What is, “Competence in Spiritual Theology?” (inf. by Thomas Merton)

I’m reading *Thomas Merton: Twentieth Century Wisdom for Twenty-First Century Living* by Paul Dekar this morning. The phrase, “competence in spiritual theology,” just came up (p.38). I’m pausing to explore how I would define competence in spiritual theology.

Often, competence sounds like the master of many elements and the ability to merge them together into one practice (like a doctor’s ability to know many cures). In spiritual theology, the adverse seems true: competence in spirituality is the mastery of one necessary thing (Luke 10) in order to enter into the many elements of life with the single necessity at the front of one’s heart, soul, mind, and strength.

Simply put: competence in the spiritual life is the capacity for a free flowing love of God expressed in prayer and work (or interaction with others and creation). Competence comes as being set free from the rule of anxiety, judgement of others, empty speaking, and other expressions of dead-living.

How do you nurture competence in spiritual theology?

Nurturing true life will always start with Jesus. Our first step in nurturing is to know Jesus; to live, we pursue the person of Jesus as the Gospels introduce him.

The slow introduction to Jesus will find us receiving an invitation to, “Come and follow.” Through obedience (the life lived by grace through faith in the person and works of Jesus), we will find ourselves entering the practice of willing (or seeing) only one necessary thing, which is the true reign and presence of our loving Father who intends to make all things new.

This awakening, which is nurtured only when we’re walking with Jesus and in the likeness of Jesus, will reveal to us our degree of “competence,” or rather, the degree that we truly are awake to the presence and reign of God in the present moment.