The Monica Society answers your questions
7 What kind of “spirituality” is advocated by the Monica Society?
Most of the time, this kind question arises from well founded concerns over what some would dub New-Age mysticism and spirituality. In short, the answer to these concerns is no we are not advocating New Age spirituality.

Spirituality is a rather broad term that is applicable to a variety of contexts including very diverse religions and cultures. For that reason it can be both a useful and problematic word to describe the process of cultivating patience and faith that is advocated here. Furthermore, our community can seem a little mysterious at time because we do advocate the principle that experience precedes understanding as faith and patience are cultivated. Some would call this approach to spirituality “mystical”.

Although mystical approaches to prayer and spirituality are really quite common in Historical Christianity, they are also common in other forms of faith and culture some of which are not useful and even harmful for those who wish to embrace Christianity. Historical schisms, the enlightenment’s focus on reason over experience, and fears over becoming open to harmful spiritual influences have caused scepticism over spiritual experiences to emerge in a variety of denominational settings. In many instances these fears are quite justified. Regretfully, in a lot cases, the response to these fears has been to throw the baby out with the bathwater so to speak, and it has left many women with a desire for a deeper spirituality but no means by which to explore that desire.

In general, what we have discovered is that the women who come to us feel that despite even highly active church backgrounds, they hunger for more depth. Many of them sense a need for balance and a lack of patience in general in their own spirituality. It is common for women to express frustration because they sense a longing to “grow deeper” in spiritual intimacy and prayer. Many come to us (including clergy members and family members of clergy members) stating that they don’t know how to pray or even really feel that they can.

In response to this need, we offer a variety of approaches that have been shown repeatedly over time to cultivate a prayerful approach to patience and faith. These spiritual disciplines are well documented in lives of Saints throughout Christian History, and they have all at one point in time or another been embraced and well documented by a variety of Christian faith communities. All of them have been written about extensively and handed down through the ages. We do not offer any kind of “new spirituality” or even one that is particularly unique to our community.

We are more inclined to approach spiritual disciplines that have proven themselves over time and are less likely to focus on ones that are trendy or newly emergent. Ironically, that means that some of the spiritual disciplines offered may seem new to those not familiar with the history of spiritual formation when in fact they probably are older and even precede the approaches to spirituality that we may find more common in present day cultured.

In general the spiritual disciplines embraced here have been present within Christianity in some form for the last thousand years. They have been upheld and handed down from generation to generation in both ecclesiastical and even more so in monastic settings. Our resource list is a useful example of the resources that have been used in creating an interdenominational approach to spiritual formation that is intended to be uniquely cultivated by each woman who comes to us as she prayerfully selects those disciplines she will chose to embrace in taking whatever the next step is that is to be taken on her journey of faith.

Spiritual disciplines to us are very similar to the exercises that ballet students might embrace as they study dance. Serious dancers spend hours every week from childhood through their young adult years performing the same exercises. Time is spent daily on the barre where these exercises which have been handed down for generations are performed with precision and attention to detail. As they embrace these forms and execute these disciplines, their bodies are literally transformed to enable them to dance. When the recital or performance come, a beautiful manifestation of their training becomes visible but the true dancers must come to love and embrace their daily time in class, on the barre, patiently practicing all that they are given in order to even make the dancing others see possible.

The spirituality embraced here is very similar. Its origins, like that of dance are diverse and are handed down from one to another over the years. The spiritual practices and disciplines are not anything new or anything secret, but they are not always embraced in patience and depth even by those who come from a faith community and culture that appreciates them. Like barre exercises, spiritual disciplines give our faith a depth and shape and form that is unique to each one of us. When practiced with intention and consistency, they are intended to add to the rich heritage of faith that each woman brings with her. Our performance venue is not the stage of the dancer but the arena of our family and faith communities. As we are transformed, silently, inwardly by the daily spiritual exercises we chose to embrace, it is our hope that others will see a change in us. It is our hope that as we become more intimate with Christ through prayer and more able to embrace a patient faith that the love we extend to others, particularly in the midst of crisis and conflict, will be one that reflects a faith that is deeply nourished and held.

The spirituality advocated here is one that is uniquely designed by each woman as she begins to practices the spiritual disciplines that are most useful to her. It is nothing new…it is nothing secret…it should be something that increases the balance, peace, and health in her own life as well as in her ministry to her family and faith community. And, above all, it should build upon rather than compete with the faith that has brought her to this point in her spiritual journey.
Last update: May 2009