Worth Revisting: Theology and Spirituality

 :

Sandra Schneiders, defines spirituality as the experience of conscious involvement in the project of life integration through self-transcendence toward the ultimate value one perceives.”  “Religion and Spirituality: Strangers, Rivals, or Partners?” Santa Clara Lectures v.6. no. 2, Feb 6, 2000.

In Schneiders discussion of spirituality, she begins with a very narrow understanding and use of the term in regards to the intensification of an interior prayer life, and communally within a guided retreat setting. As described, it seems limited in its effect where its participants seek to leave the everyday world to experience the Holy Spirit in a contained setting. This level is then expanded somewhat in a second approach to be a transformative experience intended to affect not just one’s prayer life but a lived increase of an everyday life of faith and service. The third approach encompasses both of these but redefines our prior catholic understanding of the body and emotions as something outside the realm of spirituality to include these in lived spirituality. Lastly, we have the broadest approach which also considers how one’s spirituality and life experience can and has impacted the world both politically and socially. Even to reflect that one’s own worldview, and life experience itself is a product of and affected by the historical social contexts of the world around us. In moving concentrically outward in depth of experience of spirituality, we also move from a narrow understanding given to a chosen pious group of believers to that which can be shared by all, and essential in a holistic life in the world.

For the majority of my life, I would say that I have understood spirituality primarily within the second approach. Growing up I had been given a wonderful role model of spirituality in my grandmother, whose prayer and faith life radiated not just within her own life but in all those who journeyed with her. Like her, I have desired and seek to live my faith both in prayer and within the entirety of my everyday experience. Therefore, when I attended the Cursillo retreat several years ago, it wasn’t novel- but first of all a re-commitment to give all aspects of my life to God and seek greater discernment in my path of discipleship.

It is in this discernment journey that I have begun to understand the tie of spirituality to that of the body and emotions. How can I better impart the gift of being a woman, wife, mother, and friend in the realities of life and share fruitfully the gift of love wholly? In my studies at Loyola, I recognize this approach to a lived spirituality calling me to broaden my horizons again from the microcosm of my immediate community to that of the world at large. As a hopeful “awakener” of the faith, I understand that the questions of those I encounter are ones that have the potential to allow each to find meaning and purpose in their lives and in the world.

Yet what is the dialogical relationship between spirituality and theology, and how do they impact one another? 

Very broadly, spirituality and theology appear as seekers in trying to understand the mystery of and our relationship with the Other, and in a perfect dialogical relationship can add support, understanding and indeed life to the journey. Visually, I see this as one’s left hand and right hand, which are both needed together in prayer, supporting the other in receiving communion (i.e. the Eucharist), and in reaching out and serving as communion to others. While one can perform these actions one-handed, or allowing one hand to dominate, it is in the partnership that one can embrace the fullness of the opportunity set before us. Thus, we look to the unique contributions that both spirituality and theology can provide to understand the breadth of the human experience and relationship with God.

According to Schneiders, Christian spirituality is both a lived awareness and experience of seeking God, which involves our whole self but goes beyond our finite selves, and which is enabled by the Holy Spirit. [1] This is compatible with how I also understand spirituality as a conscious commitment to seek God in all things that is dependent on the Holy Spirit for guidance and strength. Likewise, I would agree that although Christian spirituality is a personal experience, it also involves a community of believers.[2] This is clearly visible in the experience of the disciples and early church but is also true in the contemporary experience of spirituality.

Yet, today we can benefit from centuries of faith understandings to fully appreciate our own experience of spirituality. This is where theology can inform, inspire, “criticize”, and “challenge”[3] this lifetime journey by providing a degree of structure, points of reflection, and others’ experiences for the believer to consider. Without a backdrop or context in which to place one’s experience, how could one interpret the similarity or uniqueness of it at all?  Conversely, theology without adequate spirituality provides theoretical truths and boundaries, but lacks the witness to the Spirit continually at work in the unique experience of the individual. The role of theology should therefore be to guide and not “control” the field or “subordinate” experience of spirituality.[4] Rather, in partnering with spirituality, theology is enlivened, dynamic and transformative reflecting also the contemporary lived experience of its believers.

Peace,

Signature


[1] Schneiders, p. 266. “Theology and Spirituality: Strangers, Rivals and Partners”. Horizons. 1986
[2] Schneiders, p. 266. “Theology and Spirituality: Strangers, Rivals and Partners”. Horizons. 1986
[3] Schneiders, pgs. 270-271. “Theology and Spirituality: Strangers, Rivals and Partners”. Horizons. 1986
[4] Schneiders, p. 273. “Theology and Spirituality: Strangers, Rivals and Partners”

Fully Alive: A Parish on the Move

 :

As far as parish life goes, it has been a very busy weekend for my parish collaborative family. Yet, when I think of it this is not that unusual for these two parishes as there always seems to be something going on. Whether it be school events, bible study, bereavement groups, healing Masses, Adoration, speakers, musical artists, youth events (you get the image) our parishes are always hopping with energy and abounding in community. So, for those weeks where I long for more energy and wish I had the saint’s gift of bi-location..it is only so that I could be present at everything!

