Posted by: Thomas Richard | September 25, 2013

What Happens to a Church When the Members Won’t Grow Up?

I recently wrote an article for Homiletic and Pastoral Review – an on-line magazine especially written for those concerned with preaching and pastoral needs of the Church.  The readership is, probably, mostly clergy for the obvious reasons, but lay persons do read it, and do also contribute articles for it.  Certainly laity are concerned about preaching in the Church, and certainly we also are concerned about the many pastoral matters in our parishes.

Anyway, this article of mine was just published on HPR.  I want to share it with the readership of the blog also, hence this link to it: What Happens to a Church When the Members Won’t Grow Up?  Click on the link, if you will, and read it.  As always, I invite your comments below (as does the HPR site also).

The problem written about is seen first in the secular culture – a kind of “Peter Pan syndrome” – a clinging to youth and immaturity, to care-free, worry-free, responsibility-free but fruitless days before the drudgery of adulthood came to ruin it all.  In our time many parents want to be “friends” and almost peers with their children, if they have any, and dread being the “grown-up” in the eyes of the young.  Many adults want to talk as, dress as, act as they did in their own teen years.  They may cling to the same music, television, movie and sports interests, dreading becoming “like their parents” in their own eyes.  Maturity is not a good thing, in this culture devoted to youth, and it is postponed as long as possible.  It is fled, as if it were a disease.

In Christ, it ought to be different!  We are exhorted to grow up in all ways into Christ – into maturity in Him – into the fruitfulness of a mature spirituality, and a mature following of our Lord.  But as in so many things, so also in this, the ways of the world creep into the Church.  And we find in the Church a shrinking back from the call to maturity – to grow in Christ – to come to maturity in grace, unto fruitfulness.

Some in the Church, it ought to be said, have been confused with a mishearing of St. Therese and a spirituality of childhood gleaned from her writings and her example of child-like sanctity.   The child-like trust and faith of St. Therese is not the childish flight from discipleship, with its real challenges and responsibilities, that characterizes our failure to grow and develop as we should.  There is a way in which the spiritually mature are “like children” in moral innocence, in ready obedience, in intrinsic humility, and so on.  One must become “as a child” to enter the Kingdom of heaven!  But in the Kingdom, one must grow into the perfection of our Father’s intention: the perfection (the maturity) of disinterested charity, of moral purity, of heroic obedience, of habitual humility, of unwavering trust in our Father.

Adulthood – and parenthood – ain’t for sissies!  Excuse the slang, but it does make the point.  Leadership in the Church also is not for the fainthearted, nor for those lacking the courage to carry the burden.  The Church was sent to make disciples, and to shepherd those disciples into the fullness of our vocation in Christ – to maturity, to fruitfulness in Him.  May the Lord give us all grace to do as He commanded – and to follow Him, with the trust of a child and the mature courage of a man or woman, no matter the cost.


  1. Dear Thomas,

    Thanks for posting the link to your article. I read it and hope that it will be a blessing to many among clergy, religious, and laity. As you point out, there is a vast and extremely vital difference between a choice to grow into the fullness of Christ (cf Eph. 4: 13) and a choice to remain immature (cf.Eph 4:14). May we all cooperate with God’s Grace to grow in holiness.

    Thanks also for distinguishing the difference between the “childishness” of many in contemporary society and the beautiful spirituality of St. Therese of Lisieux, who pondered the Scriptures, and learned from Jesus to become meek and humble of heart, truly “little” in the humility of spiritual childhood.

    How our world needs to see men, women and children shining with the Light of Christ in this dark world! May we find in the Holy Family of Nazareth, models for our own families. As you said, “Adulthood — and parenthood — ain’t for sissies!” May God Inflame our hearts with courageous love for Him and for all others because of Him.

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