry. A joint publication of NALM, NFCYM, and NCCL, 2000.
Rev. Joseph Merkt compared the documentation of standards cited by three national organizations serving pastoral, youth, and catechetical ministries. The resulting statement of common goals identifies common ground for those who prepare persons for ministry, as well as for the many who wear multiple hats. Copies are available from NALM, NCCL, or NFCYM.
Preface



I first recognize my brother, Jeff Gros, FSC, who got me into this project. He recommended me to Tom Walters, the series editor, and thus began this journey of articulating a sacred process. Next I thank Margaret Rose Curry, OP, who tediously and tirelessly edited every comma, phrase, and sentence structure. Jean Bohr, D Min, watched for clarity and content flow, and encouraged me each and every step along the way. Barbara Flynn, Lois McGovern, OP, and Teresa Tuite, OP, began with encouragement and support and didn’t let up until I finished. I have been blessed with cheerleaders, coaches, and confidence builders. Last, but certainly not least, I thank Tom Walters, who provided the framework and direction to keep me on track. This has, indeed, been a blessed journey. May those who read and reflect on this book be graced by the same sacred stirrings that have given birth to this endeavor. We do know the Source of life and creativity. It was a pleasure to partner in the dance of creation.
Introduction



Several years ago friends of mine gave me snorkeling equipment to take on my vacation. I hesitated, as the flippers, hoses, and face masks were cumbersome and awkward to pack. I could not imagine that anything as interesting as snorkeling would require such inconvenience. It seemed a great deal of trouble just to put my face in the water! Wouldn’t plain old goggles do?
Perhaps it was because my friends were so convincing about the fun of snorkeling or, more likely, because I did not know how to say no in the face of their generosity—whatever the reason, I packed the equipment. It sat in the hotel room for several days, however, because I just didn’t want to haul it to the beach each day. I had towels, chairs, incrementally graded sunscreen, books, hats, the ever-present water bottle, and so on.
Then one day there was an offer: A boat would take me offshore to snorkel. I would be given equipment, taught the technique, and taken into deep coastal waters which offered incredible underwater vistas. Well, I thought, if I am going to do this at all, I probably should learn how.
My friend and I climbed aboard a tour boat, and off we went into the wild blue ocean. Fitted with fins and face masks, we learned the basics of breathing in the mask. We were taught how to get in and out of the boat and told what we might see. I adjusted my equipment, descended the ladder, and positioned myself for my first look.
I was startled! I was amazed! I was in awe! It was like looking into a huge tropical fish aquarium. I was caught between wanting to surface to say, “Wow! Look at that!” and wanting to stay transfixed to the technicolor show that was taking place before my very eyes.
Needless to say, the gear got used! I was converted. I was transformed. I was a “preacher” of the “good news” of snorkeling!
Each day we would go to the beach at sunset. I could spend hours just looking at the horizon and marveling at the beauty, its constancy, and its flow. And I never forgot what I learned from snorkeling: No matter how beautiful the surface is—and it is—looking beneath it reveals a whole new world. Its beauty and depth is invisible to the eye unless you take the time, put your face in the water, and take a gander. If you do, you are gifted with incredible sight and insight!
For me, snorkeling has become an image of theological reflection—the attempt to see deeply into life experiences. Theological reflection provides the framework that helps us see the connection between the surface and the depths of life’s meanings. It encourages us to recognize the intimate connection between faith and daily life.
Many people today are asking the “meaning-making” questions. We want our lives to have meaning. We want to know how our faith informs our work life, how our family life enhances our spirituality, and how we can feel less fragmented and more whole. These are the spiritual questions of life. They are wisdom-seeking invitations stirring within the depths of our souls. These are the hungers that theological reflection can help feed.
We know the experience of fragmentation into a work life, a family life, a leisure life, and a faith life. We often feel divided by these distinctions and separations, and we long for integration. Theological reflection is a model and method that will assist us in that process of integration.
This book offers an understanding of theological reflection—a model and a method. It will not only illustrate how readers may use theological reflection in their own spiritual development but will also show how to facilitate the process with others. My hope is that as you look at the horizon of your life, you may know, too, the reality of its depths, and you will take the opportunity to look deeply. So let’s go snorkeling!

