Discovering God together as a family
Are you attending to your family’s heart health?
Your family’s spiritual well-being represents the true heart of your family —the spiritual heart that pumps joy, meaning, and connection into your life as a family and as persons. Experts note that the degree to which your family shares a spiritual life actually predicts the degree of satisfaction you can expect from both your family relationships and life in general. Do you know how to protect your family’s “heart health”?
What is “Spirituality” Anyway?
Psychologists assert that a healthy spirituality promotes three qualities that are essential for a joyful, meaningful life; transcendence, transformation, and integration.
Transcendence refers to times of special connection with God, moments filled with a sense of wonder and awe. Transcendence promotes well-being by reminding us that we are part of “something bigger.” That we are not alone in the world and that each moment of life is packed with divine meaning and purpose.
Transformation refers to our commitment to embrace the changes necessary to become healthier, happier, and more fulfilled people. For the Christian, authentic transformation is all about embracing God’s plan for our fulfillment in a conscious (versus merely cultural), willing (versus coerced), and whole-hearted (versus grudging) manner.
Finally, Integration refers to spirituality’s power to promote greater peace in our lives—both between us and others and within ourselves. A healthy spirituality compels us to harmonize any conflicts between our beliefs, values, and identity and enables us to live with integrity no matter where or whom we’re with.
Properly understood, “being spiritual” is about becoming fully-formed, vital people who know who we are, what we stand for, where we are going, and what we need to do to get there.
Family Spirituality: What Does it Look Like?
Families play a critical role in cultivating each member’s spiritual life and all the above benefits that flow from it. Family life is primarily about forming persons—parents and children growing together, learning from each other, supporting one another in living out a shared mission and goals—all of which has to do with spirituality.
Without a strong sense of spiritual well-being, families too easily become collections of individuals living under the same roof and sharing a data plan.
3 Steps To A “Heart-Healthy” Family
There are three basic activities families can undertake to promote their spiritual well-being; Worship, Devotion, and Discipleship.
Worship, is how Catholic families prioritize their connection with the sacramental and spiritual life of the Church. Going to mass together. Attending adoration, confession and other spiritual opportunities afforded by the parish as a family.
Participating in parish life together. Research shows that an important part of family well-being is creating shared experiences. Worshiping together as a family creates experiences that connect us to the larger family of God.
Devotion, involves the ways families live their faith at home, including family prayer, practicing Catholic cultural traditions (celebrating saints days, cultural holiday traditions, etc) and learning how to live out the Church’s vision regarding family dynamics, love, and sexuality. Devotion facilitates spiritual well-being by bringing your faith into the laboratory of your everyday life where you do the lion’s share of the integration and transformational work that an authentic spirituality requires. Ultimately, it prevents you from seeing your faith as merely an escape.
Discipleship is about creating positive, open-hearted relationship within the home. Discipleship involves all the relational activities that inspire your family to feel like a team, to be receptive to each other’s thoughts, experiences and guidance; things like rituals that carve out time to work, play, talk and pray together, ample one-on-one time with each other, and other activities that make deposits to your relational bank accounts.
It also involves formational activities like reading bible stories together, discussing faith questions, exploring values, sharing spiritual concerns, and showing your children how to walk in your spiritual footsteps.
Ultimately, discipleship tasks enable children to open their hearts to their parents’ attempts to form them as godly persons, and it helps parents make sure they have taken the time to get to know their children—inside and out—so that they have things to say that their children will experience as relevant and meaningful.
Family Spirituality: Living the Gift
In our forthcoming book, Discovering God Together: The Catholic Guide to Raising Faithful Kids, my wife and I demonstrate the many ways that fostering your family’s spiritual well-being is anything but an abstract luxury for people who have all their other problems worked out. Rather, it is what enables families to celebrate the love that comes from God’s own heart, to discover all the ways that life is a gift, and to help each other become everything God created you to be.