Agere Contra for Lent

Andy Otto suggests agere contra as one approach to Lenten practices. He writes at God in All Things: Agere Contra—This popular Ignatian term means “to act against.” It means that we can deliberately choose to go against what our tendency might be. It’s useful in avoiding temptation or bad habits but can also stretch us spiritually. So if you realise that Facebook is a bit of an addiction for you, you can practise agere contra […]

How to Prepare for Lent

How do you prepare for Lent? How have you prepared in the past? What are your ideas about what should happen during Lent? We have the traditional Catholic practices of praying, fasting, and almsgiving. So, we pray more than usual, or we pray with different emphases. We eat smaller or fewer meals or give up a favorite food or drink group. We give more of our resources or give them specifically to special works of […]

The Spiritual Meaning of Balance

When most people refer to balance, they envision a successful juggling act. A balanced life is one in which, simultaneously, I keep all my projects going and all my relationships healthy. I achieve this balance by sheer strategy and willpower. In Christian spirituality, balance has more to do with temperance, which means that we allow our deepest principles to hold our passions in check. As Paula Huston explains in her book By Way of Grace, temperance […]

Alone or Lonely?

Some people just like to be alone, and I’m one of them. Give me a book, a movie, or a comfortable seat under a shade tree, and I’m happy. I don’t need the constant stimulation of other people. Some people function best when they’re around others. They feel more energized when not alone. In some religious subcultures, extraversion is rewarded. The more outgoing and talkative you are, the more likely people will think you have […]

O Come Emmanuel

Thinking Faith has been sharing a series of reflections on the O Antiphons this Advent. In a reflection on the last antiphon in the series—but the first in a popular Advent hymn—Frances Murphy writes of “O Emmanuel.” The traditional lyrics call, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel, that mourns in lonely exile here until the Son of God appear.” Murphy writes: An exile is someone who is separated from the place they […]

Mary’s Humility

In a homily last week, Pope Francis talked about “fear of the Lord” as a humble way of living. As reported in Zenit: “The humility of the childlike is that of somebody who walks in the presence of the Lord, does not speak badly about others, looks only at serving and feels that he or she is the smallest …. That is where their strength lies.” The Holy Father praised Mary’s humility, as a girl […]

From Secular to Sacred: Go All Out!

As you prepare for the holidays this year, go all out! Literally—get OUT of the house, go OUTside, experience the great OUTdoors. Yes, you’ve got too much to do, but that’s no excuse. If it’s cold, bundle up and allow your cheeks to get rosy and your body to become energized by the brisk air. If you’re not in a cold climate, then spend a little more time wandering at a nearby lake/ocean/mountain/park. Take along […]

Why Gratitude?

Yes, here’s another article on gratitude—not because we can’t think of other topics but because we naturally cycle around to this one again and again. Gratitude is not a fad, not the latest trend on the World Wide Web. Gratitude is foundational to the life that so many people desire: a life that is well-lived, joyful, and connected to others and to God in good, healthy ways. I wouldn’t even call gratitude an attitude. It’s […]

Habits of the Heart

Most of us are interested in spirituality because, at the heart of things, we want to be transformed. We want our lives to change for the better, in small ways and big ways. This desire for ongoing, positive change compels us to sign up for classes, join prayer groups, attend religious services, participate in faith rituals, and search—again and again—for the practice or information that will help us become the people we truly want to […]

Spiritual Friendship

The twelfth-century Cistercian monk Aelred of Rievaulx wrote a small work that has become a classic, Spiritual Friendship. It would be easy to think that the word spiritual in the title refers to the quality of the friendship, spiritual friendships being the highest ones, something hard to attain. But Aelred is careful to say that what makes a friendship spiritual is not its lofty height so much as its origin and direction. Spiritual friendship, Aelred […]

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