Last Updated: Tuesday - 01/04/2011
December 10, 2001
Teachers! Be aware of the spiritual
Theologian urges teachers to look beneath the surface
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
EDMONTON — Catholic educators should be more aware of the spiritual dimension of the human person so they can teach that dimension to their students.
That was the main message theologian John Shea delivered to about 3,000 Edmonton Catholic Schools' staff, administrators and teachers at their faith development day Dec. 4 at the Shaw Conference Centre.
People are often aware of the physical, social and psychological dimensions of life but pay little attention to the spiritual side, lamented Shea, a well-known Catholic theologian, writer and professor.
He is currently a scholar in residence at the Park Ridge Centre for the Study of Health, Faith and Ethics near Chicago. He is the author of such recent books as The Legend of the Bells and Other Stories, and Gospel Light: Jesus Stories for Spiritual Consciousness.
Shea also spoke at the annual convention of the Catholic Health Care Association of Alberta and Associates in September.
"We are so immersed in our lives, we are so busy with our lives, that we can't see the deeper regions," he lamented.
"The physical and social dimensions of life are fascinating but there is more than that. We are also spiritual beings."
The spirit is a "strange level," deeper than the mind, that has real possibilities and dangers in it. "But you can see it" and "you can become aware of it."
Before one can see spirit in all things one has to touch spirit in oneself. "The path is from the inside to the outside," the theologian explained.
"What spiritual teachers want us to do is learn how to drink from the vintage wine cellar that each person has. But in order to do so we must learn how to focus on it. And the outer world immerses us so much that we have to learn to touch the inner world of spirit and then come back to the physical and social dimensions."
If teachers were as aware of the spirit as they are of the social, physical and psychological dimensions of life, they could see how the spirit manifests itself when they work with their students, Shea said.
Sometimes people say an organization or a set of circumstances kills their spirit. "In Catholic teaching the spirit never can quite be killed but it can be covered over," the theologian warned.
"But wouldn't it be great to know how to uncover it. Wouldn't it be great to help it resurrect? Wouldn't it be great to allow spirit to be more than circumstance? Wouldn't it be great for the whole thing to be an adventure of spirit and flesh?"
According to Shea, when we touch the spirit we transcend circumstances.
"Spirit emerges when the human person takes a shot at transcendence, when they touch something inside of themselves they think is greater than circumstance and they want to flow out of that and make life better."
Shea said our lives have been "peppered with spiritual teachers" who have intercepted our lives at key times and taught us how to transcend circumstances so we can live more powerfully. "These are people who taught us the truth of transcendence which is the truth of the spirit grounded in a divine source."
During one session, Shea gave participants a moment to recall the people who taught them their own spirit and enabled them to find the "inner power of transcendence and a new source of energy."
Shea also honoured those teachers "who have shown the spirit to so many young people when they needed it. All honour to you because you are witnesses to the power of the human spirit in human life."
Spirit is not only the power of transcendence, he continued. "It's a power that when you touch it, it flows outward, it's an easy flow of energy and activity grounded in the divine source. When we touch it we sort of ride its energy."
Jesus' contact with the world of spirit drove him to wash feet, he said. "And this is true of all of us, it drives us to feet. We first conceive and love in the world of spirit and then you try to make spirit flesh."
Added Shea: "Spirit is the most ephemeral of the human dimensions. The social and the physical (dimensions) are in our face day in and day out. But underneath it all is the strange, ephemeral thing, this inexhaustible water which becomes a well from which you drink forever. And if we learn to drink from our spirit, we become a people of faith."
"He's right. We are always so busy that we tend to forget the spiritual dimension of our lives," said St. Patrick School teacher Susanna Nigro. "We focus on academics and forget about the spirit, which is our whole essence, our whole soul."
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