I recently attended a day of mindfulness at a local community organization not only to help me in my job in corporate wellness where we teach these concepts for stress management, but also for my own personal learning and prayer life, trying to stay more present to others and God, and deepen my experience of peace in everyday life.
The organization is actually owned by Catholic religious sisters who live there in assisted living facilities, but is now largely dedicated to mind-body-spirit programs that are secular in nature.
I expected to learn mindfulness and meditation techniques. I expected to encounter ways of nurturing peace. I expected to leave renewed and be able to apply my learnings to my relationship with God and prayer life.
I didn't expect to find the lost sheep of the Church -- people who have fallen away. But I did.
There they were. Lost sheep who were searching for the path to peace. Lost sheep who had left the Church or weren't engaged in it, but still searching for something missing. Most of them had at one time been engaged in their faith, and then moved away from it. Most of them looked like they were missing joy.
We who practice the faith know that joy is from God. Mindfulness and meditation are tools to find peace and use in our prayer lives, but without God as the focus and our close companion in those practices, they are lacking. They are meant to be integrated into a lively faith to deep our prayer practice and experience of God.
I reflected on this experience afterwards and realized that maybe the Catholic sisters had a certain wisdom when they started these types of mind-body-spirit organizations, which are sometimes criticized by people in our faith as "anti-Catholic."
Maybe they were doing what you and I do in the secular world -- meet people where they are, use their language, show openness and love, and reach them in ways that don't threaten them so that we can plant seeds of faith. Maybe they were trying to reach the lost sheep.
Knowing many Catholic sisters and their hearts, I suspect that is exactly what they were trying to do, and why ministries like this have abounded among many orders.
After all, ministry exists to reach the lost. Right?
We too are called to go where the sheep are. Maybe you and I need to spend more time at these secular mindfulness, meditation, and similar classes that promise peace of mind and renewal -- getting to know the sheep, hearing their stories, and sharing our light -- how these practices can be so much richer when they involve God and an active prayer life.
It's through those encounters that maybe just maybe, they'll be brought back to the faith.