Spiritual Disciplines Particularly Useful to a Minister
Practicing spirituality is a crucial process for a minister since the use of spiritual disciplines allows for rapid growth. Therefore, to ensure that their development is consistent and that higher planes of spirituality are pursued, a minister should consider practicing a wide range of disciplines. Although the choice of spiritual practices hinges significantly on the specifics of one’s characteristics, needs, and unique path of spiritual development, there are several universal disciplines that a minister should find very helpful due to their profound and lasting impact. These include fasting, a close reading of the Scripture, and prayer.
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The choice of fasting-related practices, the Scripture reading, and praying as the crucial disciplines that a minister should practice are necessitated by several factors. First and most obvious, a minister has to focus on the unceasing spiritual growth, which self-exploration in connection to Christianity encouraged by the selected disciplines will spur. Reading the Scripture as the source of inspiration, wisdom, joy, and truth will allow one to explore the Christian philosophy, including its values and how they have changed over decades (Scazzero, 2006). Therefore, the use of the specified discipline is indispensable for a minister who is eager to learn and lead others.
Moreover, the chosen disciplines will help a minister to address important issues of formation, namely, avoiding temptations, which represent another stumbling block on the way of spiritual self-actualization. By finding humility in fasting and combining it with worship, study, retreat, and daily office, one can analyze one’s urges and desires and examine them closely, thus dissecting the nature of temptation and its causes (Mulholland & Barton, 2016). The revelation that will occur after profound analysis of one’s desires and needs will lead to the ways of overcoming temptations, restoring one’s spiritual balance, and returning to the path of virtue.
In addition, a combination of fasting and praying as the means of self-cognition may lead to insights into human nature, in general, thus allowing a minister to understand the challenges experienced by the members of their parish and their students. As a result, a minister will lead the target audience to the means of leading a virtuous life (Scazzero, 2006). Finally, the inclusion of the described disciplines into the spiritual practices of a minister will allow the latter to build a well-coordinated leadership approach. As a teacher and a minister, one should demonstrate the qualities that the rest of the parish should acquire to progress on their spiritual journey.
Spiritual Disciplines and the False Self
The phenomenon of a false self is typically rendered as one of the options of spiritual development and the fostering of the qualities that will make one deviate from the path of enlightenment. According to Scazzero (2006), the true self is what people become once they choose the path of sin and step away from the virtue-based principles in which the very foundation of Christianity is rooted. However, it should be noted that the described state does not exclude the chance of salvation. In actuality, the very term of the “false self” implies that the choice of a sinful life is innately unnatural to people and that redemption may lead to the discovery of one’s “true self” (Scazzero, 2006, p. 96). At the same time, Mulholland and Barton (2016) point out that even after years of following Christian practices, one may fail to discover one’s true self and, instead, remain in the grip of the false one.
However, opening one’s life to the notion of the true self and compliance with the Christian values and God’s grace can be possible as long as one strives to follow essential spiritual disciplines. Awakening, purgation, and illumination should be deemed as the crucial spiritual exercises that one should adopt when attempting to transform one’s self and discover its true nature. The true self is linked to the idea of “distinguishing one’s true self from the demands and voices around you and discerning the unique vision, calling, and mission the Father has given to you” (Scazzero, 2006, p. 97).
Based on the given definition, one may infer that the concept in question manifests the awakening to the need to resist temptations and follow Christian traditions, values, and virtues to embrace the concept of Christlikeness as the embodiment of virtues and philosophy that Jesus Christ taught (Mulholland & Barton, 2016). In turn, purgation as an exercise in humility will lead to the acquisition and training of inner strength is a crucial step toward building one’s true self. Illumination, in turn, will open one’s soul to the study of the fears, uncertainties, and confusions that one may possess (Mulholland & Barton, 2016). As a result, one will embark on a continuous journey of self-discovery, thus paving the way to one’s true self.
Combined with the study of the Scripture, awakening, purgation, and illumination will allow one to develop Christlikeness and, thus approach one’s true self. The final stage of the discovery, which is defined as Union, will imply a leap into the realm of self-knowledge and self-cognition, helping one to reconcile with one’s fears and innate conflicts to find inner peace. Thus, one will become one’s true self, gaining the ability to lead others to a personal revelation.
Silent Retreat Response
The importance of a Silent Retreat is very high for a minister practicing spiritual disciplines and seeking their true self. Defined as the use of solitude and other spiritual practices to rediscover one’s true self and embark onto a journey of spiritual growth, the notion of the Silent Retreat embraces the search for answers to the questions related to the meaning of existence and one’s purpose (Job, Shawchuck, & Mogabgab, 2013). Therefore, by using the Silent Retreat exercise, one can start the journey of simplicity and humility as the path to personal growth.
Getting ready for the ritual of the Silent Retreat is paramount for performing the described Christian practice properly and take the necessary steps toward the ultimate goal of assuming crucial Christian values. Approaching the notion of Christlikeness and seeking ways of improving oneself to become a better Christian leader and a better person, in general, were deemed as the key goals of the Silent Retreat. The Silent Retreat began on Friday, June 21, 2019, and took place from 6 a.m. to noon, amounting to 6 hours total. The Daily Reading for Reflection was used as the key model for the procedure, with Chapters 1-13 playing a particularly important role in the implementation.
