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Friday, July 28, 2017

Spirituality and Religion - Two Sides of the Same Coin

It is common within the rooms of most 12 Step groups to hear the following pronouncement, "This is not about religion, this is about spirituality".  In fact, much of the argument against organized religion uses this foundation to launch their reasoning.  Religion, they state, divides people but truly spiritual people do not.

At the risk of being contrary, I don't agree with that assessment.

As an example, I always look to my particular order - the Order of Preachers, more commonly known throughout the world as The Dominicans.  Founded over 800 years ago by St Dominic de Guzman, this order reeks of a spirituality that flows specifically from the Catholic Church.  The 2oth century theologian Josef Pieper once suggested that one of our shining lights, St Thomas Aquinas, should be honored as St Thomas of Creation.  Why?  Simple.  Aquinas, while doing everything as a result of a total love for the Incarnate Savior Jesus Christ, never stopped drawing full theological implications from St Paul's words to the Romans: from the beginning, from the very moment of the creation of the world,  Gods invisible nature has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made.

If one looks at legitimate Religious Teachings, one cannot help but note that the practice of Christianity in its fullness requires our total submission to and reverence for The Holy Trinity.  Our goal, as Catholics, is to draw as near to God as possible and we do this through our Liturgy and the reception of Sacraments.  If our agenda is to align our will with the Will of God, we are living a spiritual life. 

Perhaps the problem is that there has been a redefinition of 'spiritual' to mean only that which involves burning sage, holding séances, meditation on a mountain in the Himalayan Mountains and Ouija Boards.  I would argue that it is this co-opting of the word spiritual that has lead to society losing the essence of true spirituality. 

Just as I reject the idea of a 'good old days' based upon statistics that show less divorce, I reject the idea that being religious means one is not spiritual.  Can those two be mutually exclusive?  Of course.  Jesus warned us against those who pray for all to see or who make sure they are sitting in the front so everyone knows how much they are tithing.  However, I also can tell you that I have met Buddhists who are cruel to strangers and Native Americans who reject anyone who dares to develop a spiritual path that differs from that deemed right by their Tribal customs.  To me, what I see, is not the Religion that is at fault; rather, I see those who find it too difficult to practice it every day rejecting it as being at fault.

For many years I rejected my Faith Tradition because it was just not compatible with the lifestyle I was living.  I kept the lifestyle because society told me I had a right to do anything and everything I wanted - with my body, with my mind and with my language.   When that lifestyle exploded in my face, I crawled through the back doors of the 12 Step Fellowship I needed and discovered that in order to be successful in my recovery from the disease of alcoholism I would need to surrender my will to God.

WTH?

Today I work every day on that surrender.  My surrender involves the goal of totality: my heart, my mind, my passions...my will and my body...my fertility...my sexual identity.....my longing for companionship...my finances...my love for animals....my love for my family and for other people's children...all of me, good and bad.  Unless I am willing to at least make the effort to give myself in total to The Holy Trinity I am not living my Religion.  I am an empty gong.

I want to end with the words attributed to St Thomas Aquinas when he received Our Lord in The Eucharist for the last time:

"I now receive you who are the price of my souls redemption, I receive you who are the food for my final journey, and for the love of whom I have studied, kept vigil, and struggled; indeed, it was you, Jesus, that I preached and you that I taught."


I don't care what anyone says - That's SPIRITUAL.....


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For those who have a mind to pray, please pray for the repose of the soul of one of the greatest men I have ever had the privilege of knowing:  Don Brown.  A tireless worker in the 12 Step community, Don lost his life in a tragic car accident over the weekend.  Please keep his soul in prayer and please keep his family in prayer.  We lost a giant, but our loss is heaven's gain.

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