Understanding the Changing Landscape of Contemporary Spirituality: A useful starting point for reviewing Catholic school religious education
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Pope John Paul II, following in the steps of his predecessors, strongly advocated the critical appraisal of the influence of culture on people’s spirituality. This article responds to his directive by seeking to develop an interpretation of how and why contemporary spirituality has changed that will better inform the work of religious educators in Catholic schools. A number of constructs like secularisation, privatisation of religion etc. have been used to describe the significant change in spirituality of many of the young people in Australian Catholic schools over the last 50 years from a more traditional religious spirituality to something that is more secular, eclectic and individualistic. To some extent, this change has been acknowledged; but the religion curricula in Catholic schools still give the impression that all of the students are, or should be, regular church goers – as if Sunday mass attendance was to be the end point of their education in spirituality. An interpretation of change in spirituality in terms of change in cultural meanings has been developed for the purpose of understanding contemporary spiritualities in other than a deficit model. Such an interpretation may be more persuasive in getting Catholic education authorities and religious educators firstly to accept, rather than condemn or ignore, the significant change in contemporary spiritualty; and then secondly, to take steps to address this change positively and constructively in the Catholic school religion curriculum. This article is concerned with the first step – understanding contemporary spirituality; it is intended that the second question will be considered in a follow up article.
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