Strengthening Families Part 1 (A Spiritual Reflection)
Katie van Schaijik (and her husband Jules) are founders of the “Personalist Project,” a non-profit organization based in West Chester, PA, dedicated to the spread of “Christian personalism.” Personalism is philosophy that focuses attention on the truth about the nature and dignity of persons—a truth directly at stake in the deepest and most difficult problems afflicting our society today.
Katie and her husband recently posted an article in the National Catholic Register entitled, 10 Things That Are Strengthening the Family. She was responding to an article by Father Dwight Longenecker’s who listed the items that are challenges (one could say, threatening) the family. He listed, for example: Increased Mobility, Increased Educational Standards, Suburban Living, The Loss of the Living Wage, No Fault Divorce, the Invention of Artificial Contraception, Marriage as Self Fulfillment (I alluded to this in my past two blogs), the Rise of Feminism and Homosexualism, Poor Catechesis on Sexuality and Relativistic Morality.
Over the past two weeks, I touched upon a retreat experience in which a number of parish couples participated in “Living In Love.” The response from the couples was quite positive and certainly integrates with this year’s “World Meeting of Families.” Naturally, from couples flow children and families. While not denying the challenges facing parents and families, Katie van Schaijik takes a more positive view on what is supporting and helping families grow and thrive. This week, we will examine (1) her background and experience in these matters, (2) some resources that she and her husband integrated into their courtship and marriage as well as (3) list, according to Fr. Longenecker, the challenges/threats facing our families today. The 10 things strengthening families will be examined next week.
Katie and her husband Jules are not strangers to Catholic thought on marriage, families and human sexuality. They read Love and Responsibility by St. John Paul II Pope before their wedding 25 years ago as well his play The Jeweler’s Shop and Theology of the Body. They had read Dietrich von Hildebrand’s books, Marriage: the Mystery of Faithful Love, Man and Woman, The Heart: An Analysis of Human and Divine Affectivity, and Purity: The Mystery of Human Sexuality. They had taken courses on the nature of love and on Christian marriage.
More importantly, it was the integration of her spiritual/devotional/liturgical life that had the greatest impact on her as a woman, wife and mother. She writes:
“Maybe even more significantly, at Franciscan University we were drawn into the charismatic renewal. We were encouraged daily by happy, faith-filled friars, faculty and fellow students to know Jesus personally, to receive the sacraments, to love the Church, to pray, to grow in holiness, to live for God. … During our courtship we would often meet in the morning for Liturgy of the Hours with the TORs and again later at daily Mass with all our friends.
Our parents’ and grandparents’ generations had nothing like these advantages — nothing like the transcendent theological, philosophical and poetic vision of marriage that had been revealed to us, nothing like that inspiring and sustaining atmosphere of prayer and praise. They had all been raised Catholic. They knew that marriage was about children and that it was supposed to be for life. But did they have the thrill and intimate consolation of understanding that it was a font of grace and a path to sanctity? Did they know that it was a living icon of the Trinity? Had they been taught that the Church celebrates conjugal love and promotes the genius of woman? I don’t think so. All that came later, mostly through Vatican II, the “new movements” in the Church, and the papacy of John Paul II”.