 : Friday night, we had a youth fundraiser featuring the musical stylings of our parochial vicar and his former fellow seminarians (The Celtic Clerics) who donated their talents for the evening. With dinner, live auction, and dancing- a fun time at Resurrection Pariah was had by all! The Life Teen youth now have a needed boost to fund their upcoming mission trip to Haiti.  :

 : Saturday and Sunday began the kickoff for our annual community food pantry drive. Paper bags were personally handed out with a list of essential items attached.Next week all items donated will be collected and loaded onto a delivery truck to the waiting arms of more volunteers who will unload and stock the shelves. It is an amazing undertaking and the work done in these 2 weeks helps feed so many who otherwise might be unable to adequately provide food for themselves or their family.

Also this Sunday, we held a Remembrance Mass and reception for all of our parish families who have lost a loved one this past year. From the music and roll call of names, to the roses given out then arranged by the families gathering in fellowship, it was truly a coming together of our faith community.

Finally, my pastor and I sat down for the second meeting of  : Eucharistic minister training for those who have said yes to the invitation to bring Christ to others. The following week they will join the larger community of Eucharistic ministers as part of a spiritual retreat. Always growing,and always deepening our faith lives.

Every parish is different and each has it’s strengths. Yet, if your believe your parish is stagnant..

Odds are others feel the same way. Yet, what can you do? You are just a parishioner sitting in the pew. Or maybe you have mentioned your concern and things have yet to change.

1. First let me say that our parish priests are overworked, often understaffed, and are lucky to sit down and enjoy 15 minutes to eat in peace. They need not only helpful ideas but people willing to implement those ideas and motivate others to volunteer their time as well. If your pastor has given an event the go-ahead, and you are such a motivator take time to make a plan and consider parishioners that might be interested in being a part of it.

2. Invite: So, if there are others like you sitting in the pew or just a few people doing everything in the parish, maybe then the problem is a lack of invitation. Many people assume, albeit incorrectly, that they are not needed. Time and talents is a REAL thing folks. God has given each of us many ways to serve and at different times calls forth each of those gifts.

3. Do not underestimate the personal invitation. If you have invited and still there is a lack luster response..reconsider how you are inviting. Group emails via your parish’s  Constant Contact work for some, but nothing beats a well timed conversation. Even if you receive a no this time, thank them for their consideration. People want to know that you value their commitments too. Not to mention, next time it will be even easier to ask.

4. If the cost of an event is a consideration, perhaps there are those who cannot volunteer time but can volunteer food, expenses or supplies. What would we do without those parishioners that give so generously to sponsor or provide the means for hospitality to occur? It isn’t that there is a shortage of ways to spend money these days, or organizations vying for these funds. What is it that your event, devotion, or activity adds to parish life or community? The answer to this question and an awareness of  the mission of your parish will help guide you to who to ask.

5. Remember, you are offering a gift too. It is not uncommon to feel so grateful for the service that your volunteers would provide to forget that in serving they too are given a gift. As anyone that has served in ministry can attest to- the gift of serving is that God will never be outdone in terms of gift giving. Though not always quantifiable, the grace experienced far outweighs the time and energy spent. It may also leave you with a longing to serve even more!

So don’t be content with the excuse that your parish is dead..but be a catalyst towards a parish community that is on the move and fully alive!

Peace,

Signature

Worth Revisiting: Getting Down to Earth

What is it about having hands in the warm earth that speaks so sincerely to my soul? For as long as I can remember, I have cherished this invitation to connect with the Creator and his creation. To till the soil, plant, and cultivate from its humble beginnings to harvest, that is the essence of a season in time.   Watching the grass grow, enamored by the sudden appearance of each bud, blossom and fruit I wonder the delight that God must have too in each of these small miracles. Yet not only an observer, we are participators and co-creators in caring for this life that has been entrusted to us.  What a blessed and wondrous responsibility!

Fond memories, carried in the pretty straw baskets overflowing with strawberries, tomatoes, and tall stalks of rhubarb, are childhood treasures. With dirt covered knees and hands leaning over rows of neatly sowed seeds, I would take great care to follow Grandma’s instructions.

 “Pull the weeds, as they seek to steal the nutrients from the plants. But be careful- those that have grown too close to the roots can cause great damage if pulled without caution.”

I am reminded of her words of wisdom each time in hearing the parable of the sower. What of those weeds in our own life, those things that we too have allowed close, which consume our every thought, time and energy? Can we even readily identify them as weeds? They are innocuous looking enough at first, blending in with the other sprouts in our lives. Until that is they can no longer be overlooked, and we struggle for a way to remove the weed without further damage to our own lives.

Yet, is the tender plant without help, left alone without the loving care of its steward? No, not at all. Though our troubles, fears and passions might seek to entrap and tear us down, they are no match for the strength that is offered through prayer. Helping to loosen the grip of what we have become entangled with, conversation with our Father nourishes us from the inside. It is then that the opinions of others, the lifestyles we have become accustomed to and the attractiveness of our sinful companion begins to matter less and less. Like a humble obliging earthworm, aerating the soil of our lives, our time spent with God creates much needed space in the compacted hardened ground around us.  We find the air to breathe again, and companionship with our true friend in Christ.

