June 18, 2019

Each Family Has a Unique Spirituality

Once we become aware that our family has a unique spirituality, then everything it does, individually or together, feeds into this spirituality, develops it, and flows from it. Just as with individual spirituality: we then can name it, affirm it, develop and work on it in a spiritual manner. This conviction becomes the lodestone of its existence, the reason for its being and the unifier that holds everything together, just as it does within each person.

The family’s vocation as a family is the same as it is for each individual member: to develop an ever deepening friendship with Christ, and then to take the fruits of this friendship into daily life by letting His love, life, light and presence come alive through it.

Can you imagine what would happen to our Church, society and ultimately the world if all of us would combine our energies to build, deepen and enrich this fact? We would not need more prisons, jails or correctional facilities; we need these because we have lost our center: Family, Faith and Christ.

Society and the media make fun of the idea of a wholesome family, and especially those families which affirm a God-centeredness concept within it, and try to live by this belief. A simple question: where are mainstream media presentations in any form or of any kind that uphold the values you have for your family?

There is even a misplaced emphasis in our society, which promotes the slogan: “Kids First.” This is incorrect: we need to uphold the truth of “Families First” or we’ll fail. Over the years, many governments have put kids first by forcing them from their families and placing them in government-run institutions because parents were “not doing a good job.” Instead of helping and supporting families as the basic unit of Church and society, this action caused families to be torn apart. Anyone who knows history knows what happened (e.g., Germany, Russia, and World War II). Families are the primary unit of society.

Christian and Catholic adults can change a lot of attitudes if we are open to change, have the courage to take a stand for ‘family spirituality,’ and do something about it–together. Granted, families are suffering in many ways. But, we must hold up ‘wellness’ in family as a goal to work toward, as we do in our individual physical lives. To hold up anything less than wellness as an ideal to be striven for isn’t healthy. It’s like our physical lives: we know the goal of wellness and still sometimes slip into unhealthy patterns; the same is true of family life, especially of family spirituality. Spiritual wellness must be our goal or we have no standard for discerning unhealthy behavior when it occurs.

The media depicts dysfunctional families as the norm, as okay and (even more) as expected. Certainly, we have compassion for hurting families, as we do for suffering people. But, we must never hold up non-healthy images as norms. We give help and direction as needed, but never use non-wellness as a model to be imitated: as family goes, so goes society.

Family spirituality is an untapped opportunity in ministry and, while it seems vague, it is really simple: it is our family’s response to God’s “I love you,” through daily actions. How would you define your family’s spirituality? What can be done to make it more real?

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Written by
Sr Angelita Fenker

SR. ANGELITA M. FENKER, 83, passed away on Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2013. Born in Fort Wayne, Sr. Angelita was a religious Sister and educator with various educational and ecumenical organizations in the U.S and Canada for 60 years, retiring in 2007.

She started her ministry in 1947, earned Bachelors degrees in education and family studies from University of Saint Francis and Purdue University. She was an elementary teacher, principal and director of religious education in Missouri, Louisiana and Indiana. She earned her Masters degree in education administration from Marquette University. From 1973 to 1990, served as the National Associate Director of Families for Prayer, Inc, of Albany, N.Y. During this time, she also earned her doctorate degree in spirituality and family spirituality from the Graduate Theological Foundation.

Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon her. May she and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

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Written by Sr Angelita Fenker