Spiritual and Religious

I saw a post on Facebook today from a friend whom I believe would describe herself as “spiritual but not religious”. It was a meme with a quote from a woman named Anita Moorjani, who I know absolutely nothing about. But this is what she said:

I now understand that I don’t have to work at being spiritual. Being spiritual is who we are, at our core, whether we realize it or not. It is our true nature, so we cannot NOT be spiritual! Being yourself and being spiritual are one and the same thing.

And I thought, interesting. I don’t know how Moorjani defines her terms, but in Catholic terms this is exactly right. We human beings sit at the line of division between the spiritual realm and the material realm. Like plants and animals, we have material bodies, but we also have immortal souls. I’ll note that we are not “ghosts in a machine,” as the popular phrase has it; we aren’t souls wearing bodies like a meat suit. A human being is body-and-soul together. But we are body-and-soul, body-and-spirit. We are spiritual beings by nature; we can’t help it, and so it is true that there is absolutely nothing we need to do to be “spiritual”.

But I take it that for Moorjani, being “spiritual” is the goal, and her message is that the goal is easy to reach: you just have to be yourself, and you’re being spiritual: see how easy?

And I answer that “being yourself” is exactly what Christ wants from us. He wants us to be ourselves in the same way that an apple tree sapling is itself by maturing and bearing fruit. The sapling doesn’t become some other kind of tree by maturing; it becomes more itself. As St. Thomas Aquinas would say, “Grace perfects nature.”

And perfection—holiness—does, in fact, take work. We cannot be all that we should be without God’s grace—and we need to cooperate with that grace. We need to choose the good, not the bad, and when we fail to do that, we need to pick ourselves up and try again. Over and over again.

Christ wants us to be ourselves. He wants us to be ever and increasingly more ourselves. He wants to give us life, and that abundantly.

Simply being spiritual isn’t enough.

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  • Allen Bourque

    Very well said. I have very slightly different language. Being spiritual is the grace-full beginning – the place from which the work (practice in contemporary terms, ascesis is historic terms) really begins. Or, as the (non-Catholic) Gospel Thomas says: “seek and you will find, and when you find you will become troubled.” I love finding the connections between the “spiritual” and the “religious”. Thanks for your posting.

  • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

    Most people who make the calim they are “spiritual but not religious” don’t have a clue what it means to be spiritual. They are just in a backhad way rejecting religion while not rejecting the possibility of God. That’s all. To those people I usually like to say I’m the opposite; I’m religious but not spiritual. Throws them for a loop. ;)