Play and rest: Essential to a healthy spiritual life
Interestingly, these two elements are also essential to growth in the life of the Holy Spirit in the lives of Catholics, and living a mature spiritual life.
In his Theology on Tap presentation on July 17 at Sacred Heart Church in Ventura, Father Jim Clarke detailed 13 elements — actions and attitudes — for Catholics to incorporate into their everyday lives that can foster growth in the Holy Spirit, the mysterious life force and third person of the Holy Trinity that enables divine qualities to be manifest in human lives.
“A lot of people try to ‘get’ the Holy Spirit, but as the baptized we already have it,” explained Father Clarke, director of spiritual formation and assistant professor of Spiritual Theology at St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo. “We just need to ask God to release the Spirit within us and then focus and listen, because it is within us … that divine spark inside of each of us.”
Father Clarke — who also chairs the archdiocesan Spirituality Commission — asserted that adults have forgotten “how to play and laugh with abandon” as they once did as children. Taking life, and oneself, too seriously can disconnect people from their inner soul where the Spirit dwells. Experiencing deep laughter can reconnect a person with that inner soul and release the Spirit.
Twenty-first century society leaves the average adult busy and overscheduled, with little time for rest and restful activity. The Christian Sabbath has taken a backseat to business, shopping and various commitments.
“You need to relax — do what you want to do,” Father Clarke maintained. “Rest helps us to take a step back and see things differently. When you change the way you look at things, things will change.”
Father Clarke also emphasized the need to have the “attitude of gratitude” in one’s life every day. He said that having a positive attitude and living one’s life with gratitude will eventually rub off on others.
“Live your life as a gift,” Father Clarke advised. “What if you start your day with a litany of thanks to God — start with five things you are grateful for? Slowly, you develop a positive attitude in your heart.”
Along a similar line is the idea of blessing others — finding the best in people and affirming it to them. In a world where people are quick to hear complaints and what they do that is wrong, it is life-giving to hear appreciation, affirmation and thanks for what they do or who they are.
An especially challenging element is that of letting go — or, more specifically, forgiveness. Father Clarke calls this saying “yes” to the Holy Spirit, and it includes letting go of undue attachments, whether they be arguments, problems, or grudges. He drew the analogy of holding one’s breath.
“You must exhale, release, so that the Spirit can flow through you,” he said. “Forgiveness comes when you release and become present in the moment.”
Being kind is especially difficult when a person is upset or angry, but kindness is a reflection of being merciful, a quality that all Catholics are challenged to cultivate in their lives. And that grows with life in the Holy Spirit.
Attendees of this second session in the Theology on Tap series were grateful for the nudge they received in Father Clarke’s presentation to become more mindful of the Spirit dwelling within them. And although the series is aimed at young adults, the attendance reflected a wide range of ages. The TOT sessions are designed to be both informative and social events that bring young adults together to connect with others who share their faith, desire to deepen their spiritual life and integrate all of it into their daily lives.
“I am a young person and sometimes find it difficult to relate to what I hear in church,” explains Bianca Terminello, a parishioner at Sacred Heart Church. “Here [at TOT] I can encounter balance — viewpoints from various speakers and discussion with others here that help me live my Catholic life.”
“Praying steadfastly was something I needed to hear,” says Linda Scaramella, also of Sacred Heart parish. “This presentation was very illuminating. It is easy to forget that we have to do our part by being open to graces and acting on them. Life should become prayer.”
Father Clarke invited everyone to really think about their daily thoughts and actions, and to consciously do positive things each day. Adding the positive and subtracting the negative — the clutter, the things and actions that rob a person of life — can make a major difference in a person’s life.
“Trust God, clean house and serve others,” Father Clarke summarized. “Close your eyes and run as fast as you can — and jump into the Father’s hands. You will grow here and now in preparation for tomorrow and eternity.”