Does this sound familiar? I am born into a Catholic family. Baptized as a baby. Went to a Catholic School. Maybe more than one! Received most of the Sacraments, at the least, all of the Sacraments of Initiation (Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Communion). I continued my Catholic upbringing by passing it on to my own children. What’s my level of involvement in the Church these days? Minimal. I give to the Church every Sunday. I pray too- every Sunday. Ok, I may say some prayers during the week. But that’s it. Welcome to the world of cultural Catholicism!
In this world I may only be Catholic due to my ethnic background. There is a good chance of this, but we have to agree that such a reason as to why one might be Catholic is not absolutely true. There are possible reasons. Nonetheless, I am Catholic because I am planted into it and I just do not know any other way of being. Is this an ideal way of living spiritually? Now here the answer just has to be no.
To appreciate this answer, let’s ask the question if living spiritually is important to all? The answer, for me anyway, is yes. If people do not take care of themselves physically, they take a very high risk of dying young, or at least living with some debilitating bodily illness for the rest of their lives, which leaves them feeling unhappy.
Without a good spiritual training now, over time they may have difficulty forgiving someone. They may have difficulty forgiving themselves. For this reason or more, sadness could easily become an end result here too. So, what one sees is that a negative consequence can easily follow either physical or spiritual neglect.
Let’s look at people now who refuse to stay in a slump, but instead choose a more energizing way of being, and as a result learn what real living means. Let’s start with taking care of oneself whether physically or psychologically. Ever hear of Bill Wilson? He is the founder of AA, a group of alcoholics who support each other to stay sober. It is highly impressive and creative work that will always be associated with Bill Wilson. But first, in order to be the founder, he had to give up drinking himself. He just could not stop drinking until he realized that he was not really living, but rather choosing to die. Well, rather than remaining in that sort of slump of just drinking all the time, he decided to make his life one of meaning. He gave up drinking and did something marvelous with his life instead. Interesting enough, although I am placing this story on the physical/psychological side, you must admit that there is a strong overlap onto the spiritual as well. I am hinting at current discussion and research here. To help oneself spiritually is to help oneself physically and psychologically as well. I am a member of the American Psychotherapy Association, and from reading their materials I come to the easy arrived conclusion that spiritual practices and beliefs are often enough just good therapy too.
On a more “purely” spiritual note though, let’s look at Dorothy Day (d.1980). She had considered herself an anarchist and agnostic. She lived a bohemian life. She had an abortion. Her earlier relationships with men did not last. She was always a social activist. But as she grew older, she felt a call from God and became Catholic. She remained an activist, but now under Catholic leadership. She, along with Peter Maurin, put together the Catholic Workers Movement and issued a newspaper called the Catholic Worker. Her cause is in for canonization and she is referred to as “Servant of God.” I believe that it is safe to say that her spirituality received a jump start. She was hardly in a slump after her conversion. Rather, after her conversion, she really lived. If one is in a slump, does one have to stay there? If one uses the above two people as possible answers, the answer would to be no. So, look at your own spiritual life. If you feel that you are in a slump, for heaven’s sake, don’t ever feel that you have to stay there. A slump is a mental place that one need only pass through, and not live in, unless that is your choice, which is what it always is- a choice. We always have the power or the grace to make better choices. God bless you!
Peace, Fr. Walter