‘The Holy Spirit truly transforms us. With our cooperation, he also wants to transform the world we live in’ – Pope Francis.
What does an athletics carnival and the feast of Pentecost have in common?
Last week we enjoyed our annual College Athletics Carnival. The following Sunday we celebrated the Feast of Pentecost. The two celebrations recognise that we must nurture our bodies, minds and souls. Many of our young people are involved in sport at an elite level and have dreams of playing for a professional team. These young people value truthful feedback from their coaches. They understand that identifying where their performance can be improved will enhance their skills and make them a better player. They need to be energised by praise and encouragement.
As well as nurturing their physical bodies we need to encourage our young people to nurture their spirit. This is much more subtle and demanding than physical preparation. It requires spiritual nourishment. As we celebrate the Feast of Pentecost, we are reminded that the Holy Spirit energises and nourishes us. Many people have life coaches, but the ultimate life coach is God. It is our relationship with God and the acceptance of the Holy Spirit into our lives that nurtures us body, mind and spirit. If we are willing to encounter God in our everyday life, we need to listen to God’s dreams for us and listen to God’s voice. We can develop this relationship through understanding and developing our spirituality. We can then live life to the full, as Jesus promised we would.
What is spirituality?
The word spirituality is derived from Hebrew ‘ruach’, which had a range of meanings: spirit, breath or wind. In short, ‘spirit’ gives life and animation to something.
If you say ‘ruach’ to yourself quietly, slowly breathing in ‘ru’ and slowly breathing out ‘ach’, you may be able to glimpse a sense of the spirit of God surrounding you and immersing itself in your very being.
The Latin word ‘spirare’ means ‘to breathe’. The word ‘inspire’ means ‘to breathe life into’.
It suggests the creative movement of the Spirit bringing forth life, as did God’s Spirit in creating light from darkness at the dawn of creation. To be truly alive is to have a spirituality, to be seeking that ‘something more’ in the everyday of life. It is to tap into the transcendent. It involves the search for God in the everyday events of life, seeing God in one’s relationships with other people in the world and in our experiences with life.
Spirituality then is:
- that which animates a person’s life of faith;
- that which moves a person’s faith to greater depths and perfection.
It energises, creates, animates, gives life. Exploring our spirituality means asking some serious questions such as:
- Who or what inspires me?
- Who or what breathes life into me?
- What is important to me?
- Am I saying ‘yes’ to an inspired future?
- Am I aware of the breath of the spirit animating me?
Sister Dominique OSB tells us that breath is our very life. It links the outer world with our inner world. It is an exchange, a reciprocal gift. Breathing. We breathe in goodness and exhale that which is no longer necessary for our survival. Pope Francis tells us breathing is made up of two stages: inhaling, the intake of air, and exhaling, the letting out of air. The spiritual life is fed and nourished by prayer and is expressed outwardly through mission: inhaling and exhaling. When we inhale, by prayer, we receive the fresh air of the Holy Spirit. Athletes are trained to focus on their breathing. Every breath they take empowers them to run faster, jump higher, throw further, hit harder. Many saints have used their athletic abilities at an elite level to glorify God through their athletic gifts and talents. This website provides us with examples of nine saints who were athletes and inspired others with their life and work. We can draw inspiration from them and ask what example we can follow from their lives. We see their relationship with God as a coach of both body and soul. You can see how elements of Catholic spirituality are expressed in the lives and actions of each of these saints.
Another inspirational young man, Carlo Acutis, who died of leukemia at the age of 15 in 2006, has recently been beatified and is set to become the patron saint of the Internet/social media. You can take a look at his story here.
Spirituality then, can be defined as a way of being, seeing and acting in the world on a daily basis. If we are athletes, we can train and compete; if we are artists, we can create and beautify; if we are artisans, we can sculpt beauty from raw materials. Daily life and actions can be our way of praying and relating to God and our community.
What is distinctive about Christian spirituality is that is it a way of being, seeing and acting that has its source in, and takes its inspiration from, the person and vision of Jesus Christ. It is therefore a spirituality that has its source in our living in God’s presence and in his created world. It is a spirituality of relationships, grounded in shared Christian living centred on the Eucharist. It is a spirituality of stewardship, inclusivity, ecumenism and social justice.
Finally, I would encourage you to see joy and laughter as spiritual components in a spirit filled life. German Jesuit Kahl Rahner tells us we should choose laughter, make a conscious decision to be joyful, to tell the Good News of Jesus:
‘A praising of God is what laughter is, because it lets a human being be human’.
‘Laughter is a praise of God, because it lets a human being be a loving person’.
‘Laughter is a praise of God because it is a gentle echo of God’s laughter, of the laughter that pronounces judgment on all history’.
May the Spirit of Pentecost animate you, connect you with God and your spirit community.
May the Spirit of Pentecost create in you an awareness of the divine presence.
May the Spirit of Pentecost breathe the divine presence in all you meet and in your daily life.
May you be inspired, breathed into life by the love of God and become all that you are meant to be.