Spirituality Quote for the Day

RedBlossomInForest“Spiritual seeking, when it is done by the false self, might be the biggest problem of all. …. Is it any surprise that America has churches on every corner and yet remains a highly racist, materialistic, militaristic, and superficial culture? We have found the way to feel good about ourselves and to think badly of everybody else that is not like us. Only one thing is more dangerous than the individual ego, and that is the group ego. Religion produces saints and very whole people, but it also produces and protects people with high capacities for delusion and denial.”

From ‘Contemplation’ as the False Self, in Contemplation in Action, Richard Rohr and Friends, A Crossroad Book, 2006 (pp. 80-81)

Is there room in our lives for another?

This is a question I’ve been meditating on in recent weeks, perhaps even longer. In his daily meditation continuing his reflections on Eucharist, Richard Rohr puts it this way:

Somehow we have to make sure that each day we are hungry, that there’s room inside of us for another presence [emphasis added]. If you are filled with your own opinions, ideas, righteousness, superiority, or sufficiency, you are a world unto yourself and there is no room for “another.”

As a gay man “of a certain age” who is also single and would prefer not to be, I wonder if the history of my own life sometimes gets in the way of having youth’s openness to possibility, to new experiences, and especially to new people whom God may bring my way?  I ask this of myself, but also wonder if it might be true for others who have also lived for some time, perhaps many years, establishing their own daily routines, interests, and ways of spending time? Are our lives so utterly fulfilling that there is no longer any room for “another”? How do my/your “independence” fit with our “interdependence” as neighbors, acquaintances, friends, dates or partners? As Fr. Rohr says, if there is no emptiness or hunger, then what is there to be satisfied? To be sure, only God can fulfill that ultimate emptiness and hunger so eloquently stated by Augustine — “My heart will not rest until it rests in Thee” — but are there not hungers at the level of human relationship and intimacy that we are called to fulfill for one another?

Just as there is possibility within every springtime bud, is there not great possibility within every human heart and soul?

A Third Grade Spirituality ?

If I had settled for the mostly one-line answers to everything from my Fr. McGuire’s Baltimore Catechism, my spiritual journey would have been over in the third grade. [from Richard Rohr OFM, Daily Meditation for Sat., Feb. 25, 2012]

  • How many of us have stopped our spiritual journey at some point along the way?
  • How many religious “leaders” try to pass off as nourishment for the adult soul what might satisfy a third-grader, but which leaves the mature soul even more unsatisfied than before?

And I love Fr. Rohr’s definition of the Bible. In what ways today, right now, am I allowing the light of my own life and experience to be engaged by the beautiful Mystery we call God?

The Bible is an honest conversation with humanity about where power really is. All spiritual texts, including the Bible, are books whose primary focus lies outside of themselves, in the Holy Mystery. The Bible is to illuminate your human experience through struggling with it. It is not a substitute for human experience. It is an invitation into the struggle itself—you are supposed to be bothered by some of the texts.

“Thy Kingdom Come” …but maybe not just yet??

“We can’t keep saying ‘Thy kingdom come’ when we are actually trusting in our own nations, political parties, militaries, banks, and institutions to save us.”

This phrase jumped out at me this morning from Richard Rohr’s daily meditation. It seems particularly relevant as the presidential electoral battle continues to heat up here in the US, as the marketing for Christmas is in high gear, and as we are challenged once again to ask ourselves what we who call ourselves Christian really and truly believe as December 25 approaches.

We must remember that if our actions indicate we worship anything less than God — money, country, success, fame, other people, or especially ourselves — then this is idolatry.

5 Key Elements of a Truly Human Spirituality

Last weekend I had the great privilege of participating in a retreat sponsored by New Ways Ministry for Catholic gay clergy/religious who are no longer in active or “official” ministry.  As I mentioned earlier, the retreat was facilitated by theologian and writer Anthony Podovano. I was blessed to be part of a small group given a unique opportunity to listen to, learn from, and spend time with someone who has had such an important role in the life of the Catholic community for over five decades.

