My other published submission is not available online. It was a letter in National Catholic Reporter responding to an article in the previous edition of NCR. My letter prompted, in turn, a phone call I received from an 81-year-old in Phoenix, Arizona.
The article in NCR bemoans the shift of emphasis from soul to self in religious writing “because soul is a key word in a world that gave structure and meaning to a spiritual way of life.” The writer claims that changing the focus to the dignity of the individual was the root cause of changes in religious life over the past 50 years, writing,
With the eclipse of the soul, religious life found itself bereft of its essential focus.She implies that religious communities have lost their souls and this caused their demise. She does not appreciate the vibrant spiritual health of religious sisters today.
I take a radically different view of the shift from soul to self. Traditional talk of saving our souls assumed that we had souls, disconnected things attached to our persons like appendages, white things pictured in religion class with black marks from our sins. Having moved past traditional Catholic training, I say we are souls; they are our essential selves, our whole selves.
The word “self” does not denote egotistical narcissism. Soul and self both refer to my deepest, divine self, my Higher Power, my inner Beloved, the “Christ in me,” to quote Paul in Galatians. This higher self, distinct from my ego personality, guides me, encourages me, brings me up short when I need it. I welcome the change in thought from having souls to being souls, our essential selves. Rather than a retreat from spiritual values, this incorporates spirituality into the whole of life.
The caller from Phoenix was very happy to see my statement, an insight she had come to from working through suffering.