To Commit Or Not To Commit – That Is The Question

April 27, 2020
Growing our spirituality
June 25, 2020

To Commit Or Not To Commit – That Is The Question

This year CLC members will gather again for a General Assembly and with it will come the opportunity to make a permanent commitment. Also between now and then, questions will arise again: why the need to commit? surely the fact that I am in CLC is commitment enough?

CLC France expresses that need in this way:

 Public and Explicit Commitment: A good number of CLC members could feel “committed’ without having expressed it publicly. In many ways, the services that they accept and their availability can seem sufficient to show it: responsibility for a group, animation of a session, a position in the Church, in associations etc. In other words, companionship lived in actions without mincing any words. Nonetheless, it appears necessary to take into account the “person” in his/her globality. It is words and actions – both the words which describe and define and the actions which authenticate. “To be committed” is inseparable from giving one’s word and ratifying it. We give meaning to our words by our actions.

A personal act, the formal commitment to the service of God adds nothing to our baptism and confirmation; it simply manifests our agreement, to better live the commitments of this baptism, the specific manner of CLC. It is neither a vow, nor a promise. It essentially deals with fidelity to the Christian life as such with the sole concern for greater perfection. This personal act is made in a specific community.

In January 2018, at the National Gathering in Adelaide, I stood before a ‘specific community’ and joyously made a formal and permanent commitment, a decision not taken lightly. The months prior to this were a time of discernment, and an opportunity to reflect on how my CLC journey led me to that Saturday evening in Adelaide and my personal statement on commitment:

In the preparation for the first Colloquy on Commitment the scripture text for prayer, reflection and discernment is John 1:35-39, one of my favourites, with it’s question – “what are you looking for?” I have always pondered the meaning of my life: my purpose; why am I here? A lot of that pondering took place during GP appointments. My late and much loved GP was David O’Sullivan, Patrick’s cousin, and a CLC man to his core. I always felt that when I saw David I received spiritual healing as well as physical healing. Through our many discussions, he knew that I was looking for a spiritual home.  Then he called me one fateful night to invite me to a CLC information day. I had never heard of CLC until then but I was favourably impressed with what I saw and heard, and the people I met. A subsequent invitation, another day attended, and two weeks later, I joined the Jindalee, now Our Lady of the Way group, with the redoubtable John Drury sj as our guide. That was 23 years ago and they have been the best 23 years, spent with a group who quickly became my best friends.  We have shared our deepest desires and there is nothing we cannot share with each other. We have laughed and loved together, and lately we have mourned together when two of our beloved members returned home to God.

I had a gentle initiation and slowly became used to terms such as the Examen, discernment, contemplation and the Spiritual Exercises. At first the thought of sharing my deepest desires, was rather daunting. My head was ruling me, but I soon realised that, as a classic introvert, I had come home. I had found my spiritual home and my heart and soul engaged. My sense of belonging and home coming deepened and then I took part in a national discernment exercise, that many of you will remember. During that discernment I explored my questions about my life and its meaning, my purpose, my reason for being here. I looked back on my life, and the journey that led me to CLC and I finally found my purpose, my reason for being here: to make a difference, big or small, to all lives that touch mine; to live a life of service; and to live that life with passion and gratitude. 

And then I embarked on the transformational experience of the Spiritual Exercises, two terms as chair of QLD EXCO, and then my first term on NEXCO. And it was during that time on NEXCO that we first began the discussion about commitment. My immediate thought was a definitive ‘yes’, this is something I am ready for, but the timing wasn’t quite right. The desire remained however, and my discernment began. Then two years ago, and back on NEXCO, I knew the time was right and I began the colloquys with Helen and my beautiful friend, Kerry Cirillo. And so began a wonderful time of grace, love, friendship, and a depth of sharing that enriched us all. We spent some special and enlightening time on personal vocation. It was during my first term on NEXCO that Rachel McLoughlin recommended that I read Herbert Alphonso’s book My Personal Vocation. I did, and it had a profound impact on me right from the beginning with his  paragraph that describes his own experience:

What I have characterised as the single greatest grace of my life is that in that 1965 retreat I discerned my truest and deepest “self,” the unrepeatable uniqueness God has given to me in “calling me by name.” And I have come to realise that the discernment of that truest and deepest self is the authentic, the most profound and radical meaning of the Election that is the goal of the Ignatian exercises. This truest and deepest self, this God-given uniqueness, I call the “personal vocation.” Besides, my own personal experience and my ministry of the Spirit have taught me that the deepest transformation in any person’s life takes place in the living out of this very personal vocation.

Alphonso wrote also that our personal vocation has been amazingly present in our concrete history from the very beginning. Since God called me by name and told me “Ann, you are mine”. My life long search for meaning revealed what had been there all the time. I found my personal vocation in CLC and a way of life that I could never have imagined as I took that phone call, 25 years ago, from David O’Sullivan. 

So at the National Gathering in Adelaide 2018, I committed myself permanently, and with enormous gratitude, to this wonderful way of life that has given me so much – love, intimacy with God, and deep and treasured friendships. But I was not just committing to my local group in Brisbane, but to all the wonderful CLCers here in our beautiful country, to Liz in Singapore who I studied with in Melbourne on the Arrupe program, to become spiritual directors; to Edmund who came to Brisbane from Hong Kong for three months study and wanted to connect with a CLC group. He was 20 years old and had been in CLC since he was 12; to Marie Clair in Paris who travelled around Australia meeting with CLCers; to Maurizio from South America who came to our Gathering at Mittagong and went on to become a member of World CLC; and to Sarah who was there representing New Zealand. All over the world we are connected and one with God.

During our colloquies with Helen I mentioned a favourite passage from John O’Donohue’s book Anam Cara (soul friend) that sums up what CLC has been, and always will be to me. Helen said that she hoped I would include it in my personal statement. I did, and here it is:

Once the soul awakens, the search begins and you can never go back. From  then on, you are inflamed with a special longing which will never again let you linger in the lowlands of complacency and partial fulfilment. The eternal makes you urgent. You are loathe to let compromise or the threat of danger hold you back from striving towards the summit of fulfilment. When this spiritual path opens, you can bring an incredible generosity to the world and to the lives of others.

1 Comment

  1. Iain Radvan Iain Radvan says:

    Thanks you Ann for reminding CLCers of this gift of commitment. I am reminded of my brother and his partner, who live and love as if married but who have never made the public vows. I believe many CLC members feel that this is a part of their identity that they could not imagine being separated from. Is it fear that holds any back from making this identity public and formal? Perhaps some might feel inadequate to make such a commitment (“I might fail the team at some point in the future…”). As a vowed Jesuit I admit I have let ‘the team’ down from time to time, failed to meet my own ideals – but I still cling to the Society as my life and joy. I need it. (And I think CLC is now part of my life in a similar way…). And my Jesuit brothers are loving enough to ‘take me as I am’. Thank goodness for commitment!

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