DIY spirituality

Yesterday’s post mused on the growing DIY culture. And, yes, my musings were a thinly disguised attempt to rationalize the fact that I DON’T want to do everything myself. I do not have the time, energy, inclination, or skill to tackle many of the tasks in my life. I respect and admire the skills of others, and am happy to seek their help. An expert can tackle the task at hand with efficiency and ability honed from experience and knowledge in their field.

Too often our independent, Do It Yourself mentality flows over into our spiritual life. How often do you hear, “I may not be religious, but I’m spiritual.” Or how about, “I don’t need religion. My spirituality is between God and me.” Can we ‘go it alone’ in matters of the spirit?

As with many things, I believe the truth is found between two extremes. On the one hand we can have an unhealthy dependence on the organized aspects of religion. We become so wrapped up in rituals, dogma and rules that we neglect our personal relationship with the Divine. On the other hand, we reject completely the “trappings” of organized religion as burdensome and even dysfunctional. We don’t need to be told what to do, when to do it, and how to do it. My relationship with God is between God and me.

Christianity is an incarnational faith. God is more than a luminous, feel-good spirit. We believe that God became one of us to show us how to encounter God in the flesh and blood of everyday life. God can be discovered in the words and actions of another. God moves us in the inspirations and creativity of mind and heart. God speaks to us in creation, and in the events of the world. And God is present in community, where two or more are gathered.

The analogy of the cross is used to describe the vertical and horizontal aspect of faith. The vertical arm connects us to the heavens. The horizontal arm grounds us here on earth. God is present in both. And, in order to seek a balance in our spiritual life, we must attend to both.

The great religions of the world connect our relationship with God to our relationship with others. Divine grace is lived out in the earthiness of daily life. Love for God is translated into love of neighbour. Seeking spiritual peace is not for personal gratification. It is meant to overflow into our words and actions so there may be more peace in our world.

I do believe that you can find God outside of organized religion. For those who have been hurt or become disillusioned with organized religion, it can be more of a hindrance than a help. But seeking God with integrity and honesty can be a difficult task. And, as with all difficult tasks, it’s made easier with the help and support of others.

What do you do if you do not find this support in the traditional parish community? Where do you find support for your spiritual journey?

leave then!

Read a few discussion boards on Catholic issues and you`ll quickly recognize a pattern. There are the LOUD voices that love to use capital letters to make their point. (These are present on both sides of the issue being discussed.) The regulars are recognized by their tone and well-worn arguments even as they hide behind the username of `anonymous`. Some spout their frustrations in colourful, angry sentences. Others have a brilliant grasp of the English language which can give a refreshing chuckle-break to the tense atmosphere. Thankfully, there are those that try to make their point calmly and rationally without attacking opposing views.

And, there will always be the one voice who has the answer for all discontented souls in the Church…if you`re so unhappy, then why don`t you leave!

It is this voice that worries me. It worries me because it really doesn`t understand that a person who is questioning, or confused, or saddened, or down-right angry at people, events, or teachings in our Church is usually emotional and passionate because they love the Church. And, because they love the Church their disappointment is felt more deeply.

There are many apathetic Catholics who will warm the pews on a Sunday morning and not think about the Church or their faith for the remainder of the week. And they will consider themselves good and faithful Catholics. Like those who say `I don`t read or watch the news…it`s too depressing`, many Catholics aren`t interested in the goings on of the Church beyond their pew. In many ways, ignorance can be bliss!

It is important to remember that the questioning soul is a seeking soul. Our Catholic tradition upholds the importance of faith seeking understanding. And the understanding does not always come easily. Acknowledging the reality of the dark night of the soul is also part of our Catholic tradition. A soul that is experiencing the darkness of disillusion and uncertainty does not need someone to tell them, `if you`re so unhappy, why don`t you just leave`!

separation of church and faith

There are times when we need to separate church and faith. I realize that this sounds heretical to many Catholics, and would probably have sent me trotting to the bonfires in days of yore. But that`s part of the problem.

Many of us were raised to believe that faith is measured by our obedience to church leaders, our strict observance of rules and teachings, or in the details of our worship and prayer. Therefore, when we become disillusioned with the Church, disillusionment with our faith often follows.

As Catholics, we publicly profess belief in the `one, holy, catholic and apostolic church`. But it is not our only – or even primary – belief. Yes, I believe in our church when she stands strong in solidarity with the poor, speaks out against injustice and promotes peace and the integrity of all creation. The Church is at her best when she stands as a moral beacon of hope in our world. This is when the church inspires me, and shows me by example how to live my faith in compassionate action.

My faith is tested when the church is more concerned about protecting her priests than protecting her children. My faith is tested when church leaders choose fighting for the integrity of doctrine over pastoral compassion for her people. My faith is tested when these same leaders spend their energy on silly liturgical wrangling over translations and wordings of missals rather than helping to form genuine people of prayer. But, I need to remind myself that these have nothing to do with my faith in God.

Sometimes I just need to sit back and make an honest assessment of what is of God, and what is the result of human weakness. One deserves my faith, the other doesn`t. And I need to know how and when to separate the two. To some, this might make me less of a faithful Catholic. But it doesn`t mean I am any less faith-filled.