Catholic spirituality

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Catholic spirituality is the spiritual practice of living out a personal act of faith (fides qua creditur) following the acceptance of faith (fides quae creditur). Although all Catholics are expected to pray together at Mass, there are many different forms of spirituality and private prayer which have developed over the centuries. Each of the major religious orders of the Catholic Church and other lay groupings have their own unique spirituality - its own way of approaching God in prayer and in living out the Gospel.

Catholic devotional piety

Catholic piety is based on the life and teaching of Jesus Christ. Although Jesus along with the Father, and the Holy Spirit is the focus of Catholic faith, Jesus was also the founder.

The fundamental relationship of Jesus Christ, Son of God is with his Father. As Son, Jesus is always in communion with God the Father. All throughout his life, his prayer starts with "Father', and the prayer he taught his disciples starts with "Our Father".

From this the Catholic Church has developed a piety that mirrors Jesus's attitude. The Mass, the central prayer of the Church, also refers to the Father.

Desert spirituality

Desert spirituality is a way of seeking God that is characterized by the "desert theology" of the Old Testament that is at the very heart of the Judeo-Christian tradition, namely God keeping his People wandering for 40 years in the desert,[1] and also throughout the subsequent centuries repeatedly calling them into the desert, as a testing ground where they may experience a change of heart and, by proving themselves obedient to his ordering of human living, accept him, their Creator, again as their Lord.

In New Testament times it is likewise for the reason of proving his obedience that Jesus of Nazareth underwent testing in the desert (cf. Matthew 4:1-11 = Mark 1:12-13 = Luke 4:1-13).

The Christian eremitic vocation has the same purpose, as the name hermit applied to those that embrace it indicates.

Among those most widely known for living a desert spirituality during the early Christian centuries is St Anthony of Egypt (251-356). He lived as a hermit for ten years, practiced asceticism for his whole life, and grew his own food for sustenance.

From the life of someone alone being dedicated to seeking God in the desert, which is the earliest form of Christian monasticism, the monastic life in community has emerged, although the eremitic vocation continues as a distinct way of seeking God even today.

In practical terms this spiritual quest is pursued through prayer in solitude and asceticism.

Some adherents of desert spirituality – whether as eremitic or cenobitic monastics, or as Christian faithful outside the religious life – practise centering prayer. Though seriously disputed as anachronistic and of modern, Eastern origin, this practice is in truth prominent in Catholic practice (at least) as early as the 13th century, as evinced by works such as The Cloud of Unknowing - written anonymously in Middle English by a Catholic monastic. This is meditation on a single, sacred word that is meant to draw the believer closer to God by withdrawing compulsive infatuation with particular sensory objects and conceptual constructions

Monastic orders

Benedictine spirituality

Benedictine spirituality is characterized by striving towards Christian perfection in community, liturgical prayer, and separation from worldly concerns. St. Benedict (480-550) is considered to be the Father of Western Monasticism. He wrote The Rule and established his first monastery at Monte Cassino, Italy. Lectio Divina is a Benedictine prayer form based on praying with the Word of God. Lectio Divina has four "moments": Lectio (Reading Scripture), Meditatio (Reflection on the Word), Oratio (Praying), and Contemplatio (Silently listening to God). Key people involved in the 20th and 21st century include Thomas Merton and Basil Pennington.

Franciscan spirituality

Franciscan spirituality is characterized by a life of poverty, love of nature, and giving charity to those in need. St. Francis of Assisi (1182–1226) was the son of a wealthy merchant. He rejected all of his possessions and founded a community of brothers (friars) who lived in poverty and helped the poor. Franciscan prayer recognizes God's presence in the wonder of creation. This is seen clearly in St. Francis' Canticle of the Sun. Franciscan spirituality is focused on walking in Christ's footsteps, understanding God by doing what Christ asked, experiencing and sharing God rather than discussing God.

Dominican spirituality

Dominican spirituality is characterized by poverty, love of preaching and devotion to truth. St. Dominic (1170–1221) encountered heretics on a journey in France. His opinion was that the people were not to blame - the preachers were. If there are good, orthodox preachers, then the people will be good and orthodox also. So, he founded the Order of Preachers, known as Dominicans who are drawn to contemplation of the Sacred Humanity of Jesus Christ. Throughout history, the Dominicans have helped to develop ways of praying which have aided people in deepening their relationship with God. The Rosary is an example of a prayer developed by the Dominicans. Some traditional legends say that the Rosary was given in its current form to St. Dominic by Mary. The Rosary is characteristic of Dominican spirituality because it focuses attention on the principal mysteries of the life of Jesus Christ, can lead to contemplation and is a way of proclaiming the truths of faith. Some members of the Dominican Order have made significant contributions to Catholic thought. The theological insight provided by St. Thomas Aquinas continues to be a major reference point for the Church today. Further, St Thomas made several defenses against critics who would suggest that physical labor was essential and missing for the relatively new order. He argued that intellectual, and consequently teaching, tasks were the equal to the Benedictine idea of physical labor being a superior form of contemplative prayer.

