Revision of Life
I read rather widely in order to keep informed of what’s going on in the world and, hopefully, to learn some things that will make my own life richer. I try to read things without expectations for what I might get out of it. Sometimes the things I read are disappointing; other times, I am surprised by what I learn and how easily it might apply to my life or the life of the people with whom I live.
One periodical I regularly reads is all about the Roman Catholic Church. I have an abiding interest in Catholicism and an appreciation for so many of my Catholic friends and the leaders, like the Pope, whom I likely will never meet. I read an interesting article about renewed life in the Church in Latin America. Since we live in an age when going to church and being involved in church communities is less and less important, this was a refreshing look at a different picture.
The article began by talking about the “methodology” being instituted by CLEAM (Conference of the Episcopate of Latin American and Caribbean). That did not sound very interesting! I understood that “methodology” really means a program. As I read further, I saw the program “is called “revision of life,” or perhaps better known by its three-step process: see, judge and act.” To think about revising our lives is a pretty significant move. Now I was hooked and eagerly read on.
What do they mean by revision of life? The three-step process says it succinctly. The first step is to “see” life. This means that “life is analyzed.” This sounds so simple---and it is. But to be simple does not always mean anything is done about it. To analyze our life is to take seriously what is and think about whether we want to revise anything. Already, I could see where this program was going.
The second step is to “judge.” This might see harsh. Most folks I know would prefer not to be judging much of anything. But the article puts it more positively. The judging step recognizes that “Judgment is the heart of the process and is the birth of a new theological perspective on the reality of our lives and world.” I see how this adds to the first step. The initial step might well give us perspective on our lives. But this second step makes this perspective a theological perspective. Scripture, tradition, etc. are used to frame our lives as lives lived in relationship with God.
The third step, namely, “act,” seems straightforward. What this means is we make the commitment to put into action what we learned in the first two steps of the process. This is a huge step. In my experience so many folks learn things---and this is good---but they never move to the action stage. And so no effective change ever happens. Unless we move to the action stage, there will be no revision of life. The ancient Greek philosophers said a long time ago that knowledge is not action. We can know many things, but never be moved to action. Change and revision comes only with action.
This could be the end of the program and, hence, the end of the story. But there was a neat addition that made me smile. We are told “Two more steps are also commonly practiced: evaluate and celebrate.” First, let me say how smart this is. Even if we move to new action---revising our lives---it is good to step back and see how it is going. This is the evaluation step. Often questions facilitate evaluation of our revision of life project. Do we like where we are heading? Is it creating the “me” I want to be and whom God wants? And there are other good questions to pose.
And then celebrate! This is a masterstroke. If we make progress in revising our lives or even if we simply start the process, let’s celebrate. We should celebrate any intention to grow and develop. And if real growth happens, that is even more reason to celebrate. The nice thing this also adds is the communal dimension. The group and the community are involved. This is not some lone ranger self-development program.
Individuals grow and the group and community grow, too. I recognize this is not a particular Roman Catholic thing. In fact, I find it interesting that Catholics in Latin American embrace it. Effectively, it is a more lay focused, inclusive, dialogical way of going about things. Those are not always the focus of the Catholic Church. But any group could do this.
Some basic things need to be in place. First, we have to want to do some revising of our lives. We will need to become reflective and, even, willing to make some judgments about what we will see come from our self-reflection. We will have to make the commitment to take our findings to an action stage. Simply to go through the first two steps does not good if we can’t act on our findings. Growth is what happens, not what we learn.
I see hope and I see inspiration here. To have a program to revise our lives for the better is a great thing.