More and more, in formative spirituality, we are getting in touch with the fact that, for most people, 1) belonging precedes 2) desires, which precede 3) behaving, which precedes 4) believing. The wonkish formula is that ortho-communio precedes ortho-pathy which precedes ortho-praxy which precedes ortho-doxy.
I love the OT verse that says that, in those days, ten men from every nation will come and take you by the sleeve and say that 'we would go with you for we have heard that God is with you.' And the NT verse that most resonates with this notion is Luke 24:32 - Did not our hearts burn within as we walked down the road with Him and He opened us to an understanding of the Scriptures?
Catechesis & apologetics, moral & practical reason, all have a place but the forming of desires has been neglected too often.
I think we can lose sight of the belief that a human person's intrinsic worth (with an already absolute value) does not change from womb to tomb. We cooperate with grace in following developmental/transformative trajectories because it gives God greater glory for us to cooperate with the Spirit and because there is something in it for us (via both eros & agape) vis a vis consolations and valuerealizations (via both intrinsic and extrinsic). But we travel only the distance allowed by His will, which differs between each of us and even for each of us through time, all of us still remaining radically finite and variously incomplete (intellectually, emotionally, morally, socially and religiously) and radically in need of God.
Every human experience of God is radically true, radically good, radically beautiful and radically unitive; it's ALL extraordinary (GKC), whether for infants, those with Downs Syndrome, those variously-abled or the most pious contemplative, even as each value-realization may differ in its degree of dualistic problem-solving and/or nondual relationality (elements of both present). Everything we need to know for business, we learned in Kindergarten, they say; everything we need to know for the Kingdom, we learned at our mother's breast. Stages of development that follow our earlier stages, in my view, are better called LATER than higher. They add diversity of experience and enrich the Mystical Body but they don't make this cell versus that cell in the body "more" valuable, intrinsically and eternally, just because, by our temporal and extrinsic standards, they might contribute "more." Are the working father and diligent mother more valuable than their beautiful baby or senescent grandparent? Much 1
of our impatience, intolerance or hypercriticism of those in earlier stages can be misplaced and little of it models the virtues we associate with later stages. Fr Rohr has often reminded us not to over-engage our detractors but to simply "do it better." On one hand, while we must avoid indifferentism, still, because of the enormity of human suffering and the immensity of human pain, we want as many as possible to embody Gospel values that all may travel more swiftly, with less hindrance and greater consolation along this difficult journey of life. On the other hand, we must nurture a holy indifference regarding the outcomes, results and timing of our evangelism, as we preach the Gospel at all times, even using words when necessary (per St. Francis). There is an insidious indifferentism that doesn’t care which values we choose (evaluatively) or which methods we employ (normatively) and it makes for a seriously impoverished anthropology (view of becoming wo/man), ecclesiology (view of becoming church), soteriology (view of becoming whole), eschatology (view of becoming eternal), sophiology (view of being radically accepted, profoundly cared for and deeply beloved), as entailed in our pneumatology (view of divine indwelling) and Christology (view of the incarnation). Of course, that we think we thus follow God’s will in such discerned values and methods does not mean that we indeed do, but we believe that our desire to please Him does indeed please God and that He won’t leave us to journey alone (per Merton’s Prayer). There is also a holy indifference, an Ignatian detachment, a surrender of the will and an abandonment to Providence, a humility that desires that others may become both more whole (intellectually, emotionally, morally and socially per Lonergan’s conversions) and more holy (religious conversion) than us, provided we become as whole and as holy as God wills, where we seek enlightenment out of compassion for those who’d otherwise have to suffer our unenlightened selves, where we desire and occupy ourselves in prayer more so to gain the strength to serve and less so for its consolations (per Teresa of Jesus), where we desire to foster our own and others’ conversions by holding on, best we can, to our communally discerned values and methods, then, letting go, as we must, of both our material results (wholeness remains in creative tension with our inability tocooperate with grace) and spiritual outcomes (holiness remains in creative tension with our refusal to cooperate with grace and I say “creative” because God uses it all). After all, while we do seek to become as whole and holy as God wills, as we cooperate with grace for the greater glory of God (ad majorem Dei gloriam), this is not because each human person is not already intrinsically worthy, absolutely valued and fully loved (whether an infant, variously-abled or declining with age)! Finally, while a community can discern failures to cooperate with grace and must often interdict them, whatever their source, we can never know which result from inabilities (e.g. due to poor formation, deformative influences, illnesses) and which from refusals (i.e. sins, both serious and venial), hence, forgiveness and compassion should always accompany our holy indifference.