1998 Theme

Theme:The Spirituality of our Age – A Challenge to the People of God


A surprising development in these last years of the 20th century has been the public demonstration on the part of ordinary people of a longing to explore the spiritual dimension of human existence.   At a time of unprecedented material security for many people in Western society, of extraordinary technological progress and access to information, there is abundant evidence of a desire to search at a much deeper level for the truth of what it means to be human.

Disillusioned by the failure of science and technology to eliminate the problems of violence , hunger, broken relationships, and the destruction of our environment, we live in an increasing awareness of the complex nature of the human person, and of the need to re-evaluate some of the basic assumptions with which we have lived for the last four hundred years.   This gives rise to a questioning of the structures and institutions which were established in that culture and which we have inherited.

There is evidence of an increasing awareness of vulnerability, of power and at the same time of powerlessness to do what should be done, of guilt, and of the need for healing.  There is a desire on the part of many of us to get in touch with the things of the heart – with the deeper level of the humanity we all share, and with the sources of life itself.   We see a trend towards more person-centered models in the manner in which many of our institutions are re-structuring themselves, which may bring about a greater respect for the dignity of the individual.

Many of these needs and longings for a more human way of life are being met outside the mainstream churches – in relationships, in community built around a common concern, in nature.   There are many ways in which spiritual insights can be uncovered.   Artists, writers, painters, sculptors, musicians have always expressed the spiritual needs and aspirations of their times.   The current resurgence of interest in the arts is one aspect of this awareness.

The Catholic Church has in the past, not without struggle, incorporated a diversity of spiritualities, including holistic spiritualities integrated both at the level of body, feelings, mind, and spirit, and at the level of God, self, family, social order, and ecology.   It has been both a Church of the immanent and the transcendent God, of saints and sinners, of women and men going about their ordinary lives who surprise us by turning out to be prophets, mystics, and martyrs.

Can the present-day Church expand its vision?   Can it allow itself to express in teaching and practice its own Vatican II self-understanding so that it may dialogue effectively with the cultures of our time? Can it remain true to God’s revealed plan for humanity by reaching out – inviting, affirming, proposing – as it publicly identifies with “the joy and hope, the grief and anguish,” of the men and women of today

The challenge of the People of God today is to live in such a manner that Jesus whose disciples we claim to be can be recognised by all those who seek to experience love and meaning in the complexities of modern existence as the Saviour, the One who is at the heart of every journey, every spiritual quest.