I’m no longer “Spiritual, but not religious”

Many say they are spiritual, not religious. I was part of this lot, too, only so I could provide an answer that would separate me from the scrupulous Catholics who were no fun.

It was also a time when I questioned religiosity and how it seemed to cripple happiness, and restrict freedoms. I had lived independently of my Catolico cerrado mother, and had found the freedom to explore outside Christianity.

There were meditation Sundays I attended with women who shaved their heads and men with nose rings. I had spent one Holy Week in a non-Christian retreat where we looked each other in the middle of the nosebridge as a point of light worthy of love and peace and kindness.

I tried all these to define for myself what it really meant to be spiritual. I liked all these experiences, but in the deepest truth, my most primal motives were that I did not want to go through the drone and bore of the Sunday Mass, the guilt-inducing confession, the inconvenience of the sacraments. I held on to these esoteric assemblies because the people there were… cool and artsy and open, who got drunk and high. In other words, they were still fun.

But I was still empty, God was distant (I was distant) and I concealed it with the flashy phrase, “spiritual, but not religious.”

But when I found Christ and knew the Father, thanks to The Prayer and Life Workshops (PLW) and The Feast, to be “spiritual and not religious” did not make sense anymore. Neither does being “religious but not spiritual” make sense. At least it doesn’t work for me. I feel that if these two are mutually exclusive of each other, my experience of God is incomplete. Inasmuch as I need the interior, solitary work of spirituality, I need God’s signs in the sacraments. I need the love and support of a community.

More importantly, it is through the sacraments that I express my love for God: the Eucharist is a reminder that I assume Christ’s body on earth, and the host is meaningless every time I have impure motives (and so many times have I failed Him, but grace is amazing); confession is an act of love, not fear (though I still am reluctant and jittery before the confessional box. And, it is through the community that I love God in return.

To only be spiritual now runs the risk of needing God only for pleasure (I meditate or worship in song to relax or get a high) and is therefore very selfish, and self-serving. To only be spiritual lacks the other important dimension of being Christian: love and mercy for another.


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