Complex Spirituality

“Complex Spirituality.” Yeah, OK. Well, I had a conversation with someone the other day. Made a tactical error on my part. I told them I’d be glad to listen to anything they had to say. Note: Don’t ever say this, or, if you do, make sure you add some sort of qualifier like “Oh, and I need to leave in about x number of minutes.” After about half an hour or more of listening to the same few points gone over what felt like a dozen times and hearing phrases such as “Do you understand what I’m trying to say?” repeated repeatedly I felt like screaming “Yes! The first time you said it. And the fifth! And the eighth! And … ” And I was raised to be polite so I sat there and smiled through the pain. Both the intellectual pain of hearing a simple subject made complicated in  what I thought the extreme, and the physical pain. The chair I was setting in was making my sciatica unbearable. On the bright side I learned a valuable lesson. I learned to smile, wave, say “Hello!”, and keep walking under certain circumstances.

So what were we talking about? Essentially spiritual formation. And it became rather clear to me that you can complicate anything. Even spirituality. The real kicker being that this can be done with almost NO thought at all involved. Which is, of course, part of the problem.

Father Mitch Pacwa, S.J., of EWTN, said once that there are three things only God knows. #1: How much money the Church has. #2: How many orders of Franciscans there are. And #3: What’s really on a Jesuit’s mind. I like Fr. Mitch. I like the Jesuits. And the Carmelites. And Dominicans. The Franciscans. Most of all I like the Benedictines. We all wear different jerseys but we’re all on the same team. But if we’re all on the same team why so many different jerseys? Simple. There is no “one spirituality fits all”. Why are there, for example, Benedictines AND Jesuits? Because it’s not everyone with a religious calling that needs  to be a Benedictine. And the same is true for all the other religious orders and lay associations and whatever else you can think of along these lines. Why doesn’t everybody read fill-in-the-blank? Because it doesn’t meet everybody’s needs. Why doesn’t everybody pray such-and-such? Because then there wouldn’t be anyone left to pray this-and-that. There are many ways for us to grow spiritually as Catholics. And this can look complicated if we forget to keep in mind that there is no such thing as one size fits all in spiritual development. Fr. Mitch NEEDS to be a Jesuit. That meets his need and it fits. I NEED to be Benedictine for the same reason. If we swapped places? We’d stagnate at best. Stagnation has more to do with death than life in the Spirit.

Oh, yes. The conversation I mentioned earlier. I got the distinct impression that this person espoused a kind of single jersey approach. After all, if it worked for them … They were, lets say, a tad evangelistic in expressing their views. *sigh* If I took their advice? Not only would my own spirituality get lost in the shuffle but I wouldn’t have time to brush my teeth. Needless to say I’ll stick to the path God has given me and pray they do the same. It’s obviously working well for them. I hope.

You will meet well-meaning people on sound spiritual paths that will share their path with you. That’s fine. Maybe they’ll share with you what its like being a Jesuit and you’ll learn that you need to be one too. But what you don’t want to allow is for a well-meaning person to so load you down with redundancies and spiritual exercises meant for some and not for all that your head spins. Even Jesus relaxed from time to time. Once? He even supplied wine for a wedding party He went to. So seek out spiritual direction … with discernment. Work towards spiritual formation and development … with care. And if things start to get complex when they don’t need to? You can always go back to this as the basics …

Mark 12:[28] And there came one of the scribes that had heard them reasoning together, and seeing that he had answered them well, asked him which was the first commandment of all. [29] And Jesus answered him: The first commandment of all is, Hear, O Israel: the Lord thy God is one God. [30] And thou shalt love the Lord thy God, with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind, and with thy whole strength. This is the first commandment.

[31] And the second is like to it: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is no other commandment greater than these. (Douay-Rheims.)