As we frequently say, our primary focus as Missionaries of Saint Thorlak is to combat spiritual starvation. Yet, we do not screen at the outset for spiritually well-nourished people who can then go find and feed the hungry. In fact, we want people who have seen what spiritual starvation looks like – or, better still, what spiritual starvation feels like – because these are the people who will be most fervently committed to the cause. In truth, there is no person immune from spiritual hunger. If you are fortunate enough to be spiritually well-nourished this day, you are valuable to our team for all the strength, support and balance you bring. We encourage you to pay close attention as you mentor others, because it is always possible that circumstances may change and you find yourself on the other side of the coin for awhile. Hopefully, your Missionary work will be a steady stream of nourishment when you need it yourself.
There are others among our ranks who, today, are not yet well nourished spiritually. We invite you, if you feel this describes you, to feel free to apply this to yourself. There is no reason we cannot benefit from our own teaching. Quite the opposite – it is essential that we assimilate and experience all that which we hope to model and offer to others.
So, then: What is spiritual starvation?
This, of course, refers to physical starvation. Spiritual starvation, its analog, would thus be the state of having no spiritual nourishment for a long period, often causing death.
We define spiritual nourishment as being meaningfully connected to our Source (God), either in direct relationship or through discovering the essence of God by meaningfully connecting with others.
(Here’s an easier shortcut: Connection. Spiritual nourishment means connection.)
Does it seem drastic to assert that having no meaningful connection to God or others for a long period might lead to death? Perhaps in the literal sense of cause and effect. Being lonely, isolated or ostracized would only seem to cause death if it reverted back to the physical, with social deprivation coming as a result of physical deprivation, and the cause of death being a consequence of this physical starvation. However, a compelling case can be made that meaningful connections protect against things such as substance abuse, suicidal ideation, addictions and criminal behavior. Is it possible that lack of connection (i.e., spiritual starvation) contributes in many cases to unhealthy choices, even to the point of risking death? Yes.
Let us look back at physical starvation for a moment. The four most common factors leading to physical malnutrition:
How would these translate into the analogs of spiritual starvation?
These premises are the very foundation of our cause. We believe that spiritual starvation can be defined, and therefore understood. Once we do this, we can learn to recognize it by its signs and symptoms… and then, to address it using methods patterned after the life and ways of Saint Thorlak.
After taking this pause to better understand (or review) the concept of spiritual starvation, you may more clearly recognize it in yourself or someone very close to you. If so, take heart: you are very well qualified for this cause.
Even though Saint Thorlak was severely impacted by speech impairments and overwhelming anxiety, he met success after success in the realms of public ministry, clerical reform, church administration and spiritual mentorship. Wow. This is an admirable résumé for anyone. We boldly propose: If Saint Thorlak, with his known limitations, spiritually fed thousands in his lifetime… perhaps his methods could spiritually feed hundreds of thousands in ours.
Let’s find out.
PRAY: Dear Father in Heaven, You revealed to us through the prophet Isaiah: “If you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday” [58:10]. Help us see how this applies to others… and then, to making sure our own souls are nourished with meaningful connections leading to You.
CONTEMPLATE: Call to mind the last time you remember fasting. Dwell on the sensations and urges you recall. Derive from that memory a parallel to how these would be experienced and expressed if it were spiritual hunger.
RELATE: Ask someone this week if they have ever been spiritually hungry. If we were able to record everyone’s responses, we imagine a very wide variety of richly thought-provoking responses.
May the power of Divine Love shine in and through my weakness, so that He might be glorified in and through me, and that in my weakness, His power may reach perfection. Through Christ Our Lord, AMEN.
Fr. Mark P. Nolette - Spiritual Director for the Mission of Saint Thorlak