5 Key Elements of a Truly Human Spirituality — helping us answer the questions, what is religious experience (as distinguished from mere religion) and what is necessary for a valid spirituality? –  In order to answer these questions and to be accurately reflective of true spirituality, something must be present in every instance of humanity. We must also recognize that no person or class or group is ever truly “privileged,” although it might appear as such to those not part of the purported privileged group.  We need to avoid thinking that life or simply being human is ever “easier” for one person, one era of history, one group, etc. than any other person, era or group.  “Golden ages are called such by those who weren’t forced to live through them.”

1. Transcendental Imperative:  All people make enormous efforts to “get out of ourselves,” to get beyond themselves.  It is part of being human to constantly reach outside and beyond ourselves.  The greatest joys in life come from relationship with others, from friendship, marriage, connection with other human beings.  Aquinas said that without friendship, life is not worth living. To be friendless is to be truly bereft.  Believers simply say that God is the end of this process; but non-believers and atheists are also on this same journey, the journey on which we want/desire a companion on the way.

2. Life is Mystery:  Life is always unpredictable, always more than we can handle, and not subject to calculation. While ignorance is something I don’t know, Mystery is something I can’t know! Mystery works on the notion that the more data I have, the more unknowing/mysterious it becomes. E.g. the more we know about the development of the human person from the moment of conception, the more mysterious human development becomes. The more we know (i.e. the more data we have) about the universe/cosmos, the more mysterious the universe/cosmos becomes.

3. Community / Belonging:  the connections we make to others are essential. The real crisis in the church today is not what itsays, but that some people don’t feel home there anymore.  Why would a gay person “go home” to the church? Why would a woman who has had an abortion, or a person who is divorced, etc. want to “go home” to the church? The real contemporary heresy of the church is more related to its exclusion of so many and less than with its dogma.

4. Hunger for the Sacred: The secular is that which we need, but to which we cannot make commitments without it destroying us. I need food, clothing, shelter, money; but if I commit to these, they will destroy me. [Black Friday and unbridled consumerism!] If I give myself to food, clothing, shelter, money, “stuff,” etc. then I am consumed by them. The sacred is that which we also need; but our commitment to the sacred does not destroy us, it ennobles us. Love – love is inexhaustible. [Bishops and all who oppose same-sex marriage, are you listening?] Forgiveness – one cannot forgive excessively. Wisdom. Hope. Joy.  The whole world is hungry for the sacred … and we only turn to the secular when we despair of the sacred.  cf. Philip Slater’s  Wealth Addiction. When we commit to the secular, we need greater and greater amounts to satisfy, and yet get less and less in return (and are never fully satisfied).

5. Correlation of Reverence and Revelation:  You can only truly see what you reverence, and also reverence what you truly see.  If I don’t reverence a flower … I never really see the flower.  People who reverence each other reveal themselves to each other.  If we don’t feel reverenced, we shut down and no longer reveal ourselves. Revelation without Reverence is Brutality (e.g. sexuality, nakedness, intimacy or rape).

  • “Intellectual” arguments for the existence of God do not move us.
  • A church that does not reverence us has nothing to tell us.
  • Obedience is not submission – it’s attentiveness (from the Latin  “to hear”).
  • The wonderful thing that Jesus did with the pariahs of society is give them back to themselves – woman “caught in adultery,” Zacchaeus, Mathew.  Note that in doing so, he absolutely did not condemn them.
  • The “industry of the church” will depress us.
  • Do we really think God would abandon us if we sought God in another way? (e.g. Thomas Merton’s fascination with Buddhism)

4 False (but Common) ways of Dealing with God & Spirituality

New Ways Ministry Retreat with Anthony Padovano
November 18-20, 2011
Bon Secours Spiritual Center, Marriottsville, MD

Padovano provides four false approaches that are often used in dealing with the questions of God and Spirituality.

  1. Dismissing God and Spirituality
  2. Idea that there is only One True Religion
  3. (Mere) Explicit Affirmation of God
  4. Morality

None of these are paths to true religious experience and true spirituality.