Going to a Catholic Church and to a Catholic School were all an important part of my up bringing. My parents raised me as a Catholic and we went to church every Sunday. It didn’t matter if my parents had a brawl the night before, or even if they had a brawl on Sunday morning before church. We all got dressed up and walked over to St. Joseph Church like one happy family. I did learn something. I learned to believe in God, and all of the tenants of the Catholic faith. I learned what the Catholic Church called sin. The venial sins were the small ones, and the mortal sins were the big ones. I grew up believing that when God created Adam and Eve they were created as Catholics. I had a deep respect and still do for nuns and priests I watched as the nuns stopped wearing their traditional habits that all nuns wore at the time and tried to see how far above their knee they could wear their dresses. I know that the priests enjoyed watching this contest. I also had a great time talking to all the priests in school, in the community and in my fathers bar. Two of the priests were my father’s drinking buddies. They also attended AA meetings with my father. I received communion, got confirmed, went to confession, and then graduated from the eighth grade. That was the end of my religious experience.
My parents did what they could to provide a religious experience for me. The thing that they didn’t do was provide a spiritual experience. The religious experience that I had was one where I participated in the traditions of the Catholic Church. Most of the time I didn’t know why I did what I did; I just did it. The participation was confined to Sunday morning, and it didn’t really matter what happened during the other six days. I was never taught how to take the teachings of the faith and develop a set of spiritual principles that would become my value system as I grew older. I never really matured spiritually.
People usually turn to God for help when their foundations are shaking, only to learn that it is God who is shaking them. Sometimes God needs to do things to us to get our attention. The spiritually mature person doesn’t have to turn to God when things get tough, because they believe God is standing right next to them. They don’t scream Oh God, when they are fearful of life, they only have to whisper and they have the faith that He hears their words. Why do some people have this ability to be at peace even in the face of adversity, and tragedy? I don’t believe that spiritual maturity is something that just happens. A person doesn’t wake up one morning and find themselves with a renewed outlook on life. It is something that has to be cultivated from the bottom up. The roots have to be developed and then a person will begin to see the flowers. In my case I didn’t start this process until I was 30 years old. From the time I was about 17 years old I never could figure out what I believed in. I believed there was a God, but I didn’t have a value system or a commitment to any source that would help to inspire, or uplift me on a regular basis. Whenever a wave of life would hit me I would reach into the chambers of my soul and discover that there wasn’t anything there that I could use to help me deal with life’s problems. I never made the connection between spiritual maturity and overall maturity as a person. A spiritually mature person knows how to take the spiritual dimension and apply the principles of their belief system to their life on a daily basis. I have always enjoyed The Serenity Prayer. “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” In order for me to accept things and to develop wisdom I needed to plug into source to draw from and to gain daily inspiration. I found that the daily reading of the scriptures helped me gain insights into the battles of life and offered answers to questions that I otherwise never would have been able to come up with on my own. I would discover verses in scripture that I would meditate on and make them part of my prayer and thought life. The evangelist Martin Luther once said, “I have so much to do today, that I will have to spend two hours praying instead of one.” Scripture reading and prayer became a source for me to draw energy from, attain wisdom from, and to get the daily emotional strength I needed to manage my day.
Many people gain energy and insights from other areas. Inspirational literature, walks in the park, or even melodious music can inspire some. A fundamental belief system that gives a person a path to follow and that can make them almost unflappable and have inner peace is very private and very different for each person. There are certain core principles that spiritually mature people have adopted as a part of life. These principles are in the silent chambers of a person’s heart, and I believe that they are universal to everyone. When the ground starts to quake a person who has a strong core understands the reason for the earth quake and has the confidence that there is a way out.