As a young man I was introduced to the spiritual practice called the “examination of conscience”.  It is a good way of relecting on yourself and your life in order to improve it along the lines of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  The examination calls us to consider the wrong we’ve done and it even calls us to consider our sins of omission, which is to say the good we could have done and didn’t. 

A few months ago I was listening to a friend complain about the plight of ethnic and racial minorities in the USA.  We’ve come a long way to be sure in the struggle for human rights and equality, but as most of us know we still have a long way to go.  As my friend described her experience it dawned on me that she had not experienced direct racism or discrimination, but rather she had been a victim of what I call the racism of omission. 

The racism of omission is everywhere, but as a Franciscan I expecially see it in religious institutions.  Often it is not so much what an  institution does to or against person of color (African-American, Latino/a, Native-American, Asian-American, Middle Easterners…) as much as what it omits to do.  For example, when I was in the seventh grade, I was finally able to go to a non-segregated school.  I had been a pretty bright student in the Mexican-American elemtary school I attended and was used to being called on often.  When I suddenly found myself in a classroom with “white” kids I realized that the teachers would not call on the Latino/a kids.  The teachers were not explicitly discriminating against us.  Theirs, however, was an overt sin of omission. Racism of omission dictated that teachers prefer to support and encourage the white students.  They were usually never mean to us or insulting of our orgins, they simply did not give us the opportunity to show what we knew or could do. 

Sadly good Christian institutions like schools, parishes, Church communities fall into the racism of omission without ever really thinking about it.  I would call them to practice a good examination of conscience and reflect not only on how they are overtly racist but to consider how they have practiced the racism of omission.  When attempting to make your institution more welcoming consider what you could do to make it more welcoming to people of color.  Is your bulletin only in English?  Why isn’t it in Spanish, or Vietnemese as well for example?  When you invite guest speakers to your programs?  Are they always white men and women?  Why don’t you invite Lebanese, Nigerian, Brazilian or other specialists of racial/ethnic and cultual minorities?  The answers to these questions will vary and many of them are rationalizations and justifications for the racism of omission.

The examination of conscience is a good practice for those who wish to improve their spritual life.  Reflecting on your institutions’ racism in what it thinks, says, does or fails to do (cogitatione, verbo, opere, et omissióne) will help you bring racism of omission under control and hopefully to an end.

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Hace tiempo un amigo me pregunto cual era mi titulo académico.  Le respondí que soy un teólogo que se dedicado al estudio y enseñanza de la espiritualidad especialmente la espiritualidad cristiana.  Me pregunto si no había una designación mas corta.  Normalmente se nos llama teólogos espirituales o teólogos de la espiritualidad.  Ninguno de estos nombres le parecieron bien, por lo cual yo respondí “bueno y ¿que te parece espiritualogo?”

Una persona que se dedica al estudio y enseñanza de la teología es llamado teólogo, mientras que los que hacen lo mismo con la biblia son biblistas y con la moral, moralistas.  Por lo cual yo propongo que tanto yo como mis colegas que nos dedicamos al estudio académico y científico de la espiritualidad somos espiritualogos. Así como los teólogos se comprometen al estudio profesional de la teología los espiritualogos nos comprometemos al estudio profesional de la espiritualidad.

Y ¿que es la espiritualidad como campo académico?  Mientras que la teología es el estudio de Dios y los que los seres humanos sabemos de Dios, la espiritualidad es el estudio de la vida espiritual que proviene de nuestra búsqueda de un ser supremo y de nuestro encuentro con la divinidad.

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My description of Spirituality

Spirituality is the search for that which gives life meaning while at the same time it takes us out of ourselves in helping construct the common good. This search is done by the human spirit, which is to say the corazón (heart) that unites the body and soul into one person.  For Christians, this human spirit is guided by the Holy Spirit in the likeness of Jesus Christ to the glory of God the Father and the well being of neighbor and creation.

Spirituality is how the human spirit attempts to bring body and soul into harmony with each other.  Of course this type of humanist spirituality will sometimes succeed and often fail at such a harmony.  For this reason great spiritual traditions have arisen to  help individuals go beyond their own spirit’s attempts at harmonizing body and soul. They add the element of community to the spirit’s process of seeking harmony. These traditions are the world’s great  religions and philosophical schools.  Often these help people tap into the spirit of a wisdom figure, movement or religious community so that a bigger spirit is involved in creating harmony for body, soul and spirit.  Christianity is one among these diverse spiritual traditions and yet it stands apart as consecrated by God’s own Spirit.  The Spirit of Jesus comes to the aid of our personal spirit  and the spirit of our communities to harmonize body, soul and spirit interiorly with each other and exteriorly with creation, neighbor and God.

Christian spirituality is our human and religious spirituality en conjunto with the spirituality of Jesus the Christ, guided by the Holy Spirit to the Glory of God the Father.

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Mi descripción de la Espiritualidad

La espiritualidad es el la búsqueda interior que da sentido a la vida y que nos lleva a salirnos de nosotros mismos para la construcción del bien común.  Esta búsqueda es llevada por el espíritu humano, el cual es el corazón que une cuerpo y alma en una sola persona.  Para los cristianos, este espíritu humano se deja guiar por el Espíritu Santo a imagen de Jesucristo para la gloria de Dios Padre y el bien estar del prójimo y la creación.

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