As I kneel, looking up towards the sky with eyes closed I cannot help but pause to offer up my modest and imperfect praise for the one who created it all. He who knows the weeds in our hearts, that we have allowed to grow, loves us nonetheless. More than our faults, our potential lies in wait for our response to God’s love. The question lies in just what our response to God will be.

Do you have a problem or a passion that is controlling your life today? Take a moment or two or three to talk to God..you might just find the fresh air you need in your life to let go of the weed.

Peace,

Signature

Living a Life of Privilege

 :

privilege
noun priv·i·lege \ˈpriv-lij, ˈpri-və-\

  • : a right or benefit that is given to some people and not to others

  • : a special opportunity to do something that makes you proud      (Merriam-Webster)

I grew up in a single parent home, the daughter and granddaughter of educators, not affluent but replete with love and the basic necessities of life. While I didn’t always like the food or the clothes I had, I never spent a day hungry or lacking shelter. Instilled in me was the understanding that despite the meager and lean times, there were always others who had so much less. I was indeed privileged.

One day when I was about 6, a young woman with three young children in tow approached the door of my house. I had recognized the two little toddlers clinging on her dress from the neighborhood, and had curiously wondered where they actually lived. Entering, they were unusually quiet and withdrawn not even wanting to make eye contact. Immediately  inviting them to take a seat, my mom got quickly to work. In what seemed like a blink of an eye, she had produced a fine meal from our dinner the night before. And using our best tableware she welcomed these new visitors as honored guests. The once shy faces lit up as they saw all of the food before them and boisterously became themselves once again.

Asking  me then to go and play with them for a bit, my mom sat down with their mother as she fed the infant in her arms. In hushed tones they spoke, their conversation forever remaining just between them. Packing up more food and clothing for them to carry with them, my mom reminded them that they could always return. This they did, though not staying for any great length of time. I asked my mom once why she gave, when that merely meant that we had less that week, or had given up that shirt she had just purchased with the tags still on it.

“This is what it means to love unconditionally”, she told me, “to care for others more than yourself. You may not understand this today but you and I have been blessed with the opportunity to share”.

This is the very definition of privilege and with it comes a tremendous responsibility to do all this with great love. Perhaps you do not feel that you have much to give or that others more able will step up to help. Yet, you have what only you can give…yourself. God knows your struggles, your needs and desires but he also knows your gifts. After all, he gave them to you. You see the world and ask why it all seems so troubling and unchanging- it begins with each of us to be the change in the world around us. One life at a time, every day anew. I promise that one life that will most certainly be changed is our own.

“You know well enough that Our Lord does not look so much at the greatness of our actions, nor even at their difficulty, but at the love with which we do them” – St. Teresa of Lisieux

Peace,

Signature

Down to Earth

What is it about having hands in the warm earth that speaks so sincerely to my soul? For as long as I can remember, I have cherished this invitation to connect with the Creator and his creation. To till the soil, plant, and cultivate from its humble beginnings to harvest, that is the essence of a season in time.   Watching the grass grow, enamored by the sudden appearance of each bud, blossom and fruit I wonder the delight that God must have too in each of these small miracles. Yet not only an observer, we are participators and co-creators in caring for this life that has been entrusted to us.  What a blessed and wondrous responsibility!

Fond memories, carried in the pretty straw baskets overflowing with strawberries, tomatoes, and tall stalks of rhubarb, are childhood treasures. With dirt covered knees and hands leaning over rows of neatly sowed seeds, I would take great care to follow Grandma’s instructions.

 “Pull the weeds, as they seek to steal the nutrients from the plants. But be careful- those that have grown too close to the roots can cause great damage if pulled without caution.”

I am reminded of her words of wisdom each time in hearing the parable of the sower. What of those weeds in our own life, those things that we too have allowed close, which consume our every thought, time and energy? Can we even readily identify them as weeds? They are innocuous looking enough at first, blending in with the other sprouts in our lives. Until that is they can no longer be overlooked, and we struggle for a way to remove the weed without further damage to our own lives.

Yet, is the tender plant without help, left alone without the loving care of its steward? No, not at all. Though our troubles, fears and passions might seek to entrap and tear us down, they are no match for the strength that is offered through prayer. Helping to loosen the grip of what we have become entangled with, conversation with our Father nourishes us from the inside. It is then that the opinions of others, the lifestyles we have become accustomed to and the attractiveness of our sinful companion begins to matter less and less. Like a humble obliging earthworm, aerating the soil of our lives, our time spent with God creates much needed space in the compacted hardened ground around us.  We find the air to breathe again, and companionship with our true friend in Christ.

As I kneel, looking up towards the sky with eyes closed I cannot help but pause to offer up my modest and imperfect praise for the one who created it all. He who knows the weeds in our hearts, that we have allowed to grow, loves us nonetheless. More than our faults, our potential lies in wait for our response to God’s love. The question lies in just what our response to God will be.

Do you have a problem or a passion that is controlling your life today? Take a moment or two or three to talk to God..you might just find the fresh air you need in your life to let go of the weed.

Peace,

Signature