Thursday, March 11, 2010


Nan” as we will call her was baptized Catholic and was nominally instructed in the faith. Like so many of her (our) generation she slipped away from the practice of the faith and went in search of spiritualities and faiths that were more relevant (or so she thought) to her and what she valued in the world. There was quite a bit of dabbling here and there with much interested in Eastern religions. In her circle of friends there was great openness in this search and much support. The only place they were sure truth did not roost was in Catholicism. It was at these great gates that openness and acceptance ended because they were all pretty much in agreement that searching there was a waste of time. Which was fine.

Until it wasn’t.

An avid bargain shopper, a person after my own heart who likes to see what other people put out on their lawn to sell, one day she came across a Jesus night light. It looks like any other statue of the sacred heart you might see but there is a cord sticking out of the back of his heal. If you plug him in an internal bulb brightens and the statue of Jesus becomes, if not the light of the world, a light for the bedroom.

This got her daughter asking questions and before you know it she and her daughter (father and son are still dubious) coming to Mass. The marriage was recognized in the Church, the girl made her first communion, and Nan started going to confession.

A bit of a free spirit she found rediscovering her roots in a whole new “light” quite “cool.” She has also become quite the missionary returning to her friends and proclaiming what path she was following and that if they truly wanted to be considered tolerant and open in the search for truth that they needed to at least look into the true teachings of Catholicism.


If all Catholics were so confident and bold I could take a lot of naps.

This past weekend she approached me at Donut Sunday in a heightened level of excitement. She was at a friend’s house scrounging for a book to read and happened upon “The Rule of Saint Benedict.” (I mean, come on, WHO has the rule of Saint Benedict just sitting on their shelf?” “I can’t stop reading it!” she exclaimed, “it is like exactly what I have been looking for!”

She told how one of her friends (also a former Catholic) embraced much of Buddhism also looking for much of what she is finding in the rule. “I told her she has to read this! These are her roots after all. She has to at least be open to it.”

I think the spirit of Saint Paul got into Nan.

Anyway – that got me to thinking that it was not until I was much older that I realized that there were different spiritualities within the Church. The only thing that I was exposed to was a very generic Sunday going to Mass Catholic spirituality. Fortunately that really works for me. But it does not for everyone. That all the different orders in their (at the time anyway) habits were having different paths to the One True God and reaching Him through these different paths within the Church Jesus founded had never even occurred to me.

For example think about the spirituality of Saint Francis. Today we hear about the rise of all kinds of semi-pagan (if not full blown pagan) spiritualities sprouting up with people on a spiritual search. If they are not out and out worshipping nature itself they wish to be joined more closely to nature, to live a simpler life, to make less of a damaging impact on the world, to be better connected in peace and love with one another and God. Who would be more in agreement than St. Francis? Expect with St. Francis one does not have to worship nature which is a creation, but while holding it in extreme respect as a cherished gift from God do then in turn worship the one true God that is the Creator of the nature they so respect. I know this is way too simplistic but you get the idea. (This post is already getting quite long.)

But if something seems lacking to you it may be that you just have not yet plugged into a very legitimate spirituality within the Church that can help nourish you. Unfortunately we do not do a very good job of advertising them (and without religious around us who are recognizable or to give an example their spiritualities become even more obscure.) So search. I hope you do not have to wait to accidently come across a book on somebody’s shelf.


MJ said...

My boys learned the "Franciscan way" at Padua Franciscan High School and I learned through them. Some of our young people are a good source of learning and need to be encouraged to evangelize as well.

Anonymous said...

Mother Angelica emphasized a return to traditional devotions, as a way of rekindling our love for Jesus, Mary and the saints.

As the Church in the 1970s through the 1990s began to de-emphasize devotions and spirituality, we began to see a rise in pyrotechnical displays at rock concerts (smoke and flashing lights), while attendees sang along in unison with the performers on stage. Many performers began dressing in costumes, as priests and nuns stopped wearing distinctively religious garb in public.

Yes, Father, the Catholic Church has it all and yet it's the last place people look.

Nan said...

My sister, anti-Catholic that she is, has the Rule of Benedict just sitting on a shelf.

Robert M Kraus Sr said...

It surprises me that an illuminated statue would change a person's attitude toward the Church.

Cracked Pot said...

Dr. Alice von Hildebrand recently stated that she considers Buddhism to be a "spirituality," rather than a religion. Therefore, Father, your advocacy for finding one's own spirituality within the Church fits very well with this topic of searching outside the Faith.

Norah said...

Thought provoking post. When we threw out all of the Catholic pious devotions and practises and stripped down the Mass, at some level we recognised that something important was missing as so we went looking for spiritual fulfilment in the East and in New Age practises and we hung banners in our bare churches and began dancing down the aisles and hugging one another to fill the void.

Our 2000 year old church has all of the treasures one could hope to find; we just need to look and in the age of the internet that isn't difficult.

I follow, sort of, a modern spirituality; Opus Dei which has brought calmness, joy and acceptance to my life which I didn't have before.

Catholic Writer said...

Father, What a great story!!

Anonymous said...

Excellent post! I came to the Church through RCIA, and always wondered why there had to be so many protestant faiths. I reasoned that it allowed people to reach God in their own way, and that they hopefully find their way back to the one true church. If these spiritualities were more well known or explored, perhaps more people would stay with the church, or find their way to it. You've inspired me to do some research!