Dappled Things on Reviving Spirituality
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Fairly often in confession or conversations with people, I hear variations on the following theme: "I don't feel very spiritual these days," or, "I don't feel as if I have much faith." Right off the bat, the use of the F-word should raise a red flag because, of course, there is no one-to-one correspondence between one's spiritual state and the way one feels. Feelings are emotions, which come and go without our being able to do a whole lot about them. Feelings aren't the product of decisions, and so they are pre-moral -- neither praiseworthy nor blameworthy. We see this especially in some of the greatest saints (the Spanish mystics, in particular, come to mind). We find that some of the most "spiritual" saints went through long periods of time in which they "felt" nothing spiritual -- times of dryness, lack of consolations, periods during which their steady prayer and good works weren't "rewarded" in this life with lovely "spiritual feelings." Paradoxically, they came to see these times as moments of great intimacy with God, because their religious acts, their prayer, and their obedience to the Commandments were done purely out of love for God, not for hope of "feeling good" after doing them. In other words, it can happen that we are in very good spiritual shape, and not feel it... and vice versa we can feel very "spiritual" and in fact be spiritually dead. Grace and charity are not physical phenomena, and so you can't necessarily "feel" them.Fr. Tucker offers sound counsel for revitalizing one's spiritual life. His six suggestions nurture the Christ-centered disposition we all need to possess. We will experience the authenticity of a real spiritual life to the extent that we center our lives in Christ. Whether or not we "feel spiritual," we'll be spiritual when we allow Christ to live through our charity and fidelity to him.
That having been said, it is true that good feelings often accompany spiritual works. So, I'll usually next ask the person to describe his or her spiritual practice to me. Generally it is nothing more than Mass on Sundays and a few vocal prayers said during the week. No wonder the person doesn't feel spiritual. So, if what I've written so far basically summarizes your situation, here are six simple suggestions for getting your spiritual life jump-started.
What are we waiting for?