Revitalized Parishes: Growing & Nurturing Spirituality

“I’m spiritual, just not religious.” This is probably a comment we have heard many times before. It can mean many things to many people, including ourselves. Usually it comes from a view that “spiritual” and “religious” are two different, unrelated terms. Often it means “My sense of God and spirituality is personal and I don’t relate it to church.”

In fact, this separation of “spiritual” and “religious” is normally not helpful. In the case of Christian spirituality it is especially unhelpful. For us as Christians, spirituality and religion are necessarily related. As personal as each one may seem, both of them are also communal. Spirituality without religion can be self-focused, and religion without spirituality can tend toward ritualism.

Christian spirituality has resulted from an evolution over many centuries. And it has drawn on the spiritual wisdom of many cultures and societies. This borrowing has been an enrichment and continues to be. Every age has found Christian spirituality affecting it. At the same time, every age and culture which Christians have encountered has contributed to the spiritual life of our Christian faith.

Spirituality is not a removal from life or the world. It is in fact, to experience the world and life as God’s gift. Such a gift is a sacred trust and so Christian spirituality honours this trust in its care for all creation. The center-point of this spirituality is the Spirit of the Risen Jesus among us and within us as the community of God’s People.

Theologian Richard McBrien emphasizes that to hold a Christian spirituality “is to live always in respectful relationship with others; with our brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ and in the human community at large…. [Christian spirituality] is consciously in touch with the presence of the Spirit as the power which heals, reconciles, renews, give life, bestows peace, sustains hope, brings joy, and creates unity.” (Richard McBrien. Catholicism vol.II, (Winston Press, 1980) 1058) Living a Christian spirituality in relationship with others is a reflection of our relationship with our God.

A vital, alive parish community is one that plants and nurtures a lively and alive spiritual life among its members. As evangelizers, these parishioners, share this well- grounded spiritual life beyond parish walls. They take it to the work place, the school, the neighbourhood and to all places where they gather. We do so, not to convert but to enrich the lives of the people we meet. In doing so, we become the “missionary disciples” we are called to be evangelizing and sharing Good News with our lives.

Something to think about: On September 1, 2018, as we bring our two or three or more clustered parishes together we become a single new parish, sharing our talents, gifts and resources as a community of missionary disciples.