Docile Before the Spirit

Father Amedeo Cencini, an Italian priest frequently consulted by dioceses and religious communities, spoke at the Passionist General Chapter in Rome, October 2018 on the issue of formation. 

I expected his presentation to touch on academic matters. What schools to go to, what books to read, how should we form new members. 

He didn’t speak on those issues at all, instead he spoke on learning in the school of daily life. Learning day by day, where you are, every day of your life. Daily life is our basic school.

For the school of daily life we need “docibilitas”, a Latin word we might translate as “docility”, but docility can be understood too negatively today– someone easily led, easily trained, like a trained animal.

In its original Latin meaning, to be docile means to be open to what one hears and willing to follow that truth. It’s brave and daring, not weak and compliant.

In the Letter to the Romans, which we’re reading these days in our liturgy, Paul calls for a docility to the Holy Spirit. Don’t be led by the world, he says, be led by the Spirit of God, and “the Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought,” (Romans 8,26)

We don’t know how to live as we ought either. Docility means we listen to more than ourselves or the accepted wisdom of our world.

Prayer is a way of being docile to the Spirit, who is there in our weakness.  Daily prayer brings us wisdom for daily life.

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