What is Spirituality?
from various sources
The "concept" of Christian
Spirituality has not been defined in a precise
and univocal way. It is commonly accepted that this "concept" denotes the Christian
life of individuals and of communities
in a variety of particular expressions in history. These have been based on the teaching of Christ and have been given
their form under the guidance of
the Holy Spirit. The "concept" applies both to the interior
development of the spiritual
life of the faithful and to
the projection of that life in the works they perform.
Though Christian Spirituality
is basically ONE, since it
is based on the Gospel, nevertheless it has shown great variations in
the ways it has been realized throughout
history. These variations derive from the different emphases placed on the many aspects of
the Christian life. Thus, for example, the spirituality of the early
Christians was notably different from the spirituality of Christians in our time; the spirituality
of the Laity differs from that of the Clergy and of the Religious;
the spirituality of the Monastic
Orders (Benedict, Basil, Gregory)
differs from that of the Religious Congregations (Redemptorists,
Dominicans, Jesuits) and from that of the Secular
Obviously the spirituality
of those in religious institutes is determined principally by the spirituality of the founders of
those Institutes. But not exclusively: it
is determined also by the spirituality of eminent
personalities and communities which not infrequently change or
modify the spirituality of their
predecessors. Other forces which may influence a particular spirituality
are the external milieu and the historical processes at
work both inside and outside Christianity.
As said before, this concerns the spiritual life,
the life of the Holy Spirit within
us. The Spirit of the Living God comes to dwell within us and to lead us to God. Here we have a vertical
line constantly coming down to arouse our response to return to Him.
History of Spirituality
Here we have a convergence of the two lines,
horizontal and vertical.
More exactly, the horizontal line of history
is brought to life at every moment by the movement of the living
God Who comes to live among men and women
("to play with the sons of men" as the
Book of Proverbs has it). To this movement of God
there corresponds a free movement of men
and women who can respond to Him
in two ways:
setting oneself free from everything which could be an obstacle
to the work of God, renouncing the evil forces capable of limiting
or annihilating this divine action. It is a combat,
a struggle (ascesis)
leading to purification.
letting oneself be caught up in this movement of return to God,
giving oneself to His action through availability, surrender,
prayer. This is contemplation.
Ascesis and contemplation
are two movements linked together which we
will come across constantly.
nothing else than an enlightened method adopted in the observance of the law of God
through all the various degrees of service, from the obedience of the ordinary believer to
the absorbing devotion of the greatest saint, guiding each in accordance with the measure
of grace imparted by the Spirit of Light and Truth. (From the Catholic
To study the history of spirituality
is then to try to understand the movement of God towards men and women
(Alphonsus Liguori, Bernard of Clairvaux, Francis
de Sales) and their response to God
in the course of history, particularly through the texts which have been handed down to
us, texts written by people who have spent their lives close to God
or who have written about it. There is no history without texts, and these have been
selectively converted to Web Pages herein. These texts will draw for us
the moral and spiritual
profile of each of these witnesses to God, their response to the
action of God, their way of going to God. We are not dealing with something dead as in history pure and simple, but with
something very much alive.
All the more alive as the same Spirit Who has fashioned the different spiritual characters of the men and women whom we
shall meet, is also within us to help us understand their teaching, the breath of life
with which He has endowed them and their
writings will transform us with a life-giving touch.
It is the Holy Spirit Who will bring us into
contact, and even into friendship with these
men and women who are always present among us through their writings.
The Spiritual Combat is a famous
classic on the strategy for achieving spiritual perfection and salvation. First published
in 1589, it was the favorite book of the great Saint Francis de Sales (1567-1622), Doctor
of the Church and master of the spiritual life; he carried a copy in his pocket for 18
years, read from it every day and recommended it to everyone under his direction.