CHAPTER 1
Theological Reflection:The What and the Why

JUMP IN! THE WATER’S FINE:
A’ SNORKELING WE WILL GO!
What is theological reflection, and why would we
want to do it? It can sound so lofty, so complicated,
so ominous. It sounds like something meant
for “religious types,” not everyday people. At the same time, it is
intriguing. It has a pull, a lure. It draws us. While I was studying
the art and skill of theological reflection, my teacher and mentor,
John (Jack) Shea, would begin a class with what appeared to be a
simple question: “So, what’s happening out there?” Someone in
the class would relate something that had happened, usually in
the form of a story. From there the session would continue with
what appeared to be a normal discussion, but at the end of class
we would realize that we were in a different reflective space than
at the beginning. Through Jack’s questions and comments, and
the interaction of the group, we came into contact with some of
our beliefs, how shared experiences affected those beliefs, and
how those very beliefs shed light on the story.
I remember asking Jack, “How do you do that?” He laughed
and said, “You do it too.” As much as I wanted to believe him, I
was skeptical. Being an educator by profession, I wanted a stepby-
step approach, perhaps even a lesson plan! Instead, Jack led
our class to understand the experience and dynamics of theological
reflection before we learned the “how-to’s.”
Several years later, I ran into Jack at the University of St.
Mary of the Lake Seminary in Mundelein, Illinois. At the time
I was facilitating a small group of seminarians in the process of
theological reflection. The men had been working in parishes for
a semester of their field education and had returned to the seminary
to gather in small groups and reflect on their experiences
in light of the Christian tradition. One day Jack asked how the
group was going. I said, “It’s great. I love it. They’ve got it, but
they just don’t know it yet!” Jack, remembering my anxiety
about “getting it,” leaned his head back and laughed. We both
remembered.

Theological Reflection:
A Natural Activity
Theological reflection is a natural activity; we do it all the time.
It gives us a feeling of congruence and depth, even in the midst
of difficult situations. It deepens meaning and it happens naturally,
but if we could do it intentionally and spontaneously, it
would enrich our ministry and our lives. It is a discipline and,
like any discipline, it requires practice and attention to become a
natural part of us.
Theological reflection is a tool or means that helps us reflect
in ways that allow faith to touch our lives and our lives to touch
our faith. So often we can feel as though our lives are fragmented.
Religion belongs in church—or at least at parish functions, at
grace before and after meals, and at prayer in times of sickness or
fear. But what does religion have to do with my everyday life?
What connection does “churchy” stuff have to the problems and
joys of the home, the workplace, and the leisure space?
Theological reflection is an attempt to integrate the segments
of our lives so that we can live and breathe our beliefs.
Theological reflection is believing that our everyday living is an
important agenda for our faith and that our faith has a voice in
our everyday life. It’s an activity of integration. It’s an activity of
reciprocity. In our ancient tradition this would have been called
searching for wisdom and at the same time growing in wisdom.
In their book titled The Art of Theological Reflection, Patricia
O’Connell Killen and John de Beer define theological reflection
as:. . . the discipline of exploring individual and corporate
experience in conversation with the wisdom
of a religious heritage. The conversation is a genuine
dialogue that seeks to hear from our own
beliefs, actions, and perspectives, as well as those
of the tradition. It respects the integrity of both.
Theological reflection, therefore, may confirm,
challenge, clarify, and expand how we understand
our own experience and how we understand the
religious tradition. The outcome is new truth and
meaning for living. (p. viii)
In The Book of Sacramental Basics, Tad Guzie points out the
difference between raw experience and lived experience. All experience
is raw until it is reflected upon. Theological reflection
makes raw experience into lived experience and moves an individual
from insight to action.
So often we hear people express a desire for meaning in their
lives. At the same time they are faced with multiple demands on
their time. If we pay attention to current best-selling books, contemporary
music, and talk-show themes, we would notice again
and again the quest for depth, the hunger for spirituality. People
often see the holy as “other,” or at least “other worldly.” The
Second Vatican Council, however, and the Catechism of the
Catholic Church (CCC) re-echo our baptismal call to holiness
(CCC, #1279, 1280). We are all called to holiness, and that holiness
is not separate from our everyday lives. It is our desire and
our fear, our lure and our resistance. We long for holiness—and
we are uneasy about it. Part of the disease resides in our images
of the holy: what a holy person would look like, what it would
require of me, how others would treat me, and so on.
Perhaps the longing for holiness is the desire to recognize the
divine in everyday life, to trust in the mystery of the
Incarnation, to recognize our God as both immanent and transcendent
(see CCC, #51–53). God is within us and without, in
our midst yet beyond us. This Absolute and Infinite Being is
present to creation at all times for “in him we live and move and
have our being” (Acts 17:28). The ambivalent and embracing
nature of God both lures and cautions us. Our desire is to recognize
God, to believe more deeply that this God, who shapes
and abides in all creation, can be and is available to us (see CCC,
#1, 27, 29, 35, 44).
God is involved and interested in our lives, in our history (see
CCC, #32–35). The General Directory for Catechesis (GDC) tells
us that theological reflection is based on the belief that God acts,
always and everywhere, in human life (see GDC, #36–37). A
friend has a plaque hanging in her office that reads, “Beckoned
or not, God is here.” That is the truth we seek to uncover and
savor.
The Potential for Transformation
Often God is experienced “in our peripheral vision.” Most of us
do not have “thunderbolt” encounters with God. Theological
reflection allows us to recall and savor the fleeting glimpses of
God at work in our world and in our lives. It enables us to recognize
the graciousness of God in life and allows us to root that
belief in a felt experience. Information about or from the
Christian tradition alone does not transform human experience.
Engaging that tradition in a way that highlights the correlation
between our faith heritage and our daily life, however, releases
the potential for transformation (see GDC, #71). So as we bring
forth our experience for reflection, we are engaging in a profound
act of faith. We are trusting that the God of Israel, the Lord of
restless, lost hearts, the God who journeys with us, the saving
God of history, is with us and within us, involved in our current
history and interested in our salvation (see CCC, #54–64). When
we examine and attempt to clarify the actions and motivations of
our lives, we can expect to see not just ourselves but signs and
hints of God (see CCC, #99).
The prayer of one who engages in theological reflection is:
“Lord, that I may see.” As my family began grace before meals,
my dad would always say, “Let us remember that we are in the
holy presence of God.” The De LaSalle Christian Brothers had
taught him this—and it is the truth. We are always in God’s presence,
and sometimes we notice it. Theological reflection is the
attempt to notice that truth more often. “Lord, that I might see.”
Once you begin to notice, you will see more—and the more you
see, the more you’ll see. That is the paradox. That is the truth.
Anything can reveal the holy if we but see.
To engage in a theological reflection process is to see beneath
the external elements of our life experience to the “God-touched”
reality. It permits us, in some way, to encounter the “really real”
beneath the “merely real.” This God is not limited to one type of
reality. Rather, God, who is infused in all creation, can be
encountered in infinite ways, not merely the explicitly religious.
How often have sunsets, concerts, children playing in a sand pile,
or couples walking hand in hand been windows that give us a
glimpse of God? “Lord, that I might see.”
9
FOR REFLECTION
1. Think back to your years growing up. What did it mean “to
be holy”? Who was or could be “holy”? How did you know if you
were “holy” or “good”? What does holiness “look like” for you at
this point in your life? What created the changes?
2. Try this exercise for a month and see what happens.
In the morning pray:
Loving God, help me to see you in the people and events that
touch my life today.
In the evening, let the people and events of your day pass before
you and ask yourself:
Where did I see God today? Where did I miss seeing God
today?
6 Theological


