Through the tender compassion of our God, the dawn from on high shall break upon us - Luke 1:78

Trang chính Tài Liệu


PROGRESSIO Nos 1 and 2 1997


What turns a group of individuals into a community
and what turns a group into a CLC group?

The following article was used as input and working material at the International Formation Encounter in Johannesburg. The participants found the material very helpful for their reflection and understanding of the CLC way of life and growth process. We, therefore, publish it here. 

• • •

The way people are introduced to CLC differs from place to place. However, the stages of developing from a group of individuals into a group with a common goal, and of a faith group into a CLC community, follows a certain dynamic which is the same everywhere. 

For those who want to guide a group, or help as coordinators it is important to have some knowledge of the phases a group has to go through in its development. Each phase has its own challenges and problems. It is, therefore, important to recognize the stage in which a group finds itself, in order to handle the situation adequately and help the group to grow.Those who feel called to be group guides are advised to find adequate formation for this important service in CLC. The following is a brief outline of the phases a group has to go through in its development to become a community at the service of others. This just gives a general idea and cannot replace proper formation for group guides. 

I. Stages of Group Development 

1 The Orientation ‑ or Pre‑confidence phase 

In this stage there is a readiness to have great confidence in the other members before even knowing them well. There are great differences regarding the background of experiences of each member and there is little common experience. The group participation might not be regular.

The facilitator is the unifying power and centre of the group. Often a member with strong leadership qualities unconsciously takes over the internal leadership of the group. Conflicts will not be allowed to be worked through.

The relationship among the group members is polite and everyone only shows his/her "good sides". Relationships are still insecure. Disappointment or tensions will be suppressed. The apparent harmony and unity of the group is enjoyed and can prevent members from taking the next step. 

2 The Crisis‑ or power struggle phase 

Now the suppressed conflicts appear. In this stage the group can break up if it does not get help . If the group avoids this painful phase it will not grow. Good group guidance will help the group to live through this phase and to understand its importance.

The actual difficulty in this stage is to bring to light and to accept the diversity of the members, their limitations , weaknesses, different attitudes and behavior. The group members may get on each others nerves. An experienced group guide can help a group to become aware of the situation and to face the challenge.

A this point there is a chance for all the group members to accept and support each other and to see the richness of their diversity. At this stage it can happen that a member leaves the group. 

3. The intimacy phase 

The members have reached the point where they have really developed into a group. They feel closely united and everybody contributes to the group. There is the danger that the group could become an end in itself, separated from the outside, enjoying a sense of well‑being with each other, refusing to continue the journey into the next stage. 

4 The differentiation phase

The friendship and closeness of the members makes this step possible. Familiarity with one another and mutual trust allows changes within the group. At this stage the different inclinations, needs, capabilities, etc., can be seen and be accepted by the members. Each member has found his/her place in the group and will be strengthened by the group in her/his individuality and specific talent. The members have been helped by the group in their human and spiritual growth. They feel free to let each other go in different directions if an individual chooses to go another way. Whether this group continues becomes a question at this stage. 

5 The final [concluding] phase 

At this point, the group faces a new beginning. Now it is faced with the task of deciding whether they want to continue their way towards a common goal, e.g. to become fully a CLC group. If the group decides to continue, it is necessary to define a new goal which is accepted by all members. 

Note: In the beginning of a group, the different phases are usually not clearly marked, they rather blend into each other. The initial insecurity yields to a first harmony and atmosphere of confidence which will slowly be disturbed again and again by symptoms of tensions and dissatisfactions bringing up conflicts. If the group faces these conflicts and continues, a new confidence and assurance will grow till it allows the individual and the whole group to discern whether a common future is possible. 

As the journey of the group continues, the phases are still lived through but are not as clearly visible as in the beginning stage. It can happen that a group falls back to an earlier stage of development if it does not accept the challenge to make the necessary step towards a new phase. Therefore, the help of a group guide is essential for the growth of a group. 

Only a group who has lived through these phases of group development is ready to become fully a CLC group, which is a community for MISSION. 

A CLC group comes fully into existence when all the group members in one way or the other understand that a community is not simply made up of common interests but of each member's giving of self to the other members. CLC forms men and women for others. 

II. The Process of Growth in CLC 

A CLC group is determined by the common desire to
- continue sharing together and deepening the experience of a life in faith;
- to open oneself to be transformed by the grace of the Lord;
- to become more acquainted with the dynamics of the Spiritual Exercises.
- to become sensitive to the call to action or service. 

Growth in the CLC way of life can be linked to the dynamics of the Spiritual Exercises: 

1. Welcoming to CLC and a period of introduction to the CLC way of life 

This first period corresponds to the Principle and Foundation of the Spiritual Exercises. It is an invitation towards greater inner freedom. It is important in this stage to be open and attentive to all aspects of life, to become more and more aware of the reality within and surrounding me with the help of the group. In order to reach this alertness and openness, the daily practice of a time of silence and meditation, especially meditating the Scripture and the daily Prayer of Awareness [Examen], is important.

It is essential for the group to share and evaluate these experiences in an atmosphere of listening to each other. The end of this stage is indicated when: 

- the individual and the group as such have gained a positive attitude towards life and creation;
- they have discovered the unique love of Jesus Christ, 'Lord and Creator of all things'
- there is an increasing desire to respond in love, and greater interior freedom can be noticed;
- social and personal limitations are discovered and difficulties in overcoming them are experienced.
- thus, all feel encouraged in hope and trust [ ... I know the one in whom I have put my trust.., 2 Tim 1.12] With the help of the group and the group guide, the members have to decide now whether they want to continue in CLC or if they want to leave because CLC is not for them. 