Difficulties and Challenges
The idea of the Silent Retreat might seem like an activity that does not involve any emotional labor or spiritual effort, yet the identified assumption could not be farther away from the truth. The process of exploring the spiritual self and seeking the means of discovering new facets of texts in the Scripture, as well as praying in solitude, was often disrupted by the presence of disruptive sounds. The family members showed impressive respect toward the ritual of the Silent Retreat by leaving and allowing engaging in the spiritual practices without any distracting factors that their presence could have entailed.
Similarly, the sounds of cars passing by were not annoying enough to have any effect on the process of self-cognition. However, neighborhood dogs were far too loud to concentrate fully on the process of spiritual cleansing and the uninhibited search for the true self. Similarly, the sounds of lawnmowers, as well as the children playing next to the house created the disruption that made it increasingly difficult to concentrate on the spiritual core of the Silent Retreat process.
In retrospect, the described obstacles could be seen as the tests for the ability to concentrate and focus solely on spiritual progress. Although the impact that the elements and aspects of the secular world have on people are undeniably strong, it is our Christian duty to withstand temptations when presented with such, thus building our path toward spiritual development. Moreover, the distractions mentioned above could be regarded as an essential part of the spiritual practice in question. Without any temptations or potential for disruption, the value of the Silent Retreat would be quite low since the amount of emotional labor and spiritual effort put into it would be close to zero. Thus, the overall experience of the Silent Retreat could be seen as positive.
Spiritual Struggles and Victories
The process of practicing the Silent Retreat was not devoid of numerous spiritual struggles that were inflicted by both external and internal factors. The former emerged mostly due to the plethora of distractions that served as potential disruptions of the Silent Retreat. However, there have also been several victories that signified another step in spiritual growth. Achieving mindfulness as an essential aspect of the silent retreat practice should be recognized as an important stage in the discovery of self and creating the platform for developing the qualities associated with Christlikeness. Moreover, the development of a mindful attitude toward Christian practices, in general, and the process of the silent retreat, in particular, has provided insights into the perception of Christina’s values and their application.
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Another triumph in practicing the silent Retreat as a crucial exercise associated with the development of Christlikeness, the learned ability to let go of one’s self completely, including the process of abstracting oneself from one’s body. The described stage of personal spiritual growth is worth being mentioned due to the chances that it opens for further training in humility. The observed phenomenon can be linked to the experiences that took place during fasting since they also led to the refutation of one’s corporal self and the acceptance of one’s spiritual nature (Aguirre, 2018). However, with the focus on all spiritual practices involved along with the creation of the environment that included few distractions, the notion of humility and one’s spiritual essence were eventually embraced fully.
Despite several struggles linked to the persistent nature of outside distractions, the overall practice of the Silent Retreat could be defined as successful. A plethora of different personal discoveries were made, including insights about the importance of humility, the nature of one’s true self, and the opportunities for exploring the phenomenon of Christlikeness in depth.
New Insights and Discoveries
Although the process of the Silent Retreat was a rather demanding and completely exhausting experience, it provided crucial discoveries about the nature of the true self and the strategies that a minister as a leader and a teacher can use in their parish to educate people about the notion of Christlikeness and the idea of God. Representing the example of Christlikeness themselves, a minister can promote the notion of humility, Christian unity, and the importance of Christian values to the community.
Moreover, the results of the Silent Retreat have allowed revisiting some of the passages in the Scripture to grasp the weight and significance thereof better. As a result, the concept of the homogeneity of the Christian community as a necessary characteristic required for spiritual growth was embraced. The observed insight led to another conclusion that suggested the need to promote the notion of humility and Christlikeness as the basic values that others in the Christian community should encapsulate.
Moreover, a crucial discovery that was made during the Silent Retreat concerned praying as a discipline and a spiritual exercise. One might argue that the practice of praying has been explored and studied in its entirety and that there is nothing new to be said about it. Nonetheless, in the context of the Silent Retreat, the notion of prayer as the internal dialogue has gained a new meaning, implying the changes in the perception of God and the act of communicating to Him.
The role of a spiritual leader and the responsibilities thereof, as well as the strategies with the help of which the identified roles and responsibilities could be executed, were crystallized during the Silent Retreat practice. The internal dialogue coupled with the focus on the study of essential passages from the scripture showed that a spiritual leader should guide people toward unity and promote the notion of Christlikeness as the basis for improving relationships with others. Thus, the experience of the Silent Retreat gave insights into the role of a minister as a spiritual guide.
Aguirre, B. (2018). Mindfulness and meditation: Your questions answered. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO.
Job, R. P., Shawchuck, N., & Mogabgab (2013). A guide to prayer for all who walk with God. Nashville, TN: The Upper Room.
Mulholland, M. R., & Barton, R. H. (2016). Invitation to a journey: A roadmap for spiritual formation. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
Scazzero, P. (2006) Emotionally healthy spirituality: Unleash a revolution in your life in Christ. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.