Ignatian spirituality

Ignatian spirituality is characterized by examination of one's life, discerning the will of God, finding God in all things (hence their motto "Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam", or "For the Greater Glory of God"), and living the Resurrection. St. Ignatius of Loyola (1491–1556) was a wounded soldier when he first began to read about Christ and the saints. He had a conversion experience while healing and decided to found the Society of Jesus, known as the Jesuits. His classic, the Spiritual Exercises is a guide for making a retreat. Jesuits are quite diverse, despite rumors to the contrary, but are united by a zeal that comes from every Jesuit making the Spiritual Exercises. Lay Catholics are allowed to take a shortened version of the Exercises at retreat houses, which are based on an individual spiritual guidance; wherein the retreat master guides each retreatant separately to what (s)he is going through and what the Holy Spirit guides.

Ignatian Spirituality takes from other orders concepts and incorporates them. For example, finding God in all things - aka 'contemplative in action' - is heavily based on the spirituality of St Francis of Assisi, whom Ignatius admired. Another example is meditating on Scripture that comes from the Benedictine concept of Lectio Divina. However, it must be noted that Ignatian Spirituality is adaptable to the times, as is clear when one reads the Exercises. For instance, Pedro Arrupe (1907-1991)- A famous and beloved Superior General of the Jesuits from 1965-1983 - was known for incorporating Zen meditative techniques to assist in his concentration. Another example of adaptability is the suggestion that one retreatant can heavily use their imagination to assist in discerning whereas another needs to empty their mind.

Carmelite spirituality

Carmelite spirituality is characterised by interior detachment, silence, solitude, the desire for spiritual progress and insight into mystical experiences. The roots of the Carmelite Order go back to a group of hermits living on Mt. Carmel in Israel during the 12th Century. Ss. John of the Cross (1542–1591) and Teresa of Ávila (1515–1582) were both Carmelite mystics whose writings are considered to be spiritual classics. In his work The Ascent of Mount Carmel, St. John of the Cross teaches that purgation of the soul through mortification and suppression of desires is necessary for the soul while it journeys through darkness before entering into divine union with God. Teresa of Avila emphasized the importance of mental prayer which she defined as "spending time with a friend whom we know loves us."

Other important figures in Carmelite Spirituality include Thérèse of Lisieux (Doctor of the Church), Mary Magdalene de Pazzi, Sister Lúcia of Fátima, Nuno of Saint Mary, Elizabeth of the Trinity, Marie-Antoinette de Geuser known as "Consumata", Edith Stein, Teresa of the Andes, Teresa Margaret of the Sacred Heart, Joaquina de Vedruna, Angelus of Jerusalem, and Brother Lawrence

Redemptorist spirituality

Redemptorist spirituality consists of:

  1. the Crib,
  2. the Cross
  3. the Sacrament.

In other words, the Redemptorists follow Christ in his incarnation, death and resurrection and believe that he is always with them. They hold the belief that there is always a great encounter with Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, hence Saint Alphonsus wrote the Visit to the Blessed Sacrament and the Blessed Virgin Mary. He also wrote the popular Way of the Cross, and composed Christmas carols. The Redemptorist spirituality is a practical one, render help to the abandoned both spiritual and material. The heart of Redemptorist spirituality is the Gospel Invitation "to follow Jesus Christ." One of the most tangible ways they do this is to proclaim the gospel in simple ways to ordinary people, and to radiate the motto of Christ who read from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me…. to preach Good News to the Poor…. liberty to captives…. sight to the blind…. to proclaim the year of the Lord's Favour. (Luke 4:18-19)

Servite spirituality

The spirituality of the Servite order is focused on contemplating Mary at the foot of the cross as a model for Christian life, and service to the suffering. Moreover, because the order has Seven Holy Founders, rather than one individual founder, there is a particular emphasis on the communal aspect of Christian life. This spirituality finds expression particularly in the Rosary of the Seven Sorrows.