2. Taking roots 

The first part of this stage corresponds to the spirit of the First Week of the Spiritual Exercises. Encouraged by the positive experience of the Principal and Foundation, the members are now confronted with the reality of personal and social sin. 

At the same time they experience what it means to be redeemed by Jesus Christ. This step is crucial in the preparation for the discernment of spirits which is a central issue in Ignatian spirituality. 

Of course, individual and community growth do not run completely parallel. It is, therefore, important that the individual seeks spiritual guidance when he reaches the point where 
- the reality of social evil / structural sin in its different dimensions becomes obvious;
- the connection between social evil and one's own involvement in it and the incapacity to love and grow in freedom is understood;
- one's own fears, defense mechanisms, sinful tendencies and incapability to change oneself are discovered. 

It is a difficult time for the group but also a time of grace when the members experience this, as well as their limitations in relationships. A liberating and healing experience reconciliation can take place when the group members can verbalize and admit these limitations. 

This part of the way is marked by the presence of the crucified Lord. 

Looking at Him, individuals become aware of their own evil which leads to the rejection of life and love. They recognize their incapacity to free themselves; this arouses the desire for freedom. The person finds his/her way to the mystery of love which means personal redemption, healing and liberation. 

A deep longing to respond fully is awakened. In gratitude to the redeeming and liberating love of God, we align ourselves with the struggle against sinful structures in solidarity with the victims, the poor ... 

The second part of this stage corresponds with the Second Week of the Spiritual Exercises, beginning with the Call of the King. Out of gratitude and love, the desire for a closer relationship with Christ grows. 

The relationship among the group members becomes more intense and a new level of unity among those who have experienced themselves weak and as "loved sinners" comes to life. The group experiences itself as a community of faith on a journey where the members help each other to fulfill the will of God. The discernment of spirits becomes more and more a determining factor for the whole group. 

This new life of the group and its members is marked by:

‑ A growing intimacy with Jesus, encountering Him through daily meditation of Scripture, the daily Prayer of Awareness, the holy Eucharist and the Spiritual Exercises;
‑ directing all aspects of one's life towards Jesus. This conversion [Mk 1:15] takes hold of our whole life [ in our family, working place, life style, relationships ... ];
‑ orientating one's attitudes and life style towards the life of Jesus, especially in his relationship with the poor and marginalized;
‑ meditating on Mary's role in the life of Jesus and in the Spiritual Exercises;
‑ building a growing sense of the Church as a community of believers;
‑ experiencing the CLC charism and learning from the life of St Ignatius; knowing Ignatian Spirituality and its role in the service of the Church. 

Through an increasing identification with Jesus Christ: "no longer I, but Christ lives in me" (Gal 2:20); and through the ongoing conversion, which determines one's activities and ministries, the person's self centeredness diminishes. 

A new readiness to be sent wherever and however the Lord wants emerges. What was service before, now becomes participation in Christ's Mission. Jesus entrusted His mission to the Church and, therefore, the mission of each CLC member as well as that of the whole community is incorporated into the mission of the Church. 

Now communal discernment and decision‑making in community will be practiced. Here the identification with CLC as one World Community will take deeper roots. Formation and meetings on regional and international levels will be very fruitful at this stage. 

3. Deepening 

This stage also corresponds to the Second Week of the Spiritual Exercise, because it, too, is centred on the personal relationship with Christ. The discernment of a member's vocation for CLC will continue and eventually be concluded. In the preceding phase the members became deeply rooted in the CLC way of life. What was experienced as a personal response to the call of Christ is now confirmed. 

New contents and methods for group meetings are no longer of prime importance. What is important now is to deepen what has been practised so far particularly "discernment" in all situations of life in order to live the CLC way of life, personally and in community and in apostolic service. 

The aim is to make Christ the centre of our lives where participation in his mission is of prime importance. In the community, personal experiences are shared, deepened and challenged.

The different forms of evaluation [daily prayer of awareness, evaluation in community at regular intervals, spiritual guidance, monthly recollections, yearly retreats or longer retreats in daily life] are of great importance in helping members to become more an more available to the call of God in all aspects of life. 

Having experienced the full Spiritual Exercises, and after discernment with the help of the community, the members gain certainty about their CLC vocation; then the question of commitment will arise. 

4. Continual Growth 

This long journey provides a gradual growth enabling the member to express a final YES to CLC and its way of life. This "yes" is also a yes to further growth, because life is never static and the dynamics of the Spiritual Exercise is a leading into a continuous growth process. Identification with Jesus Christ leads deeper and deeper into the Paschal mystery, the paradox of "life through death". This corresponds to the Third and Fourth Week of the Spiritual Exercises. 

Characteristic of this maturity in CLC is a Life in the Spirit, a growing capability to find God in an things. This is the path we are led on through the Spiritual Exercises, especially through the Contemplation to Attain love. 

To find God in all things means to recognize His will, in the Church, in events, in others, and in ourselves. The growth of the individual member and the community will continue if the CLC way of life is followed faithfully and we use the instruments of growth offered to us [cf. General Principles, No. 12]. 

A vocation to CLC is an apostolic vocation. Therefore, the purpose of community is to form members in their human and spiritual growth and to enable them to realize a deeper participation in the mission of Christ in the Church and in the world.

 • • •

For prayer and sharing in the local CLC group

1. Where do I see my group in the stages of growth in the CLC way of life?
2. What is the most urgent need I have for further growth and development in CLC?

PROGRESSIO - Nos 1 and 2 1997
Publication of the World Christian Life Community

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