Unsettled Christianity

Gloria Dei homo vivens – St Irenaeus
June 30th, 2015 by Joel Watts

What is your “spirituality?”

Couleurs shitenno

Couleurs shitenno (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Spirituality is a word often tossed around. “I am spiritual but not religious.” “I prefer spirituality.” “She’s just so spiritual.” Shoot, it has even made its way into a recent Supreme Court decision.

The nature of marriage is that, through its enduring bond, two persons together can find other freedoms, such as expression, intimacy, and spirituality. This is true for all persons, whatever their sexual orientation. – Justice Kennedy

Really? Who ever thought that intimacy and spirituality [whatever that means] were freedoms? And if intimacy is, one would think Freedom of Intimacy is abridged rather than expanded by marriage. Ask the nearest hippie. – Justice Scalia

Intimacy, if you do it right (or bad), can be spiritual.

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I really like what Pope Benedict had to say to Deacons:

In the pastoral activity of parishes, remember that a healthy spirituality allows the Spirit of Christ to free the human person to act effectively in society1

In the same letter, he writes of the need of spirituality:

In order to arrive at genuine reconciliation and to live out the spirituality of communion that flows from it, the Church needs witnesses who are profoundly rooted in Christ and find nourishment in his word and the sacraments

He follows St. John Paul II in setting out standards for spirituality:

the ability to perceive the light of the mystery of the Trinity shining on the faces of brothers and sisters around us, to be attentive to “our brothers and sisters in faith within the profound unity of the Mystical Body, and therefore as ‘those who are a part of me’, in order to share their joys and sufferings, to sense their desires and attend to their needs, to offer them deep and genuine friendship”; the ability as well to recognize all that is positive in the other so as to welcome it and prize it as a gift that God gives me through that person, in a way that transcends by far the individual concerned, who thus becomes a channel of divine graces; and finally, the ability “to ‘make room’ for our brothers and sisters, bearing ‘each other’s burdens’ (Gal 6:2) and resisting the selfish temptations which constantly beset us and provoke competition, careerism, distrust and jealousy.”

That gives us a spirituality community, to be sure. And perhaps that is more important than individual spirituality.

But maybe not.

While spirituality, and whatever freedom is needed to either enjoy or express it, is often undefined, some connect it to psychology.

If it is connected in such a way, then it becomes rather individualized. And that is oftentimes, a good thing.

Some find spiritual solace in reading, or writing, or studying. I like my rosary. But, I also like my science. The more related it is to the the quantum side of things, the better. The deeper. I like hearing new theories on the origin of life in the universe. I enjoy reading stories about new planets, new understandings of the cosmos, and how transcendent all of that is.

It is humbling to know that the 70 or so years we spend on this planet is nothing in the scheme of things — of a 13 billion year old universe. And it is everything.

Honestly, Lee Smolin and Brian Greene are my areas of refuge.

And no, spirituality is not limited strictly to “believers.”

Some find spirituality in other areas, more grounded areas. Some in areas far afield of my own cosmic stretch.

But, since it is all the rage now — just ask the hippie — where do you find yours? And, do you think that somehow those seeking spirituality are less reasoned than others?

By the way, I define spirituality as that which calls us away from our present reality to a larger, grander scheme of things even if such a scheme is rather simple. Spirituality, for me, keeps us humble, grounded, and reaching for that which next.

  1. Pope Benedict XVI, Africae Munus (Apostolic Exhortations; Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2011).
Joel Watts
Watts holds a MA in Theological Studies from United Theological Seminary. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians, as well as seeking an MA in Clinical Mental Health at Adams State University. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

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