Yoga and mindfulness are not going to help Catholics get any closer to God, an Irish bishop said as he cautioned followers against including the practices in parishes.
Alphonsus Cullinan, the bishop of Waterford and Lismore, told schools in his diocese in an Oct. 10 letter than yoga and mindfulness are bad — in part because they didn’t originate with Christianity.
Bishop [Cullinan] pointed out that yoga was “not of Christian origin” and said it was not suitable for a parish school setting “especially not during religious education time”.
On mindfulness, he told schools it had been practised in the Christian tradition “in a sense” since the beginning.
“But Christian mindfulness is not mindlessness but is meditation based on Christ, emptying the mind of everything unnecessary so that we become aware of the presence and love of Christ,” he said.
Just because Jesus wasn’t a yoga instructor and the practice is more closely associated with Hinduism doesn’t mean it’s inappropriate for Catholics. It can and should be evaluated on its merits.
The same goes for mindfulness, which Cullinan tried to co-opt for his faith. “Christian mindfulness” is not mindfulness. It’s just a form of prayer.
The bishop also roped Pope Francis into the conversation.
The Bishop referenced a homily from Pope Francis in 2015 in which he said “practices like Yoga are not capable of opening our hearts up to God”.
“You can take a million courses in spirituality, a million courses in yoga, Zen and all these things but all of this will never be able to give you freedom,” Pope Francis said.
The Bishop concluded by asking teachers and principals to encourage children to “pray the Rosary” and help them spend time with Jesus in “adoration or in quiet meditation” in the classroom.
Yoga won’t open your heart up to God — that’s not a thing — but neither will the sex abuse scandals in the Catholic Church. Yoga, at least, has the benefit of keeping you relaxed and healthy, depending on how it’s practiced. Mindfulness, too, can be valuable if you’re not emptying your mind in order to worship Jesus more forcefully. (We have enough people doing that. It’s not helping.)
Of all the problems in Catholic schools, kids doing yoga isn’t one of them. The only thing the bishop’s letter did is give people another reason to ignore Catholic leadership.
(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to Leo for the link)