Principle #6: Strengthen the Spirit

Principle #6: Support His Spiritual Development

As I drove to Cleveland yesterday, I reflected on this principle at length. I have, for quite some time, been puzzled by the people who say that they're "Spiritual, but not religious." Indeed, as I write this from a local a Bruegger's Bagels, one of the clerks described himself to a customer as one who'd rather be open to all spiritual paths rather than committing himself just to one.

It strikes me that the "spiritual, but not religious" phenomena is akin to a form of spiritual nomadism: people who wander from place to place, at best set down shallow roots, and should their be a challenge or change to the spiritual climate they are forced to move on or perish. My impression of many "spiritual nomads" is that they want their spirituality to comfort them, reassure them of their place in the cosmos, but don't want much care to be challenged to commit themselves to any particular path.

Now don't get me wrong: I don't think these are bad people. I do think that the risk of being a spiritual dilettante is a failure to take a stand, a missed opportunity to place oneself in the midst of a tradition both to embrace and be embraced by it.

One thing Jesuits in particular and all Catholics in general can do to help others establish roots is to become acquainted again with the riches of our spiritual heritage. The history of Christian Spirituality is a fascinating story and I can't help but think that there is someone for everyone within it.

For my brother Jesuits or those interested in promoting Jesuit vocations, I think it would be helpful to have a ready-to-hand list of resources that you might share with a person you think has a vocation or who has expressed interest in our way of life. We need always to feel confident enough to use the language of the Ignatian tradition to help those we encounter to come to know more clearly what it is that God wants for them. Casual spiritual conversation, long-term spiritual direction, or giving some form of the Spiritual Exercises would each be a practice that could help channel the enormous power of the Spirit that animates each person.

My suggestion, then, is to be sure that in addition to trying to promote vocations through an attentiveness to our hospitality and and enthusiasm for our way of life, we must also be attentive to the young man's spirit. We owe it to him to share the riches of our tradition and show him how our Ignatian and Jesuit heritage channels the enormous power of the Spirit and uses it for the building of God's Kingdom.
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