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The following explanations and introductions are offered in hopes of fostering greater understanding. They are by no means exhaustive.
Someone who adheres to a system or structure of belief, usually centered on a deity or supreme being. It may house rituals, a pattern of gathering, sacred words or writings, a code of laws, and approach to daily life and perhaps afterlife.
An understanding that there is a power operating in the universe that is beyond our current consciousness, connecting all life. This understanding enables an awareness of the purpose and meaning of life that can motivate one’s behavior. It can also be viewed as the action or movement within the container of “religion.” Individuals may describe themselves as spiritual without being religious but those who describe themselves as religious “house” the description of spiritual.
A period of time away from one's normal life for the purpose of reconnecting with one’s beliefs. Retreats may have various themes that reinforce one’s principles and spiritual understanding. They may be individual or involve a group and occur in a retreat center or monastery.
Spiritual directors support and companion people on their spiritual journeys through life. Spiritual direction or companionship inspires people to experience authenticity in their lives, connecting with and exploring the ground of all being, that goes by many names, including God, and no name at all.
A directed retreat invites us to be especially attentive to the movement of the Holy Spirit within an atmosphere of solitude and silence. Regular meetings with an experienced director provide opportunities for talking about one’s prayer to discern how to continue to listen carefully to what God is saying in my life. Scripture and life experience provide the primary material for prayer.
Similar to a directed retreat but instead of individuals meeting with a spiritual director, the retreat group meets together to hear a daily talk for inspiration and reflection.
Meditation is a practice requiring concentrating on an object, sound, word, or one's breath repeatedly until thoughts and attachment to the mind evaporate. In Ignatian spirituality, meditation means spending time with a gospel passage.
Contemplation is a practice of placing oneself in the presence of the Divine. It has been referred to as “resting with” without words and welcoming a union with the Divine.
While the term is enjoying current popularity, the spiritual practice is ancient. Mindfulness means maintaining awareness of the current moment without judgment. You observe all your senses in the present without the burdens of past or future. Meditation and contemplation are tools to assist in one’s mindfulness.
Although increasingly used as a global practice to enable physical and mental wellness, it is a Hindu method of spiritual learning and discipline that includes body movement, breathing sequences, and meditation.
A spiritual or medical approach that considers the whole person: body, mind and spirit.
"...a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity."
- The World Health Organization
Members of or referring to the Society of Jesus, the largest order of Roman Catholic priests and brothers in the Church today. It was founded 500 years ago in Spain by Ignatius Loyola. Since its beginnings the Society of St. Ursula has co-ministered with the Jesuits. Both share the vision of Ignatius to "find God in all things."
The act of attempting to communicate with the Divine. There are various methods of prayer expressed privately and in community.
The central ritual of Christian worship. The Roman Catholic Mass is named from the original Latin words at the end of the liturgy, the dismissal of the congregation: Ite, missa est.
In Christianity, an ordained priest, pastor or minister. In Judaism, rabbis are clergy and in Islam, Imams are clergy.
The members of a body of faith who are not ordained. Increasingly, lay leaders are being chosen as leaders within that body of faith, as the number of ordinations decrease. Women Religious (Sisters and Nuns) and Men Religious (Brothers and Monks) take lifelong vows and are ministers and leaders in their faith. They are members of the laity, since they are not ordained.
Spiritually Independent, NOTA, NONES
"Not Affiliated" or "None of the Above." Those who state that while they may be spiritual they do not belong, adhere to, or affiliate with any organized religion. This is the fastest growing and one of largest spiritual designations in America.
The sacred texts within a religion. In Christianity, this is the Bible: thirty-nine books of the Hebrew scriptures (a.k.a. Old Testament) and twenty-seven books of the Christian scriptures (a.k.a. New Testament). Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodox churches, and some Protestant denominations also include the books called the Apocrypha. In Judaism, the first five books of the Hebrew Scriptures are known as the Torah. In Islam, the sacred text is the Qur'an. (Koran)
Increasingly, the terms CE for Common Era and BCE Before Common Era are replacing B.C. and A.D., especially in academia, as they are more universal than using Christian references.
The movement to dialogue with, understand, and cooperate for the common good, with those of different beliefs.
Similar to inter-faith, though is used to describe the movement of cooperation within a single religion such as Christian Ecumenism.
One who remains neutral about one's belief in the existence of God.
One who has no belief in a deity, supreme being, or creator.
Eastern Religions/Polytheism/ Pantheism
Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, and Shinto, for example, were founded in the “East”, on the Asian continent, and are not monotheistic. They are either polytheists who believe in the existence of more than one deity, often gods and goddesses or pantheists who believe that everything is part of god, and god is not viewed in personal terms - all is divine.
Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, were founded in the Middle East, “West” of the Asian continent, and their members believe in one and only one personal God who created the universe.
Thank you to our sources: Spiritual Directors International,
The World Health Organization, and Religioustolerance.org.