From a Christian perspective, spirituality gets traced back to the letters of Paul in which he uses the Greek term pneuma to signal a life lived in alignment with God’s Spirit. Christian spirituality presumes, through God’s grace, a human desire and capacity for growing in union with the Triune God. It encompasses the dynamic character of human life lived in conscious relationship with God in Christ through the Spirit, as experienced within a community of believers. To live a Christian spirituality is to attend to what is of God and to deepen in a life of conversion that has discipleship as its goal.
Christian spirituality gets expressed most authentically in the living out of our Christian baptismal promises. At the heart of these promises stands the rejection of everything that is not of God and the decision to live in accord with the energies and ways of the Triune God.
Renewed commitment to our baptismal promises is made possible by God’s grace, sustained by Christian community, and supported through engagement in meaningful spiritual practices. This section of our website seeks to present and explore an array of Christian spiritual practices that has served to nurture the lives of whole generations of Catholic Christians past and present. The practices presented here have long roots in the Catholic tradition; they have stood the test of time and have traveled well, demonstrating adaptability in multiple sociocultural contexts. The practices highlighted reflect a Catholic understanding of the person, of revelation, and a Catholic sense of sacramentality. The resources gathered provide a rich sampling of both “practices of prayer” and “practices of care,” as Catholic Christian spirituality insists on keeping strong the connection between prayer and praxis. By “drawing from the storeroom both the old and the new” (Mt. 13: 52), one is able to catch sight of the shape and character of Catholic spirituality in practice in our time.
Eucharist remains “the source and summit” of Catholic Christian faith, and participation in the sacraments is arguably the most well known spiritual practice of Catholic Christianity. But what additional and lesser-known practices form the spiritualities of Catholic Christians? This is our focus, and we examine precisely these practices, with an eye toward understanding better how they bring day-to-day meaning, coherence, and commitment to Catholic lives.
The Nature and Purpose of Spiritual Practice
Spiritual practices are concrete and specific. They are consciously chosen, intentional actions that give practical purpose to faith. Situated between life as we know it and life in its hoped-for fullness, spiritual practices are imbued with a sense of our relatedness to God, others, and the cosmos. Influencing our dispositions and outlooks on the world, spiritual practices render us more open and responsive to the dynamic activity of God’s grace, and move us toward greater spiritual maturity.
The “how to” question regarding spiritual practices is usually everyone’s first interest. Ultimately, however, the “why” question proves more significant than the “how,” particularly over the long haul in maintaining the discipline of spiritual practice. What are we practicing for?
We engage in spiritual practices because we seek a way of life rather than just a conglomeration of doctrines or a set of moral principles. Desiring an embodied faith that touches us and changes us, we opt in spiritual practice for a “knowing” that springs from the heart’s core, the lev, spoken about in the Hebrew Scriptures as the center of our affections (Ps. 4:7), the source of our reflection (Is. 6:10), and the foundation of our will (1 Sam. 24:5). The point of such practice is never mastery, but deeper relational life, a kind of living that makes appropriation of one’s faith all the more possible.
Catholic Christianity is indeed a tradition rich in practice. It is our hope that you will find in this section of our website entry into practices that nurture your spiritual lives, practices to be received, lived into, and reshaped in time and place for generations to come.