Today we begin an extended series that John Chuchman has developed through the inspiration of a group of lay Catholics in Montana. The theme of the series is very positive: a search for a lay spirituality that can speak to the challenges of life today. The initiative grew out of the American Catholic Council held in Detroit in June last year. There is much to reflect on in this series. Readers may like to take it gently, a section at a time as we explore it here on Catholica. For the impatient, John has already published the full text on his blog [LINK]. Alternatively you can read the full text of the original Montana working paper on the American Catholic Council website at [LINK]. This opening reflection looks at the nature of spirituality. John writes that the work that is emerging from this group in Montana reflects his own spiritual journey. With permission of the group in Montana and the ACC he is seeking to bring the work to wider public attention.
Series Navigation: Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV | Part V
Part 1: The Nature of Spirituality
Spirituality is inherently difficult to describe and define with any precision
for it means different things to different people.
For some Catholics,
the word spirituality points to the practices of prayer, penance, and fasting.
Others might immediately think of church attendance, the Mass,
the sacraments, or their favorite devotions.
Still others would associate the word with a style of spiritual life
developed by a particular monastic tradition or religious order
such as, for example, Franciscan spirituality, Benedictine spirituality,
Dominican spirituality, Ignatian spirituality, etc.
For many of us, the word means something more and something broader.
Spirituality calls attention to a certain type of human experience and awareness
and to a relationship with God
or to what others may call a higher power, ultimate mystery, ineffable presence,
or ultimate reality.
Basically, spirituality is a way of life and a way of seeing
or understanding relationships with others, the world, and us.
It is our spirituality that provides us with a sense of meaning,
purpose, relatedness and direction.
Spirituality is our lived relationship with Mystery.
Spirituality refers to our deepest values and desires,
the very core of our being.
Spirituality is also described as an inward journey, a holy longing,
a yearning for meaning, one's enduring values,
the essence of one's character,
one's lived experience with the mystery of life,
and that which puts life in our life.
Mystery is a common theme in any effort to describe spirituality.
In this context, mystery refers to a dimension or a level of experience
that the person knows to be real
but is beyond description and understanding.
Awareness or mindfulness
involves an appreciation for the mystery, beauty, and awesomeness
inherent in human life and the universe.
Spirituality is our basic outlook on life,
our endeavor to perceive reality
more and more with the mind (and heart) of Jesus.
This means all of reality and not simply the so-called religious aspects of our life.
Our spirituality colors the way we look at everything.
Spirituality also includes our responses to reality,
that is, the actions and behaviors that flow from that perception.
It is expressed in the little daily decisions and choices we make:
what kind of food we eat, how we talk to the clerk in the store,
how much time we devote to prayer.
Spirituality also includes the big choices we make:
whom we decide to marry or befriend,
the kind of home we live in,
the type of work we choose to do.
Our spirituality shapes our responses to the limitations, losses, and suffering
that we all experience in life such as sickness, disability,
the death of a loved one and our own death.
Spirituality is not something on the fringes,
an option for those with a particular bent.
None of us has a choice.
Everyone has to have spirituality and everyone does have one,
either a life-giving one or a destructive one.
Deep within all of us, deep within our souls,
there exists an unrest, energy, or desire wanting to be set free.
It is what we do with that desire, that inner fire,
and how we channel it that is our spirituality.
Desire make us act
and when we act
what we do will either lead to a greater integration or disintegration
within our personalities, minds, and bodies
and to the strengthening or deterioration of our relationship to God, others,
and the cosmic world.
A person with a healthy spirituality
is able to draw energy from that inner fire.
That energy fills us with vitality, enthusiasm and exuberance for life.
It keeps us glued together, integrated, so we do not fall apart.
Spirituality helps us to integrate our body, mind, and spirit.
Integration is a theme that runs through most efforts to describe spirituality.
Because one's spirituality is, a way of seeing
or a way of interpreting experiences and finding meaning,
our spirituality permeates every aspect of our life.
At some level, it will affect every hour of our life
and it will shape and guide every significant choice we make.
It is only for purposes of analysis and discussion
that we can separate out our spirituality as a separate domain.
We experience and respond to life as a whole person.
Thus, our spirituality is always interwoven
with other aspects of our being and functioning
such as our thoughts, emotions, and behavior.
Love, John Chuchman
If you are impatient you can read the full text of this series on John Chuchman's blog.
You might also like to read the original documents from which these reflections are extracted
on the American Catholic Council website HERE.
Series Navigation: Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV | Part V
The background used to support John Chuchman's reflection has been sourced from stock.xchng one of the sources for free images on the net provided by people who voluntarily upload their work for others to share. Daniel Cubillas who is located in Spain provided today's image. A gallery of Daniel's freely available images can be found at: www.sxc.hu/gallery/dcubillas. The image used in the headline is sourced from the ex-christian net website: new.exchristian.net/2011/02/loving-father.html
John Chuchman is a bereavement counsellor. He is a graduate of John Carroll University and former Ford Motor Company executive (1959-1992). He has been a Hospice volunteer since 1990. John has received Pastoral Bereavement Counselor certification and a Certificate in Spirituality (Kino Institute of Phoenix, Arizona.) In 2000, he was awarded a Master of Arts degree in Pastoral Ministries from Saint Mary's University of Minnesota. His website provides information about his regular retreats and information about his books. he also writes a "Poetman" blog which you can find on the website or via this link: [Visit John's blog] | [Visit John's website]
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