Tuesday, July 17, 2012

On Being Spiritual: "The more perceptive know that they are looking for God."

The astonishing conversion of St. Paul.

"Confronting the reality of God in our own lives..."

Last evening I participated in the Mass for the Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Of Mt. Carmel.  Four priests concelebrated, all are priests ordained for the Archdiocese of St. Paul/Minneapolis, three of the priests belong to a diocesan community of Carmelite brothers.  The Mass was solemn, and beautifully celebrated, beautiful music.  The vestments were simple, the Mass of Paul VI in English, with some Latin.  The readings, the prayers, especially the Eucharistic Prayer were articulate and careful.  The church was nearly full, and as I was in the back, I noted that everyone approached Communion with great reverence, bowing according to norm, and receiving in the hand.  Communion was distributed under both species by the priests.  I did not see one chapel veil.

Later that evening, on my return home I thought to myself, "These people probably do not read Catholic blogs.  Most of them are probably Secular Carmelites, accustomed to prayer and recollection and fidelity to the duties of their state in life."  Many were with their families, there was a good mix of ages, and sexes.  All were obviously deeply spiritual and religious.  I sensed that all of them were much more holier than myself, yet I felt a sense of inclusion, of belonging, of community.  Some of you will know what I mean by that.  I didn't go downstairs for the reception because I never do that, but I suspect I would have been welcome, and comfortable doing so.

Many of us with blogs make up issues where issues need not exist.  For instance, from time to time, writers from one online site carry on about 'what's the deal with being spiritual but not religious?'   It makes me wonder.  Do we listen/read ourselves online and what we spout off for the sake of creating a wider following of readers?  Would you be attracted to a religion when its religious people belittle and even condemn your deepest aspirations?  Would you want to join a Church where people tell you you are committing sacrilege by receiving Communion in the hand?  Or that the Novus Ordo Mass somehow isn't as holy as the traditional Latin Mass?  Maybe spiritual people see the Holy Virgin in a tree trunk, as religious people no longer are able to recognize the fact that they are themselves the tabernacle of the Most Holy Trinity, because they're too busy promoting themselves on their websites?  If we only recognized the gift of God.  But I digress.

"There is an emptiness at the core of people’s lives, an emptiness waiting to be filled."

A friend sent me a link to an article which may be as relevant today as it was in 1966 - though the talking heads of that time ignored what was said then as those like them do now.  The post is taken from Lux Occulta blog.  I'll reprint just a few paragraphs and link for you to read the entire piece.
Many thanks to Fr. Augustine Hourigan C.P. for sending me this stimulating piece by Fr. Charles Davis from America magazine, January 29th, 1966. Fr Davis was one of England’s most famous theologians and professor of theology at the Jesuit-run Heythrop College. He left the priesthood a few months after this was written, but was subsequently reconciled to the Church in his later years. He died in 1999.
Much speaking in different places on themes of renewal has brought me into contact with many people seeking to revivify their faith. I have found a sense of emptiness, but together with it a deep yearning for God. There is an emptiness at the core of people’s lives, an emptiness waiting to be filled.

They are troubled about their faith; they find it slipping. I am not speaking about those who are worried about recent changes. These people are not. But they are looking for something to fill the void in their lives, and what they hear does not do that.

The more perceptive know that they are looking for God. He seems to have withdrawn from the world and from them. They come to talks by speakers like myself. They hear about the new liturgy, about new understanding of the layman’s role, about collegiality, about the Church and the world, about a thousand and one new and exciting ideas. They are duly impressed. But who will speak to them quite simply of God as a person he intimately knows, and make the reality and presence of God come alive for them, once more?

Before such need, how superficial, pathetically superficial, is much of the busyness about renewal. We reformers know so much about religion and about the Church and about theology, but we stand empty handed and uncomfortable when confronted with sheer hunger for God. - Finish reading here.

"... when confronted with sheer hunger for God."

Seek God.  Be spiritual.  Be spiritual and practice your religion.  In 1966 I was neither spiritual nor religious.  Though disappointed with religion, it seems to me now that I was always attracted to the spiritual.  Eventually my search intensified, delving into the occult, further investigation led me to Eastern spirituality, until I was somehow attracted to Judaism - through the mysticism of the Kabbalah I suppose, which I credit for opening my heart once again to Christ, the Messiah.  In retrospect the process was swift, albeit superficial - until I encountered the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.  Even more quickly, I was drawn back to the sacraments and daily Mass.  It seems to me I had to fall away, into some sort of spiritual limbo - searching for I didn't know what: Before I found Him whom my heart loves, and when I found Him, I would not let Him go, though the watchmen beat me and took my cloak...  Some of you may know what I mean by that. 

So.  My advice to the nonreligious but spiritual is:  Be spiritual - which really means to be open to the truth.  Being spiritual can be your path to the Church, if and when you recognize that the Church is Christ - though his body be wounded... He is looking for you more than you are looking for Him.  He looks for you first - and He will find you - right where you are.  It is the spiritual person who is drawn to His Sacred Heart - by human cords, cords of love.  Once there, you no longer follow the flock, but you follow Him, the Good Shepherd... and the littler you are the better, because then He carries you close to His Heart.  


  1. I am happy that you had a fruitful time with the Carmelites last evening. I used to work with a woman (former woman religious) who is a lay Carmelite. I remember she didn't have much use for the "Brown Scapular" she instead had the large scapular with which she was invested as a lay member of the order which she wore only to her meetings. She told me there were "two strains" of the lay Carmelite movement a "liberal" and "conservative". She once invited me to a day of spirituality. I remember I had given it some thought until I saw where it was going to be (a local place of questionable theology and retreats). I didn't have an issue with her spirituality perse. I knew we weren't on the same wavelength yet she liked me for some reason. Perhaps because I brought my Magnificat to work to read on break. I don't know. Regarding the issue of Novus Ordo vs Vetus Ordo for me it's one of organic continuity. I mean any reading of Sacrosanctum Concilium should put to rest the notion that the average Novus Ordo is celebrated per its' requests but it's what is there so.... As for people receiving Holy Communion in the hand I wouldn't say that to do so is sacrilege since it is a legitimate option allowed by the Church. That said my issue with it has always been that it was introduced in a spirit of disobedience and was given sanction afterward. I just find that problematic. I believe that it can lead to sacrilege. with crumbs from the host everywhere. I would never in 50 billion years say that I am holier than anyone else.

  2. Terry, always a pleasure.

  3. But who will speak to them quite simply of God as a person he intimately knows

    Noticably absent from the Blogisterium is news of this encounter, the only encounter that counts ;)

  4. Anonymous1:27 PM

    Amazzinnggg post.

  5. thomas tucker5:05 PM

    Well written. It speaks to those who have ears to hear.

  6. in your tiredness, you spout the most amazing and illuminating off-the-cuff insighs.

    spirit of God.

  7. Anonymous10:14 PM

    Thank you so much. YOu always give me so much to thinking about. The humility is beautiful.



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