What does a distinctively lay spirituality look like? Print
Tuesday, 18 November 2008 13:01

Written by Joe Waters

This is a question that I have been interested in for a while. Of course, there can be just about as many spiritualities as there are people, but the idea of distinctive spirituality for the lay state and mission is something that the Church needs and, as with all schools of spirituality, it is the Church's saints that articulate it.

I have been reading The Duty of Delight: The Diaries of Dorothy Day edited by Robert Ellsberg and have discovered in them a spirituality that bears reflection and possibly imitation for those of us who seek to live faithfully in the world. In late 1935 Dorothy wrote out a "rule" for 1936, which offers some fascinating insights. She pledged to go to Mass daily, make a visit to the Blessed Sacrament, pray a portion of the Divine Office (the old morning office of Prime and Compline, which are most suitable for lay persons and families because of their brevity), pray the Rosary each day, to recollect midday for just few minutes, to do plenty of spiritual reading, "to practice the presence of God", make a daily examination of conscience, and "to be gentle and charitable in thought, word, and deed" (and that she certainly was!). This is a very simple rule and is accessible to people in all walks of life. It doesn't seek to imitate the life of a religious or remove her from the world, but takes the prayer and devotion of the Church right into the world in order to sanctify it. When we read what exercises she took on we must bear in mind her context: she was constantly surrounded and visited by the poor and destitute of New York who were often very far from the world of the institutional church.

Perhaps this post will generate some discussion. What elements do lay spiritualities contain? What lay saints are you most drawn to? What is distinctively lay about their spirituality? How does our spirituality and spiritual practice as lay persons interact with the world we encounter when we leave the house in the morning?