Spiritual Ruts—and Ways Out Part 2

Many spiritual writers address the problem of apathy. Kathleen Norris has written a whole book on the “noon-day devil,” acedia or sloth: Acedia & Me: A Marriage, Monks, and a Writer’s Life. St. Benedict wrote in his Rule, “each day has reasons for joy.” Searching those out could entertain us daily, because each day’s joys are unique and intriguing.

St. Francis’ delight in creation could also bump us out of a rut. In any season, we can find beauty: blue shadows on snow, the first buds tight as fists, the play of light on summer leaves, brassy, autumnal colors of harvest. St. Teresa of Avila once described the spiritual life as dragging buckets to water a garden (remember, she lived in dry Spain). Then, God’s grace comes as rain, disrupting the weary routine.

Paolo Ferucci in What We May Be gives helpful imagery for directing the psychic energies. The psychotherapist asked one client, locked in immobility, to reflect on the concept of risk. It channeled the person’s natural vitality so that he was soon doing small things to jolt him out of his “cocoon”: phoning someone he hadn’t seen in a long time, starting a new hobby, challenging co-workers to ping-pong games.

If we don’t take our routines too seriously, we discover that the world doesn’t end if we shift them a bit. Listen to jazz a lot? Try classical. A stalwart at the 9 am Mass? Try the Saturday afternoon. You may meet old friends you haven’t seen in years. For a wild and crazy break from routine, attend a different parish! (Might make you appreciate your own.) If scripture is growing stale or overly familiar, spend time instead with the marvelous spiritual authors writing now: Rolheiser, Rupp, Livingston, or in a pinch—Coffey (such subtle self-promotion!)

To be continued… Originally published in Everyday Catholic

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