Opening the Door

Mark J. Janssen
4 min readMar 16, 2023

Our lives are filled with possibilities. That includes our inner lives. Where do we begin? Which of our many options are we going to take first?

Let’s start with something basic.

Many times in many settings I have heard it said that religious people are not always spiritual. True, just as many spiritual people are not always consciously religious. Once upon a time in America there was no distinction made between religion and spirituality. If, like the majority of the population, you belonged to a religion, that covered the bases. Spirituality was not a term in common usage.

As the twentieth century progressed, there came to be more of a distinction in popular culture between the two. It came as news to me in the early 1970’s to hear a professor in my university religion class tell us that religion is a public expression of our social customs and beliefs. Our spirituality is our set of personal beliefs.

That stopped me dead in my tracks. Nobody from the small Midwestern towns where I’d grown up had ever said anything like that. It would never have occurred in polite conversation simply because politics and religion were two topics one never discussed. Unless you were with family or close friends who shared political and religious beliefs. The former seminary professor who was our pastor never brought up such a strange and radical idea. Why would he? We were all of the same faith.

My experience since then is that I hear increasing emphasis on the idea that people of religious faiths ought to bend to the thoughts of people who have no religious beliefs, yet follow spiritual patterns of various stripes. More and more I wonder why. Why are people who claim to be spiritual but not religious so incredibly spiritually lazy?

Let me open that door a little further.

I began to attend Orthodox Christian services in the early 1980’s. The priest at one church was a convert from Roman Catholicism. As a seminary student he realized he could never marry as a Catholic priest. He converted to Orthodoxy, met a wonderful woman and raised delightful children.

Father had an open door policy. What had begun as an ethnic neighborhood parish progressively took in people of more and more faiths. I met many folks who had been Catholics but missed the pre-Vatican II liturgies. In my travels across America I have heard that as a major reason for Protestants and Catholics switching to Orthodoxy in parishes that welcomed all. My reason for being there was simple. I loved the liturgies, but Father was also an excellent theologian. He took me through the writings of the early Christian fathers and mothers with stunning patience.

There was no limit to his generosity of spirit.

Why, when looking at this from another perspective, are so many men and women who call themselves spiritual stingy with their gifts? It is incumbent upon everyone gifted with spirituality to share what has been so freely given to them. Don’t be disgruntled about what you hear from religious people you think lack spirituality.

Get involved. Offer your largesse. You may find the religious person has something you don’t have. It’s not only Rotary, Lions or chambers of commerce who provide needed charitable works. Religious organizations have a tremendous coherence that allows them to open their hands. It’s all very well and good to be spiritual, but how many solely spiritual organizations came through with food, clothing and shelter during Covid? Or earthquakes, floods, hurricanes and tsunamis?

Religions don’t always exhibit the spirituality I wish they would. However, I have to admit that it takes a deep level of spirituality to provide for peoples in need.

In another small city I witnessed a group of people involved in their parish. They had a food pantry, blood drive and several other organizations that worked for the good of the city and area. A group realized their city needed a soup kitchen. Even if they lacked resources to run a soup kitchen seven days a week, three meals a day, they could make a dent on community hunger. Within a few weeks more churches were pitching in. Decades later that soup kitchen, along with a food pantry, is an independent charitable organization.

We’ve witnessed that progression often over the centuries.

What I want to observe is all spiritual people demonstrating what they believe in. Putting it into action. Religion or no religion.

Spirituality is, like religion, about boots on the ground. Don’t tell me what you have done. It’s history. Don’t throw in my face the cream pie idea of what you’re going to do. I am not interested.

If you started a program, like knitting baby blankets, how is that going today? If you helped somebody who was beside themselves with anxiety and worry, how is that person doing today? Are you preparing in case a similar situation arises?

The longer I live, the more disconcerting I find my life. The ways in which my Creator used to allow me to work for and with others are increasingly closed off to me. When I try to become involved in a project the Creator pulls me away. The human, hands in the dirt opportunities, go to other people.

My work is more concentrated on working in spirituality with spirits. Angels, for example. And what’s that all about? I know that my religion continues to help me open my interior doors. It helps me do the necessary spiritual work.

If you have the opportunity to share your spirituality with the men and women around you, do it.

Open a door.

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Mark J. Janssen

Mark Janssen is a Catholic Druid, mystic visionary and author who writes a weekly blog. His memoir “Reach for the Stars” is available online.