Nicholas Collura, nSJ
Publisher's note: No one person speaks on behalf of an entire religious, spiritual, or phiolosphical tradition. All views presented are those of the student according to their personal experience of their tradition.
What does spirituality mean to you?
NC: I'd say that to be spiritual is to be aware of our deep human thirst for what ultimately matters. And what does ultimately matter? It's very easy for me to live, almost unconsciously, as though something like status, image, or intelligence were ultimately important. But something I have learned from suffering -- mine, and others' -- is that St. Paul was right to say to the Corinthians, "In the end, there are three things that last: faith, hope, and love. And the greatest of these is love." Our spirituality, then, is our way of entering deeper into the mystery of what ultimately matters: our way of growing in faith, hope, and especially love.
How do you practice your spirituality on a daily basis?
NC: I am a Jesuit, so of course I practice my spirituality through prayer, through liturgy and the sacraments, through spiritual conversation, and through ministry, especially to the poor. But you know, even before I was a religious believer, I was in love with the arts. Through art, I encounter beauty, truth, meaning, struggle, solidarity, and hope; so I find God at the symphony, at the museum, at the cinema, and at the library. I can give you an example. Here is how my favorite poet, Rainer Maria Rilke, addresses God: "I love you, gentlest of ways, who ripened us as we wrestled with you. You, the great homesickness we could never shake off...You drifting mist that brought forth the morning...You, the deep innerness of all things." I like to read this -- as well as other works that aren't explicitly "spiritual" -- like one might read a psalm. And writing poetry of my own is also a spiritual practice, also a form of prayer.
Have you learned anything about yourself through this/these practice(s)?
NC: Often when we contemplate the great mystery of God, we come to a sense of our own smallness. This can be frightening if we get hung up on how far we are from our great ideals of moral perfection. I have had to learn again and again that God does not expect me to be perfect. I am loved and accepted for who I am by a God who is infinite mercy. (Thomas Merton called God "mercy within mercy within mercy.") And I have learned that my confusion and mistakes and shortcomings -- my profound need for mercy -- are actually an invitation to become more merciful to others, more compassionate and understanding. I think that is what St. Paul means when he says that God's strength is made perfect in our human weakness.
In what ways do you believe practicing spirituality connec
ts us with something greater than ourselves?
NC: For me, this is what spirituality is all about: connection to what is ultimate, to an infinitely great mystery before whom we are all like children. If you've managed to read this whole interview, you've seen that I like quotations (!!), so here is just one more. It's a prayer from St. Gregory of Nazianzus, who writes, "O You who are beyond all things: what mind can grasp You? All that lives celebrates You; the desire of all reaches out to You." I don't know how to desire anything more than I desire God. To have faith is to insist that the human spirit never give up on the dream of an infinite love. And to undertake the path of spirituality is to begin the journey into the heart of that love.