You may have heard “Spiritual Development Plan” or “Evangelization Plan” spoken around the parish throughout the year. You may be wondering, “what are they talking about?” We hope this post helps answer that question!
All of us are familiar with the stages of physical development: baby, toddler, early childhood, teenager, adult, etc. Each of us has some understanding of the physical and mental traits of each of those stages. Just as we are physical beings, we too are spiritual beings, endowed with a soul by our Creator. We have different stages of spiritual development. Could you name those stages? If not, that is okay; we as a Church have ignored the spiritual stages of development in our planning and teaching. However, rest assured we will be emphasizing these stages going forward in our parish.
What are the spiritual stages of development? We can look no further to our process of bringing adults into the Catholic Church, also known as RCIA. The stages are pre-evangelization, evangelization, growth, apostleship. The RCIA process is designed to help move people through those stages as they prepare to enter the Church. But what do they mean?
Pre-evangelization is a stage in which a person is outside the realm of faith. They have no real connection to God, faith or a church. They would not identify as a spiritual person or profess to any religious creed or system. They might believe in some diving being, but any type of relationship with God or Jesus would seem improbable to a person in this stage.
Evangelization is the stage where a person encounters the person of Jesus Christ. This is the natural next step. Since God is real and He is active in the world, we can have a relationship with Him. The Bible shows us this truth. The testimony of many Catholics who have gone before us show us this truth. God is alive and well and cares about us. It can occur anywhere; in a retreat setting, a church, a worship event, Mass or Adoration, reading the Bible, etc. What is common in this stage is for a person to sense and experience the presence of God in their life for the first time.
Next comes growth. As you begin your relationship with God, that relationship should grow. We look to understand how to communicate with God in prayer and Mass. We look to understand who He is through reading of the Bible. We understand how He wants us to live. We learn how to stay close to Him when many things seek to draw us away from Him. As we grow, we must come to a decision in our life, do we commit to following Jesus with our whole life? That is what He asked of His disciples multiple times in the Gospels, and He asks us that same question, will you follow me? As we grow, Jesus will ask us that question. What will our response be? Will we become His disciples? Will we drop everything for Him? If we say yes, then our lives change forever, for the good!
Last is apostleship. After we have made the choice to become His disciples then we are sent out into the world. The Gospels speak of Jesus sending out His disciples two by two. The 12 apostles were also given many missions during their time with Jesus. They were also tasked with spreading the Church once Jesus ascended to Heaven. Jesus sends us into the world to serve. We are called by Jesus to love the one’s around us like our family, friends and co-workers. Showing them love day by day is apostleship. We pray for them and invite them to a relationship with Jesus. We invite them to a church event or Mass. We become involved in their lives.
We are also called to serve the world. We can serve the poor and marginalized in our communities. We can give money to the poor in the most desperate of situations. We can serve the Church through our parish. We can mentor our youth. We can help our sick or distressed. We can serve at Mass. We can organize a church group to serve the community. Whatever it is, we do with love, not our own love, but the love of Christ, the love that He has given to us.
These are the stages of faith, of spiritual development. Our Evangelization Team will learn more about these stages of faith and come to understand our unique circumstances and challenges as St John in Goshen. The fireside chats helped immensely with this. Our Evangelization team will then prayerfully commit to developing initiatives and programs into one cohesive plan that will help us move through the stages of faith to become apostles for the Lord Jesus. Being an apostle is not meant for a certain few or holy people, apostleship is meant for all. God desires an intimate relationship with all His children. God desires love and service between all His people. We are excited for this opportunity to create the plan for the parish. Please pray for the Evangelization Team as we begin!
In Christ’s Joy