Monday, June 13, 2011

Growing in the Spiritual Life

Catholic Weekly recently carried its 100th Q&A column on the spiritual life. The columnist used the occasion to give his views on the column to those who both praised and criticized his efforts. He and his column have become somewhat of a sensation over the last two  years and he feels it necessary to speak his mind.

Negative responses to the column, he admits, have troubled him. However, he has no intention in giving up, for he is convinced that what he is doing is needed. He feels that most instruction on spirituality is intended for the spiritually advanced  and not for those who need it the most, those without a healthy approach to the spiritual--the neophytes.

Jesus, he reminds us, treated those who followed him in different ways. He asked those closest to him what he did not ask of others. The Church also, he maintains, has to distinguish between the spiritually healthy and the spiritually sick.

He believes he is being misunderstood by some because his primary concern is not with the healthy members of the Church but with those who are spiritually sick. What he speaks about is not only what he has attained from books but from his life experiences.

From the time he was a child he read many lives of the saints, practiced many different exercises and even thought of becoming  a religious. He was always blaming himself for not being better than he was, hating himself while striving at the same time for the ideal self;  he was divided and  neurotic. But he never considered it an illness nor did anyone ever tell him it was a disorder. In his early forties he could no longer overlook what was bothering him and began the study of spiritual psychological counseling. He realized he was not seeing spiritual life correctly and had become addicted to blaming himself for not living a more spiritual life. He also did not realize that he was misunderstanding the teaching of Jesus and was using remedies that were having unhealthy side-effects.

Looking around he found others with the same problems he had, caught in the same traps, which prompted  him to take courses in  counseling. He soon learned, however, that lectures and counseling do not help remove problems whose roots are  buried deep within a person's psyche. This was the reason, he says, for starting his weekly column, hoping to help his readers, over an extended period of time, to a new understanding of spirituality.

He thanks all those who have shown trust in what he is trying to do--the Cardinal, the bishop, the publisher, and all his readers.

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