Contrary to what some think, or would like to see, there is no such thing as a one-size fits all Catholic spirituality. There is one faith, but many and diverse ways to express it.
Throughout the centuries, holy women and men were inspired by the signs of their times to focus on a specific aspect of our faith and sought ways to live out that focus more deeply. For St. Francis, it was gospel poverty and simplicity. For St. Benedict, it was to follow the rhythm of prayer and work within the nitty-gritty of monastic life. For St. Dominic, it was to devote oneself to serious theological study in order to defend the faith. For St. Teresa of Avila, it was to plumb the depths of interior prayer. For Mother Teresa of Calcutta, it was to seek Christ in the face of the poorest of the poor, those rejected by society.
Franciscans, Dominicans, Carmelites, the Missionaries of Charity all have a special gospel focus or charism; an inspired gift of the Holy Spirit. And out of that focus, comes a specific mission or apostolate. This mission is nurtured and formed by its way of thinking, doing, and praying; a specific spirituality.
To paraphrase the great St. Teresa of Avila, there are many rooms in the mansion that is the Church. There is room for Gregorian chanting traditionalists and for guitar strumming liberals. There is room for introverted hermits and outgoing evangelizers. There is room for the simply pious, and for intellectually soaring minds. And, there is a spirituality to fit just about anyone. The key is to find the right fit.
I found my fit over thirty years ago as a university student. I joined a small faith group that was being formed by some local Marianist priests and brothers. We met weekly to discuss various faith issues with the zeal (and all-knowing wisdom!) of young adults. We were encouraged to question, ponder and dialogue. We celebrated liturgies together. Our prayers soared with music provided by the gifted musicians among us. We prayed and we played together. Our favorite times were retreat weekends at the Brothers’ wilderness cabin. Some of the communities and friendships that were formed those many years ago still exist today. Several of those friendships turned into marriages; including our own.
Today, these communities are called Marianist Lay Communities and are part of a community of communities around the world. I just wrote a column for the Prairie Messenger called An example of community: the Marianist tradition. It gives a wee bit of a back-ground to the spirituality that I have embraced; embraced because it fits.