Within the very large context of Christianity, a wisdom about spirituality has developed through the ages. It has long been recognized that different individuals are drawn to different ways of responding to the two great commandments to love God above all and one's neighbor as oneself. Some Catholic religious orders, for example, seem to emphasize ministries appropriate for extraverted, outgoing, sociable types; others attract more introverted, introspective types. Neither is better or more valuable in the overall life of the Church, however. All do emphasize the same kinds of values and disciplines, only to different degrees.
In his work on Ignatian Spirituality and the Directed Retreat, George Schemel, SJ has provided a helpful way of understanding different types of Christian spirituality by identifying three broad pathways in Christianity. I shall summarize them below, then conclude with a few remarks about contemplative practice:
A. Monastic Spirituality. This is the highly structured and contemplative-oriented lifestyle of those who live in monasteries: Carthusians, Trappists, etc. Non-monks who live mostly solitary lives that are structured to emphasize spiritual practice might also be considered in this group. Their primary service to the Church is through prayer, and they witness to the joy and peace of the contemplative life through their writings and hospitality to visitors.
B. Psychological-Contemplative Spirituality. Includes religious orders like the Carmelites and Dominicans, and also Charismatics and anyone drawn to deep and regular prayer. This spirituality might well be summarized by the Dominican idea of "action proceeding from contemplation." Those who travel this highway are more active in the world than monastic types.
C. Apostolic Spirituality. Includes most lay people, diocesan priests, Jesuits, Franciscans, and most of Protestantism. Although prayer and spiritual disciplines are encouraged, equal emphasis is given to finding God breaking through in the everyday affairs of life. Very involved in what's going on in the world. Service is emphasized.
Obviously, contemplative disciplines would seem to be highly relevant to people in the Monastic and Psychological-Contemplative pathways. But what about the majority who travel the broad, Apostolic pathway? These are generally more extraverted types; are contemplative practices helpful to them as well?
Absolutely! While the more introverted types seem more naturally drawn to contemplative spirituality to attend to their inner life and find God there, where their gaze is more naturally disposed, we need to recognize that all extraverts have an introverted side as well. For them, contemplative practice can help to round out their spirituality, and deepen their sensitivity to finding God in all things. Without giving at least minimal attention to these practices, extraverts can get so caught up in the outer affairs of life as to lose perspective--even Self! Contemplative practices help one become more in touch with the True Self, and, hence, more authentic in one’s involvements. They also enable better discernment of the leadings of the Holy Spirit--a goal which every Christian spirituality considers primary.
Spirituality in a Nut Shell
~ the Beatitudes ~
Jesus Pattern for a Happy Life
Jesus talks about light in Matthew 5:14-16. Notice that he says, you *are* the light of the world, not you will be when you are something better. Right now, within yourself, shines the light for this world. Many have not discovered that light in themselves. Many perhaps feel that they have no light. Do you think Jesus was mistaken? Did he not know what he was talking about? So you must in fact be the light of the world now. Start to look for that place within yourself where light shines. It is there.............
When you begin to show ever so little willingness to find your light, offer that willingness to the Holy Spirit. Do it consciously, deliberately. Holy Spirit, I am willing to find my own light.; If that is scary, do it anyway. Your own light is for you. It is the Father's gift to you. You can trust it to bring you joy. You can be free to enjoy your own light. If you are willing, the Spirit will rush to show you his shining within your own spirit.
Liquori Publications, Missouri 1981.
Our True Spiritual Identity
A Dream of the True Self
I would like to share a spiritual experience that happened more than ten years ago. This experience to me is like a precious pearl in my spiritual walk. I am sharing it because my relationship to the Christ is greater than any spiritual experience He has given me. I am also sharing it with you because it offers hope and meaning to everyone, not just myself. I feel the experience is not just about my spiritual walk but everyone's. Feel free to see yourself in the experience!
At this time in my life, I had hit a very dark point. I was in a state of depression and very uncertain about what was going to come next.
One night, I had a dream. I dreamed that I was standing in the marketplace in the Old City of Jerusalem. The dream was so vivid, I can recall every detail, down to what I was wearing and what every piece of material looked and felt like. The dream was too vivid to be an ordinary dream.
Anyway, in the dream I was in the third person, watching myself in Jerusalem. Suddenly, I was watching myself looking at a mysterious figure approaching down the street. This figure was literally floating.
The figure came closer and closer. I knew in my dream that this figure was not human. I watched myself anxiously watching this figure, trying to figure out who it was that was approaching me. As it got closer, I could see that it was the most beautiful, awesome being I had ever seen! This being looked like an angel; her (I say "her", but the being was androgynous) hair shone with a light that glowed from within her long wavy hair. She was wearing a beautiful yet simple gown made of gold with a thin gold ribbon tied around her chest. This gown was so unbelievably detailed, I still remember it to this day. She was walking toward me like a queen, her head held high with a holiness about her that was incredible.
In my dream, I strained up to see her face because she was so tall. She came straight toward me, so close that I finally could see her face, and I finally recog- nized who this being was! IT WAS ME! I was SHOCKED! The being seemed to walk right through me in my dream
I was shocked when I woke up. What on earth could this mean? Then, I started to learn from books about the higher self. I now believe, ten years later, that this dream was to show me that I have a higher self within me, the Christ that lives in me, who is waiting to be drawn out into the conscious level of my self. The point is, my dear brothers and sisters, is that we ALL have this higher self, the inner holy beautiful Christ living within us, waiting to be drawn out into conscious reality.
"Eternal life is not a boringly endless recycling of the familiar but a complete state of full existence that, due to the poverty of language, might be provisionally expressed as present moment NOW-ness."
~ Thaddeus J. Trenn