Spirituality and Religion

Questions about spirituality have captivated people from the beginning of times. Although some of us might look at religion and spirituality with a certain dose of suspicion most will agree that we are all spiritual beings.

Allow me to reflect briefly on the meaning of spirituality.

I should mention first that there are many different spiritualties and although I will touch on some of them I will focus mostly on the Christian spirituality with which I am most familiar.

We could say that Spirituality is our attempt to meet God and the world beyond our understanding, so as to enter into relationship with a Higher Power and fill the gaps of what we cannot humanly explain. The generic and specific practices, customs and traditions that develop from this become the basis for various spiritual traditions.

Spirituality can be explained as a “discipline” (same roots as the word “disciple”) to which someone submits. For example, in Christianity we call ourselves “disciples” of Jesus. A disciple is someone who puts himself or herself under a discipline.

Some eastern religions like Hinduism or Buddhism might express this discipline through practicing “yoga” which is intimately connected with the religious beliefs and practices of both of those religions.

As I mentioned earlier, looking at various spiritualities we can distinguish between “generic” disciplines and “specific” disciplines. To mention a few, Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, and Native Spirituality are not only religions but also “generic” spiritualities. Within each of these you will find a wide range of “specific” spiritual practices. For example, within the wide category of Christianity you will find different denominations with specific spiritual practices such as Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Lutherans, Evangelicals and many others.

Then we can distinguish further still: within each of those you will find a wide range of “sub-species”, that is, particular Christian disciplines. For instance, within Roman Catholicism, we can speak of Charismatic spirituality or Jesuit, Franciscan, Carmelite, or Salesian spirituality, to offer just a few examples, all with distinct ways to seek a relationship with God.

While doing our best we could not serve our God fully without guidance. We need trusted patterns of behavior and disciplines that ultimately come from divine revelation itself. We call these religions. Inside of these religions, we can be further helped by models of behavior lived out by certain saints and wisdom figures. Thus, inside of Christianity, we have the time-tested example and wisdom of 2000 years of faithful women and men who have carved out various “disciplines” which can be helpful for us to better live out our own discipleship.

Spiritual practices, just as exercise and diet regimens can help us keep our bodies healthy. And the discipleship practices of particular saints and wisdom figures can help us make our following of Jesus more faithful and generative.

Which one of these spiritualities is best for you? That depends upon your individual temperament, your particular vocation or call, and your circumstance within life. One size doesn’t fit all. Just as each snowflake is different from every other snowflake, so are we. God gives us different gifts and different callings, and life puts us in different situations.

They say the book you need to read finds you and finds you at the exact time that you need to read it. That’s true too for spiritual practices. The one you need will find you, and will find you at the exact time when you need it. Even if you haven’t been looking for it.