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Practical Spirituality

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Spring: Go off Your Usual Path

It is the first day of spring, and there is no holding her back!

Despite the fatigue, disillusionment, concern or distress any of us may feel, there is always a divine newness at work under the surface. Look around today, and you will see it, pushing through the soil from the ground of our very being. Pull out a few of the weeds that take up space in your life, and let the new growth have greater sway! Or, as Pope Francis encourages us in Joy of the Gospel, let a renewed encounter with God's love blossom into an enriching friendship--and see where that friendship takes you!

The Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore invites us to let this gentle stirring move us to scatter heaps of hope. Let his words, beautifully translated by Br. James Talarovic, inspire you over the next weeks:

Today spring is awake at your door.
In your veiled, shy life, please don't frustrate her.
Open up the petals of your heart today;
pour out your scent in waves into this sky
that is already resounding with songs.
Go off your usual path.
Go to the outside world,
scattering heaps of sweetness everywhere.
Sing the song of the One you seek
in your soul, in your work,
in this fragrance-laden, agitated breeze...
a delightful tune that renews an eager youth within
Today amid the scent
of new mango blossoms,
amid the rustling notes
of fresh stems bursting forth,
under the nectar-sprinkled moon rays
  in the tearful delight of new skies
Let your soul be stirred
  by the gentle touch of love and desire.
Rabindranath Tagore


Reflections on Love

Love: Besides Being What We Long For, Is It the Only Viable Strategy We Have Left?

As we take time today to celebrate the ways we have known love in our lives, it seemed appropriate to reflect on some of the qualities of love. I chose to highlight four: love’s transforming energy, love as the context for our journey toward human authenticity, love as a source of profound joy, love as a source of illumination and courage. This blog entry is derived from excerpts from my new book, The Tenderness of God: Reclaiming Our Humanity.

Love is far more than a feeling. It is an energy that reaches us at all levels—our affect and heart, our intellect and mind, our bodies and our souls. Further, it is a source of vitality; it is a transforming power. Perhaps because of its very power to change us, we both long for it and, at times, fear it. What is clear is that we will never tame love’s power, nor fathom all of its mysteries. To me, this suggests that our primary task, as humans, is to learn love, thoroughly and completely, as we create communities of growth, care and mutual belonging.

Love requires honesty. It is a journey toward human authenticity that we share with others. When we recognize our desire for greater meaning, coherence, and purpose in our lives, then, for the very sake of our own well-being, we must engage a genuine process of searching, a journey that leads us to probe what it means to be human and how to be related to others. When we begin to speak more honestly about our longings for fullness of life, we often come to find out that we are not alone in them. (Tenderness of God, pp. 1-2)

Love is a source of profound joy, capable of awakening us to deeper ways of being ourselves. As Henri Nouwen wrote decades ago, “The joy of life comes from the ways in which we live together and the pain of life comes from the many ways we fail to do that well.” (Henri Nouwen, Life of the Beloved, p, 90) Both love and joy are phenomena that pull us out of the smallness of the self and invite us to share ourselves, to connect with others, and to expand our personhood. As we choose this new and “wonderfully complicated” way of being, we come to know the power of tenderness and, as Pope Francis as said, “we experience intensely what it is to be a people, to be part of a people.” (Pope Francis, Joy of the Gospel, par. 270)

Love illumines; it forges paths and lights the way forward. “Solving our problems requires us to grow beyond the smallnesses of character and vision that plague us, uncovering together a solidarity that dignifies and creates possibilities that, individually, we are unable to create. If love is, in the end, “the only light which ‘can always illuminate a world grown dim and give us the courage needed to keep living and working,’” (Pope Francis, Joy of the Gospel, paragraph 272) we shall need to allow and enable love to give us the new human intelligence that our species currently requires. For love is not just a transforming power. It is the only viable strategy we have left.” (Tenderness of God, pp. 70-71)


Practical Spirituality: Transforming Lives, Transforming Communities

The Christian mystical tradition offers us many practical resources for living today, not just as individuals but also as people who seek to live together in community, to collaborate in the work of making the world a better place. See below for an introductory vision of practical resources for living today.