The progression from “spirituality,” to the more precise “Christian spirituality,” and the even more definitive, “Catholic spirituality” is an exercise in precision. These terms become increasingly more easily defined by specificity.
“Spirituality,” in the broad sense of the word, has become a generalization. The word alone, without context, is not definitive at all. Just as the word “hat” in no way serves to illustrate the type of hat in question, neither
“Christian spirituality” is much more easily defined, in that it refers to a select group of people with largely similar views of life, death, and the deity that resides at the heart of the fold. Like other religions of the Abrahamic tradition, such as Islam and Judaism, Christianity is monotheistic. What separates Christians from the likes of these other religions is our belief in the Holy Trinity. Christians believe that God, through His son Jesus, has bestowed upon humanity the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit informs our knowledge of Jesus, and therefore God. Christians agree that through the Holy Spirit we are able to become disciples of Jesus, and follow in His footsteps. This allows us to come closer to God spiritually by way of our faith, our acts, and our lives in general.
Christianity, as an institution, has splintered throughout the last 2,000 years, The result has been a collection of religions that are derivative denominations of Catholicism. While this does not mean that the spirituality adhered to is not Christ centered, it does mean that it is different in many key areas. The tenets of Catholicism serve to communicate an even more direct definition of spirituality to it's adherents. In studying a uniquely Catholic spirituality, the operative word is catholic. The best translation of the Greek “Katholikos” is “through the whole.” The “through the whole” translation has been applied two different ways; “quantitative catholicity,” and “qualitative catholicity.” In defining quantitative catholicity St. Cyril said it best:
The Church is called Catholic because she is diffused throughout the whole world from one end of the earth to the other, and because she teaches universally and without curtailment all the truths of faith which ought to be known to men whether they concern visible or invisible things, heavenly things or the things of earth; further because she brings under the yoke of God's true service all races of men, the mighty and the lowly, the learned and the simple; and finally because she tends and heals every kind of sin committed by body or soul and because there is no form of virtue, whether in word or deed or in spiritual gifts of any kind whatever, which she does not possess as her own (Thurston, “Catholic”).
The undiscerning number of people that the Church will evangelize to, and the great breadth of what shall be taught is what makes this quantitative. The Catechism of the Catholic Church does an excellent job of explaining “qualitative catholicity”:
The human person participates in the light and power of the divine Spirit. By his reason, he is capable of understanding the order of things established by the Creator. By free will, he is capable of directing himself toward his true good. He finds his perfection "in seeking and loving what is true and good.”
By virtue of his soul and his spiritual powers of intellect and will, man is endowed with freedom, an "outstanding manifestation of the divine image" (Catholic Church 1704, 1705).
The CCC is illuminating what makes Catholic Spirituality qualitatively catholic. The presence of the Holy Spirit in this process is what qualifies our spirituality as Catholic. By the virtue of the Holy Spirit and the Church we become disciples of Christ.
Source: Thurston, Herbert. "Catholic." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 3. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1908. 25 Jul. 2013 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03449a.htm>.