SpiritualDirection.com / Catholic Spiritual Direction

What is the essence of Catholic spirituality? I of II

August 29, 2011 by  
Filed under Catholic Spirituality, Fr. Bartunek

Dear Father John, I still struggle with keeping things in perspective. Would you therefore kindly explain what is the essence of authentic what is the essence of Catholic spiritualityCatholic spirituality, i.e., irrespective of whatever tradition one follows (Ignatian, Carmelite, Opus Dei, etc.), and also what are the essential elements of the spirituality. Also what is the relationship between Catholic morality and Catholic spirituality.

This question is harder to answer than you might think! But we’ll give it a shot.

What Do We Mean by Spirituality?

First, we will briefly define “spirituality.” Basically, this term signifies an itinerary for growth in our friendship with Christ. This itinerary has as its final destination what we call holiness, an individual’s firm, deep, integral, and dynamic communion with God. We call this itinerary “spirituality” because we achieve communion with God through the purifying our spiritual faculties (intelligence and will) and aligning them with the wisdom and will of God.

Our intelligence, our capacity to perceive and understand truth in a self-conscious manner, was severely darkened by original sin, and darkened even more by our personal sin and the sinful tendencies of the world around us. Growth in the spiritual life gradually increases the influence of God’s revelation and wisdom (a “light for our path and a lamp for our feet” as Psalm 119 puts it) in correcting, healing, and strengthening our minds. In this way we come to see and understand ourselves, God, and the world around us truthfully, i.e., as God does.

Our will, the capacity of self-determination which allows us to make self-aware choices, was also severely weakened by original sin, personal sin, and the evil tendencies of the world around us. Growth in the spiritual life gradually heals and strengthens our will, so that we emerge out of self-centered and self-indulgent habits into virtuous living. Virtues are those good habits of the will that enable us to choose what is truly good and right in any circumstance, even at great immediate cost to ourselves.

In our next post we will dig a little deeper into the nuts and bolts of the practical elements of a spirituality.


Art for this post on the essence of Catholic spirituality: Christ the Saviour (Pantokrator), a 6th-century encaustic icon from Saint Catherine's Monastery, Mount Sinai, artist unknown, 6th century, PD-US author's life plus 100 years or less, Wikimedia Commons.

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About Fr. John Bartunek, LC

Fr. John Bartunek, LC, S.Th.D, received his BA in History from Stanford University in 1990. He comes from an evangelical Christian background and became a member of the Catholic Church in 1991. After college, he worked as a high school history teacher, drama director, and baseball coach. He then spent a year as a professional actor in Chicago before entering the religious Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ in 1993. He was ordained a Catholic priest in 2003 and earned his doctorate in moral theology in 2010. He provided spiritual support on the set of Mel Gibson’s "The Passion of the Christ" while researching the 2005 Catholic best seller, "Inside the Passion"--the only authorized, behind-the-scene explanation of the film. Fr. John has contributed news commentary regarding religious issues on NBC, CNN, Fox, and the BBC. He also served as the English-language press liaison for the Vatican’s 2005 Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist. His most widely known book is called: "The Better Part: A Christ-Centered Resource for Personal Prayer". His most recent books are "Spring Meditations", "Seeking First the Kingdom: 30 Meditations on How to Love God with All Your Heart, Soul, Mind and Strength", and "Answers: Catholic Advice for Your Spiritual Questions". Fr. John currently splits his time between Michigan (where he continues his writing apostolate and serves as a confessor and spiritual director at the Queen of the Family Retreat Center) and Rome, where he teaches theology at Regina Apostolorum. His online, do-it-yourself retreats are available at RCSpirituality.org, and he answers questions about the spiritual life at SpiritualDirection.com.

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