What is spirituality?


Spiritual Reflections: Thirsting

This has been a long hot summer and it’s not even August yet! I find myself trying to remember to take a refillable water bottle with me when I get in the car. I recall with a smile having heard for the first time that we have a difficult time recognizing when we are thirsty. Sometimes we think that we are hungry when actually we are thirsty. But this summer I have found myself at the sink drinking more than one glass of water at a time, a sign that I was much thirstier than I recognized.
I suspect that our inability to recognize when we are thirsty has several parallels in our life. One of these is our desire for more stuff. For some of us it is electronics, tools, or sports equipment, for others collectables, used clothing and kitchen gadgets. This list could go on but our over- stuffed closets and basements, which have spilled out into the storage facilities that dot our nation, stand in testimony to our desire for more stuff.
If you have been graced enough to recognize this issue in your own life, there is a good chance that you have begun to look upon the “desire for more” as the source of the problem. That may be a very good place to begin. I would like to propose an alternative perspective: that the desire for more stuff is really a misreading of our desire. This is much like how we may misinterpret our thirst for hunger and reach for something to eat when our bodies really need fluids. 
I believe that the “desire for more” part of the human person, placed there by God, is meant to encourage us out of ourselves and to be connected to other people and to God. One of the problems is that we have not let ourselves experience the desire as something good in itself. Therefore we do not sit with the desire itself and get to know it, what it feels like and what it is telling us. Desire is among those unpleasant feelings like anger, guilt, failure, and loss. Therefore we try to avoid staying with those feelings. But then we never learn what they have to tell us either. God gives all of our feelings to serve us well if we will let them.
So how might this feeling of “desiring more” begin to serve us? It can teach us that we are not complete in ourselves. No matter how much we have, or how accomplished we have become, we are not complete, we look for something more. In most of us it moves outside of self-preoccupation into a desire to be connected to others and to seek their good as a source of fulfillment and happiness. It leads to family relationships, volunteering, and acts of generosity when disasters happen to a neighbor or across the glob. It also leads to a desire to seek our more meaning for our lives than they have in themselves. That desire most of experience as a desire for God, the source of all meaning.
Desire is not the problem. It is really the solution. Desire can be without any direction especially if we rushed to move past the feeling because it is uncomfortable. Desire can also be out of control; everyone who dealt with an addiction can vouch of that. But I believe that desire is given to each of us in good measure to lead us beyond ourselves, into meaningful relationships with others and God.
If ever you feel like you need a place to reflect on how God might be using your desires, IL RITIOR has three small hermitages that are ideal places for personal reflection.
Fr. Paul

Aids to Designing a Private/Group Retreat

Jesus in St. Mark’s Gospel gives a perfect example of the importance of time set aside to pray and contemplate. A retreat provides time to listen to God speaking to your heart.


"Rising early the next morning, Jesus went off to lonely place in the desert; there he was absorbed in prayer." (Mark 1:35)

Some essential components to structuring a retreat are:
- Come prepared to listen to the Holy Spirit
- Bring your Scriptures, perhaps a journal and one favorite spiritual reading book
- Schedule in 4-5 blocks of time for paying close attention to listening to God speaking to you
- Turn away from distractions – eliminate or limit time with computer, cell phone and other technological distractions
- Plan to take some prayer walks-spending time admiring a flower, listening to a bird etc. and allow time for gratitude to well up in your heart
- Avoid conversations with others so that your heart can be totally centered on God

Your Retreat Experience will result in a deeper love relationship with God and a peaceful spirit. As you return home you may wish to share your experience and invite your prayer group, committee, and/or friends to come to Il Ritiro and experience God’s love in this way too.



"Everyone of us is created with the hunger for the Other. This ineluctable loneliness is the core of being human. That desire that is central to my being and living, and that no other human can satisfy, is not in vain, does not come from nowhere. It is created in us by the one who has to love, who is love, whose whole being is that mysterious Other that we meet in answer to that universal longing. This is a very, very important truth.The amazing thing is how little it operates in the awareness of most of us. All of us have this loneliness. For some it is never made conscious. They experience it as a kind of restlessness, a discontent with life, a haunting sense of "Is this all there is?" For others there is awareness of the loneliness, but it is focused on the search for the other, for the perfect match, for the woman of my dreams, or the man for me... It is a special thing when we find a special someone. This is a wonderful thing when it happens, if it happens. But it does not take away, after a while, the loneliness... We cannot complete each other. If we understand that, we are really freed to love while acknowledging the larger longing... "In me the galaxies hunger for God."

From: Patricia H. Livingston, Lessons of the Heart: Celebrating the Rhythms of Life. Notre Dame, Indiana: Ave Maria Press, 1992, 112-13. Abridged.


Undisturbed Lands

There are extensive properties
owned by religious communities
that are still in a relatively undisturbed state,
where wildlife is often abundant,
where human predation is limited,
where the primordial impress of the divine can still be felt,
and where a sense of the sacred is available.
Preservation of such lands
is one of the great urgencies of the moment.
There is profound need of the human soul
for contact with natural processes.
These regions were wildflowers grow and where bird nest
have become infinitely valuable as places
more needed than ever by the human spirit.
Such regions might be thought of as shrines
where the pristine impress of the divine
can still be experienced.
To lose these lands
to development would be an irreparable loss.
Thomas Berry in The Christian Future and the Fate of the Earth
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