Recently a dear friend of mine sent me an article written by Rev. Peter Bauer entitled, “Religious Outlier”. In it he says: “We are living in interesting and challenging times. Despite all of our advancement in technology and communication, there is a sense, for quite a number of people, of feeling detached and rootless. I agree with Arianna Huffington that we need to develop a GPS for the Soul.”
His articulation of needing to develop this Spiritual GPS brought me back to a book that I read while in seminary by Luigi Giussani entitled, “The Religious Sense”. In this work he speaks about how each person has, within themselves, a sort of religious sense. Just as we have our five senses (sight, hearing, touch, taste, smell) so too we human beings, who were created in the image and likeness of God, have an innate sense that there is ‘more’ to this world. If one were to simply study world religions it becomes even more unarguable that there is something in the heart of humanity that knows they are to commune with the Divine.
However, this sense, just like any of our other five senses, can be honed in, or neglected. We have in this world, some people who have an incredible ear for sound, others that can make distinctions between different types of food and the seasonings that are in them, and of course the art critic that can see a whole array of colors and textures that the average eye may overlook. All these examples are of people who have finetuned their senses to maximize what they are capable of. The spiritual sense works in a very similar way. If we ignore its existence it will atrophy, however, if we invest in exploring it, the spiritual sense can become quite heightened to detect spiritual realities in this world that many may just overlook.
The Rev. Bauer continues in his article saying, “Maybe this tracking system for you is embedded in religious tradition, perhaps instead in nature or in music or in solitude or in community. Wherever you may find it, it’s important that you pursue it so that you can find being present to yourself and to others and...to your world.” What Fr. Bauer is commenting on is not that the spiritual life is arbitrary, but rather that one has to start somewhere to experience those transcendent elements of life. I would like to offer a suggestion on how to explore this ‘spiritual sense’ in our lives.
It primarily occurs by taking time to be silent and free from distractions. Our world is always moving… and moving fast! Without actually stepping back and having time to recollect and take in what is around us we will keep on missing it. It is like the person who walks through an art museum and comes out saying, “well that was boring”. What they were looking for in the museum experience was not the visual appreciation of people’s perspectives on the world through art, but simply to accomplish a museum.
Had they simply lingered and taken in some paintings/ sculptures, they couldn’t help but be moved. To simply put down our phones, or to go for a walk without any music or conversation, can often make us see what we don’t often observe; the movement of the Holy Spirit. The ultimate way to go about this is to set aside at least 10 min of silent prayer every day. This intentional action engages the religious senses of the soul to encounter God, which strengthens our ability to detect the happenings of the Divine.
Fr Nathan LaLiberte