B. Setting out in response to the call
10. Grace and sin
God's call, his free gift, does not fall on neutral ground; it is addressed to individuals, each with a particular story of grace and of sin. We all know the power of grace, which gives us the strength and life to cooperate joyfully in God's plan; we also experience the inner conflict which affects the process of growth. As St Paul said, "I fail to carry out the things I want to do, and I find myself doing the very things I hate... every single time I want to do good it is something evil that comes to hand."(26) The Lord's reassuring words to Paul are addressed to each one of us, in our frailty: "My grace is enough for you; my power is at its best in weakness."(27)
Men and women, "in the depths of their beings, rise above the whole universe."(28) In our three dimensions - physical, psychological and spiritual - we are drawn to both natural and spiritual values; but the attraction to spiritual values is dulled by social conditioning and by our own limitations.
We must therefore be aware of the subconscious dimension within each of us, so that we may acquire a deeper knowledge of ourselves, understand what motivates our actions, and respond freely to God's call.
Self-knowledge - the awareness of our potential and of our limitations - helps us to channel all our energies constructively towards the attainment of the ideals of our vocation.(29)
12. Full maturity
There is a dynamic and reciprocal relationship between human maturity and religious maturity: the more we free ourselves from psychological difficulties, the more able we become to reach correct and appropriate personal decisions and to take responsibility for them. The more authentically we live the values of our vocation, the more fully we will live for transcendent values and the more we will feel fulfilled as human beings.
Formation must therefore help individuals to attain vocational maturity - in other words, to engage in a continual process of conversion in line with authentic ideals regarding community life and service, ideals which can support them, step by step, along the path of gradual spiritual transformation.(30)
In addition, formation must contribute to psychological maturity, through which individuals come to know themselves and discover their particular ways of living out the ideals they have chosen, without distortions, despite possible limitations and resistance.
13. Conversion and personal growth
Formation is a lifelong process which involves individuals at every level and stimulates their conversion; in other words, it is a radical re-orientation and a progressive transformation of their selves and of their relationships with others and with God.
Growth to maturity takes place under the guidance of the Spirit, who conforms us ever more closely to the crucified and risen Christ, uniting us gradually with the Father, making us living stones in the construction of the temple of God (31).
Psychological growth also frees us to hear God's call and to respond to it more willingly. In this sense, conversion is also a journey towards the fullness of Christian freedom.
Conversion at the intellectual level - in the form of new light, or revelation of gospel values, and the ability to internalise them and recognise them in life - can also lead us to deeper self-knowledge and a better understanding of our own motivations, and vice versa.
At the moral level, integrating gospel values into life produces deep-rooted beliefs which promote the development of a strong identity and a mature personality.
At the emotional level, we become more capable of entering into relationships with others in appropriate ways. Mature relationships are never possessive; they give space to the other; they are committed and free, even to the point of giving one's self.
At the social level, we recognise our responsibility for the construction of society and we commit ourselves to cooperate with others for the common good.
Carmelites must be helped to enter into this process of conversion, keeping in mind that time-frames are different for the different dimensions described above and that these dimensions interact differently in each individual. Full religious transformation should normally include all these dimensions; however, these must not be seen as necessary prerequisites, as they can also be the fruit of the journey of transformation.
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26 Rom 7:14-25; cf. Gal 5:13-14.
27 2 Cor 12:9.
28 GS, 14.
29 Cf. St. Teresa of Jesus, Life 13, 15; Foundations 5,16; The Way of Perfection 39, 5; The Interior Castle 1.2, 8.
30 Cf. Constitutions, 118.
31 Cf. 1 Pt 2:5.