What’s your family’s spirituality? Here are some questions to reflect on with your kids, and more than 80 charisms to consider so you can pursue your “spiritual style” more intentionally.
by Jerry Windley-Daoust
In the communion of saints, many and varied spiritualities have been developed throughout the history of the churches. . . . The different schools of Christian spirituality share in the living tradition of prayer and are essential guides for the faithful. In their rich diversity they are refractions of the one pure light of the Holy Spirit. (Catechism 2684)
We have this series of saint books in our house called Companions for the Journey. Each book focuses on a different saint, devoting separate chapters to various aspects of the saint’s unique spirituality. So, for instance, here are some of the chapter headings for these saints:
Catherine of Siena: The Trinity, Deep Well of Love; The Cell of Self-Knowledge; Continual Prayer; The Crucified; The Tears and Fire of Forgiveness; Proclaiming Peace; The Key of Forgiveness
John Baptist de La Salle: The Rule of the Scriptures; Trusting in Providence; Discerning in All Things the Will of God; Owning Only Love; Creating Community; Perseverance; Embracing the Poor
Vincent de Paul: Humility; Truthful Simplicity; Dying to Self; Zeal; The Special Presence of Christ in the Poor; Strong Gentleness, Gentle Strength; Jesus Christ, the Center
Hildegard of Bingen: Living in Light; A Feather on the Breath of God; Beauty; The Call to Choose Life; Caring for Nature; Mary; The Lovely Voice of Compassion
Frances de Sales: Seeing God in All Things; Thy Will Be Done; Planning for Holiness; The Bond of Friendship; Patience with All; Nothing Small in the Service of God
John Cardinal Newman: Holiness Rather Than Peace; Education in Faith; What Am I Living For?; Becoming Like God; The Word of God; The One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church
Obviously, others might come up with different “themes” of each saint’s spirituality, or give them different names. But reading these books, as we do occasionally on feast days, got me thinking: What is the unique spirituality of our family? If we were to name the “themes” of our family spirituality, what would they be?
It’s worth asking questions like these because it teaches kids the art of intentionality. Being intentional—that is, stopping to reflect on where we are and where we’re going—is critical to growth in the spiritual life. If we want to have kids who surpass us in holiness (and who doesn’t?), then teaching them to stop and reflect on where they are and where they are going, spiritually, is critical.
Besides being a fun exercise, reflecting on your family “charism” or spirituality could provide a road map to who you want to be as a family—your particular way of letting the Spirit shine forth.
As you discuss this question with your older kids and teens (even younger children might have something to contribute!), keep in mind what the Church says about spiritualities. First, they tend to emerge organically from your lived experience. St. Vincent de Paul’s spirituality was shaped by his encounter with the poor; St. Hildegard of Bingen was shaped in a different way by the monastic tradition of medieval Germany; St. Francis de Sales was profoundly influenced by the Protestant Reformation and the Catholic counter-Reformation; and St. Newman’s spirituality took on its own flavor in the rich soil of British academia. Second, although the Church enjoys an abundance of different “spiritual styles,” it recognizes that those distinct spiritualities have one source: “They are refractions of the one pure light of the Holy Spirit.” Christian spirituality is always rooted in basic Christian doctrines and united with the Church.
What’s Our Family’s Spirituality? Some Talking Points
Here are a few talking points to guide your discussion of your family’s spirituality. (If you’re really ambitious, you’ll use newsprint and markers to “illustrate” your discussion in words and/or art, then hang the results up for the rest of November.)
What are our circumstances? In other words, what is the day-to-day reality of your family? What are the challenges, what are the joys and rewards?
What are our spiritual strengths? How do you respond to your circumstances? What “spiritual tools” does your family deploy when faced with challenges? Who or what do you rely on when things get tough?
Where do we find God? Does your family tend to find God in nature, or other people, or a particular activity (art or sports), or a particular saint or devotion?
What does God’s Word say to us? When you listen to Scripture prayerfully, what jumps out for you? What are the themes that most resonate with your family? Is God calling your family to a particular mission?
What is our “family personality”? Is your family laid back and relaxed? Do you like to show affection with physical touch? Do you tend to be extroverted, or introverted? Is your prayer and worship formal, or relaxed?
Where do we need to grow? Whatever your spiritual style, one thing is for sure: you have plenty of room to grow, and so does your family. It is worth looking at where the “gaps” might be in your spirituality, and what you might work on.
What are the themes of our spirituality? Finally, if you wrote a Companions for the Journey book about your family’s spirituality, what would the headings be?
Check out some of the following possibilities for ideas. You might want to print them out and circle the ones that resonate with your family . . . all of them are admirable—but you’re focusing on which ones your family “owns” . . . and maybe which ones your family would like to manifest:
Devotion to the Trinity
Living the Paschal Mystery
Submitting to God’s Will
Service to the Poor
Service to the Sick
Dying to Self
Devotion to the Eucharist
Devotion to Mary
Jesus Christ at the Center of All Things
The Communion of Saints
Seeing God in All Things
Nothing Small in the Service of God
Striving for Holiness
Respect for the Body
Dependence on God Alone