Last Updated: Tuesday - 01/04/2011
September 10, 2001
Art of living involves the spirit — Sr. Margaret Brennan
CANADIAN CATHOLIC NEWS
OTTAWA — Spirituality has emerged as a new phenomenon in the modern age, says Sister Margaret Brennan, theologian and former president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious in the United States.
It is "a very popular but in many ways a very poorly defined area," Brennan, professor emerita at Regis College at the University of Toronto, said in a lecture at Saint Paul University Aug. 24.
In 1993 there were only three medical schools in the U.S. offering courses on spirituality and medicine but by 2001 there were 75, she said. The proliferation of self-help and New Age books also shows renewed interest in spirituality.
She attributed the increased interest in spirituality in part to a breakdown of traditional symbols and "the ancient human need for connectedness with the spirit world that is as old as the human race."
Where religious institutions don't fill the spiritual needs of the people the people often turn to other sources, including the lives of the saints, she said.
"The art of living is a human skill," said Brennan in her talk.
"It is learned and honed in many and diverse ways. It is at once an individual project and the expression of a given culture. But it is also rooted in something beyond the merely human. It is about the life of the spirit as well."
The art of living also involves discovering the richness of other spiritualities, she said.
"The contemporary challenge to Christianity is the acknowledgment of the reality and acceptance of spiritualities in the lives of persons whose commitment is not to Christianity nor to any specific religious tradition," said Brennan.
While spirituality can be found in the lives of people who are not Christians, Christian spirituality is made up of more than "isolated incidents and experiences," she said.
"It is a way of life . . . a life of discipleship to which one is called and not simply recruited. It is lived in a community of faith, where the word is preached and the bread is broken that the memory of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ can be kept alive."
Brennan's lecture launched the Catholic university's three-day symposium on spirituality.
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