Mother Teresa, Janis Joplin and Princess Diana are three women I have admired from a distance but for very different reasons. Mother Teresa’s autographed photograph hung on my office wall for many years because of her devotion to loving the poor and lifting them up. One of my fondest family memories is watching my husband and children dance in the kitchen as Janis Joplin sings the blues. I got up at o’ dark thirty to watch both Princess Diana’s wedding and funeral because I admired her (clothes and) compassion for others though she herself experienced such sadness.
So I was startled when I opened a book* on spirituality that began by describing what these three women had in common: a deep desire within. The author, Ron Rolheiser, claims that all of us have deep within us a desire or a holy fire. Spirituality is what we do with that desire. So to be human is to be spiritual. There are no “un-spiritual people.” The real question is whether our spiritually is life giving or destructive.
These days, spirituality has become quite a fad. Millions are self-described as spiritual but not religious. There is even a sociological acronym for them, the SBNR’s, Spiritual But Not Religious. As someone who has spent the majority of my life inside the establishment of religion, it is good for me to hear the challenge and critique of those who question the value of organized religion. (Although I love the church historian who once quipped that his church was the most disorganized bunch he’d ever been around.)
My own quest for the Spirit has been enormously aided by those who found a spiritual home inside the church. One such master was Thomas Keating, a priest who taught so many Christians how to pray contemplatively, honoring the way that the spirit of God speaks through silence.
He wrote in 1994, “We live in a world that rejects love and affirms selfishness as the ultimate value. The pressure from society is constantly insinuating itself through our upbringing, education, and culture. Society as a whole is saturated with the non-God.”
Where do you find the spiritual energy rising up?
With grace and peace,
*The Holy Longing: The Search for a Christian Spirituality.