Continues...

Excerpted from Theological Reflection by Joye Gros Copyright © 2001 by Joye Gros. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Table of Contents

About the Series vii Certification Standards: National Resources for Church Ministry viii Preface x Introduction xi

Chapter 1: Theological Reflection: The What and the Why
1
Theological Reflection: A Natural Activity 3
The Potential for Transformation 5
For Reflection 6

Chapter 2: Theological Reflection: The Mode
l 7
Experience 8
Tradition 11
Culture 12
For Reflection 14

Chapter 3: Theological Reflection: The Method
16
Attending 17
Asserting 19
Decision Making 21
For Reflection 22

Chapter 4: Theological Reflection: How to Begin 23
Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults 24
Faith-Sharing Group 27
Religious Education Class 31
For Reflection 33

Chapter 5: Theological Reflection: The Facilitato
r 35
You as the Facilitator 36
Gaining Clarity About Feelings 38
Staying with the Experience 40
Guidelines for Faith Sharing 41
Framing the Questions 43
Challenges and Gifts Within a Group 45
For Reflection 47

Chapter 6: Theological Reflection: The Discipline of Authenticit
y 48
Facilitators Serve as Formed and Informed Resources 49
Facilitators Are Deep Listeners 50
Facilitators Are Faithful to the Tradition 50
Attending to Preparation 51
For Reflection 54

Chapter 7: Theological Reflection: What’s It to Me
? 56
Reciprocity: The Nature of Ministry 59
For Reflection 61

Abbreviations 62
Bibliography 63
Recommended Resources 65
Acknowledgments 67
About the Author 68

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