Montfortian spirituality

God Alone was the motto of Saint Louis de Montfort and is repeated over 150 times in his writings. God Alone is also the title of his collected writings. Briefly speaking, based on his writings, Montfortian spirituality can be summed up via the formula: "To God Alone, by Christ Wisdom, in the Spirit, in communion with Mary, for the reign of God."

Although St Louis is perhaps best known for his Mariology and devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, his spirituality is founded on the mystery of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, and is centered on Christ, what is visible in his famous Prayer to Jesus.

Post-Vatican II lay movements

See also Laity in the Catholic Church

The Second Vatican Council accelerated the diversification of spiritual movements among Catholics, and some lay Catholics now engage in regular contemplative practices such as Centering prayer, although this is still controversial. Many contemporary spiritual movements emphasize the necessity both of an interior relationship with God (private prayer) and works of justice and mercy. Major 20th century writers who sought to draw together the active and contemplative poles of Christian spirituality have been Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton and Richard Rohr.

The purpose of all lay movements in the Catholic Church is to spread in society a deep awareness that every single person is called to live a holy life and each in his own way to become an apostle of Jesus Christ. For the majority of Christians, God calls them to sanctify themselves through their ordinary lives by works of charity and devotion cultivated in the family, the domestic church, in the neighborhood and parish life as well as the workplace all of which are paths to holiness.

Charismatic spirituality

Not far from the Ignatian spirituality in regard to its understanding of faith, Charismatic spirituality is in fact the re-exploration of different Catholic spiritual currents with an emphasis on personal experience generally shared in groups.

Schoenstatt Movement

Schoenstatt emphasizes a strong devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, upholding her as a perfect example of love and purity. Schoenstatt seeks to invite the Blessed Mother (and, hence, her divine Son, Jesus Christ), into the home by establishing a spiritual Covenant of Love with her. It encourages its members to have the faith and purity of children, and to think of Mary as their mother.

Focolare Movement

In 1943 in Northern Italy during World War II, Chiara Lubich, together with a small group of friends, concluded that God is the only ideal worth living for. The Focolare movement was founded as a result. The goal was to strive towards the fulfillment of Jesus’ prayer to the Father: “That they all may be one.” (John 17:21). A spirituality of unity resulted and gave rise to a movement of spiritual and social renewal. Now embracing over 5 million members in 182 countries, Focolare (which means hearth) draws together groups of families, neighbors and friends to share build community and extend the works of the Gospel.

Sant'Egidio movement

The Sant'Egidio community began with a group of high school students in the 1960s who were convinced by a local priest in Rome to try an experiment—to try to live for a time as the early Christian disciples did, gathering for prayer and shared meals daily in their neighborhood as well as joining together in the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. The community thrived and has now become a global movement of communities working for peace and justice in a spirit of daily common life and prayer.

Opus Dei spirituality

Opus Dei predated the Second Vatican Council in its emphasis on the laity. Founded by St. Josemaría Escrivá, Opus Dei's spirituality is based on life lived in the secular world. The "sanctification of work" consists in offering all work, however ordinary, to God. This implies that one always does one's best. To be a contemplative is to integrate one's life ("unity of life") in faithfulness to the Catholic Church and in solidarity with all those with whom one comes into contact, living a life of faith in all circumstances of each day. As John Allen says: people who follow this spirituality enter a church and leave it for the same reason—to get closer to God. The members of Opus Dei and its cooperators have committed to convert their daily work into prayer. Pope John Paul I, a few years before his election, wrote that Escrivá was more radical than other saints who taught about the universal call to holiness. While others emphasized monastic spirituality applied to lay people, for Escrivá "it is the material work itself which must be turned into prayer and sanctity", thus providing a lay spirituality.[2] Expressed this way, Opus Dei builds on "finding God in all things" from Ignatian spirituality and emphasizes the universality of this call to holiness.

Regnum Christi Spirituality

Regnum Christi focuses on the mission of every baptized person to evangelize. Each member is called to pray, meet in community and do some form of apostolate (which varies from member to member). Their motto is "Love Christ, Serve People, Build the Church." They express their ethos as loving CHrist, Mary, Souls, the Church, and the Pope. Regnum Christi is somewhat unique among the lay movements as it is bound to a religious community, the Legion of Christ.

See also

Lay spirituality


  1. Numbers 13:3, Numbers 13:26
  2. prayer with the spiritual assistance of the prelature. Cardinal Albino Luciani (John Paul I). "Seeking God Through Everyday Work: A profile of the Founder of Opus Dei, Josemaria Escriva". Opus Dei Files. Retrieved 2007-04-03.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links