Nos 1 and 2 1997
THE STAGES OF
GROWTH IN CLC
What turns a
group of individuals into a community
and what turns a group into a CLC group?
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
- to open oneself to be transformed by the grace of the Lord;
- to become more acquainted with the dynamics of the Spiritual
- 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
1. Welcoming to
CLC and a period of introduction to the CLC way of life
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
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.
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
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.
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
‑ 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
‑ meditating on Mary's role in the life of Jesus and in the
‑ building a growing sense of the Church as a community of
‑ experiencing the CLC charism and learning from the life of St
Ignatius; knowing Ignatian Spirituality and its role in the service
of the Church.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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