On 10 October 2019 Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan did his job. As a concerned shepherd of his flock, he penned a letter to remind his faithful that there is no true spirituality outside of Christianity.
In normal times this would not be news. But in a post-Christian Ireland, people have been left with an enormous spiritual void, and some alternative practices are claiming to fill that void.
At the forefront are the practices of yoga and mindfulness, which Bishop Cullinan specifically mentioned in his letter. Not claiming to be an expert in these fields, he simply condemned the unchristian aspects of such exercises and offered the remedy. Meditation, he said, has always been the practice in the Church because it leads us to contemplate God rather than ourselves.
Christian mindfulness is not mindlessness but is meditation based on Christ, emptying the mind of everything unnecessary so that we become aware of the presence and love of Christ.
Not only does Bishop Cullinan condemn an unchristian practice, but he also gives the Christian antidote. He recognises that, in a world of anxiety and nervous tension, it is all the more necessary to give our youth the opportunity to pray and converse with God. But he also recognises that wrongs can be over-corrected; and that is indeed the case when Catholics turn to such self-centered practices which leave God out of the equation.
For the most part, the modern world is frightened of silence because silence gives us the harsh truth about ourselves and the world around us. This is often a frightening prospect; so the average person distracts himself as an escape from this reality. Only more recently have people begun to realise the adverse effects of such a life, and many have been turning to practices such as mindfulness. Let us heed Bishop Cullinan’s advice and practice silence, but seek God in that meditative silence.