St. Paul put his love of Christ into a plan of action for his own life when he said: “…I continue my pursuit in hope that I may possess it, since I have indeed been taken possession of by Christ…” (Philippians 3:12) He couldn’t explain his life’s meaning any other way. He didn’t need to; for him, this goal said it all as he strove to be “clothed…with Christ.” (Galatians 3:27)
Paul realized that: (1) with God’s grace, he had come a long way but still had a long way to go; (2) he didn’t ever want to go back; (3) he had more maturing to do yet; and (4) with Christ’s love, help, and guidance he would keep pushing ahead.
Oftentimes, the three above words—religion, spirituality, and life-meaning—with their definitions, are used interchangeably. Their meanings get muddied in the process. If we can’t define them accurately, they’ll lose their positive effect on our life.
What do they mean? Aren’t they the same? Don’t they overlap? How can these concepts be connected and help make our spiritual journey toward maturing adulthood more dynamic? Let’s see.
Religion: Is a set of beliefs, values, and practices based on the teachings of a spiritual leader, the institutional system grounding these beliefs, and its related worship. These belief systems are quantifiable and easily known. Many regard these basics as sufficient knowledge and nourishment to sustain them for life; that’s why many people drop further religious enrichment, church membership, and cut back/out religious practices. They believe they’re finished for life with their religious learning; they stagnate with boredom.
Actually, beliefs, practices, and teachings are the foundation on which to build further spiritual maturing; church membership is the community which guides and supports it. To progress in wisdom and grace, we mustn’t limit our spiritual growth to the foundation. Throughout life, we must take what we’ve learned and adapt, enrich, and expand it.
Spirituality: Is our quality of being aware that we have an eternal spirit-soul and then acting accordingly. Because of our sacred spirit-soul gift, we are empowered to thought, word, action, desires, imaginations, and decisions. We can freely both will and make choices. Our spirit-soul was created by God and immediately joined with our body into one single human nature. Because of this union we live, move, and have our being. We must be concerned with and nourish both of these daily. One meal a week would not keep us healthy in body; neither does going to church once a week keep us healthy spiritually. God’s life in us is His precious gift; how we respond to God’s incredible Presence through thoughts, words, and actions creates our unique spirituality. We have to discover/uncover our own spirit-gifts throughout life, just as we do our physical and mental talents. There are as many spiritualities as there are people, and it’s up to us to nurture, develop, and use our own treasures of body, mind, and spirit.
Life-meaning: Throughout life, our passion (that which motivates us) must change in order for us to continually have meaning and purpose. These two form an interpreted goal, intent, or end which holds an inner significance for us. To express these, we join essential truths of our religion and its foundational teachings with our spirituality. We then create life-meaning by transforming these into specific realities at each new age.
We’ll never have all the spirituality we need for life for our only life-vocation is to develop a personal friendship with Christ, and then to let His touch of love, light, life, and presence flow through us. This is never-ending transformation. This is spiritual maturing.
Only this passion will give us our life-meaning and inflame us with the fire Christ wants:
I have come to light a fire on the earth. How I wish the blaze were ignited. (Luke 12:49)
We don’t have to acquire a spirituality, it’s a gift; all we need to do is to express it by letting Christ’s fire blaze through us to help Him make the world a better place. Without this passion, a person’s days are boring and without meaning or purpose.
SR. ANGELITA M. FENKER, 83, passed away on Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2013. Born in Fort Wayne, Sr. Angelita was a religious Sister and educator with various educational and ecumenical organizations in the U.S and Canada for 60 years, retiring in 2007.
She started her ministry in 1947, earned Bachelors degrees in education and family studies from University of Saint Francis and Purdue University. She was an elementary teacher, principal and director of religious education in Missouri, Louisiana and Indiana. She earned her Masters degree in education administration from Marquette University. From 1973 to 1990, served as the National Associate Director of Families for Prayer, Inc, of Albany, N.Y. During this time, she also earned her doctorate degree in spirituality and family spirituality from the Graduate Theological Foundation.
Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon her. May she and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.