The Chaos of Life
Spiritan spirituality brings order out of the chaos of daily life by leading us into the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Libermann's practical spirituality shows the way to experience the divine in every moment of life and in all the ordinariness of life. Libermann's direction is just as vital and attractive for lay people as it is for Spiritans.
Guided by the Spirit
Married people are always changing roles: from spouse to parent to employee to friend. Parenting presents its own metamorphoses: from caregiver to disciplinarian to playmate to teacher. This kind of "friendly chaos" makes married couples continually responsive to others in the concrete situations of life.
The Spiritan gift of evangelical availability opens this chaos to the guiding power of the Holy Spirit. One day the Holy Spirit is leading us to act in this way, the next day it is another way. We are swept about as the Spirit blows us, always changing and needing to be open to new roles.
"As my daughter grows and my son gets older, my wife and I need to change and adapt to new routines in order to be responsive to our ever-changing concrete situation in life," says John Fitzpatrick, who has spent better than half his life with the Spiritans as a student and now teacher at Holy Ghost Prep [Bensalem, PA]. "In Spiritan spirituality there is something that resonates deeply with us. As parents we need to adapt and discern how the Spirit is calling us to be loving and charitable in our constantly changing experiences."
Open to the Spirit
Spiritan spirituality is often formulated in these words: "Here I am, Lord. Send me." Spiritan prayer gives rise to a tremendous desire to be available to God to do His work in what is called "evangelical availability." Prayer flowers in service. Lay Spiritans find freedom to live in radical openness to the Holy Spirit, which leads to serving the poorest of the poor.
John and Ann Marie Hansen credit evangelical availability for moving them in 1982 to leave their professions in the United States and go to Africa to serve those most in need. With their two children, they flew to
"If you look at us going over there in 1982, that didn't fit with the traditional spirituality of the layperson that permeated the church," said John Hansen. "We were affected by Spiritan spirituality to be open to the Holy Spirit and to be open to serve those populations most in need."
Libermann's spirituality can flip-flop the way lay people do ministry. Instead of calculating the number of free hours a week to do volunteer work, Libermann suggests being open to God's will. By giving their lives to Christ, the Hansens and other lay people strive to let God dispose of His property as He chooses. Through this, they are able to surrender their broken selves to God's guidance.
Practiced in the Spirit
Libermann's energy flowed from continually discerning the guidance of the Holy Spirit in his life. Following in his footsteps, lay Spiritans are called to have a daily prayer life.
Prayer for Libermann was a time of intimacy with God. He would not rush, and was attentive to God's time. Libermann would ask God for guidance and then would wait and pray. He only proceeded on a matter when he knew how. In this way, he counsels that people go forward only when God's call is made known. Move until a wall is reached and then take the time to stop and pray until the wall crumbles. God's graces should not be outrun.
He writes: "What!? Are you going to give in to anxiety and discouragement? What is all this? The works of God are not done that way. God does not wish them to be attributed to human power, His own power must be recognized in them. When obstacles appear we must go forward, forward all the time, stay at the foot of the wall, wait until it falls, and then continue on."
Praying without ceasing was very real to him, but it didn't mean stopping his work. He said he did his best praying when he was interrupted with a new problem. He saw each new problem as an invitation to turn to God. Libermann writes, "I turn to God for help every time a new problem arises. As a result, the more I have to do, the more frequent are my contacts with God."
Above all, the lesson is to learn how to love with God's love. Libermann writes, "If we know how to love, we know everything, we can do everything, we have everything, and we are everything."
Gathered in the Same Spirit
Across the nation, groups of lay people are getting together to support one another in their spiritual journey and pray for guidance. At
At Holy Ghost Prep in
For the Lay Spiritans at Holy Ghost Prep, Spiritan spirituality may start in the classroom, but its lesson goes beyond the school walls. These teachers are given a unique position -- to teach Spiritan spirituality as well as offer a living tradition with the students. This tradition often finds expression in a mix of the professional and personal. Students gain perspective not only from what is taught, but how it is taught. A teacher's candor leaves an impression that lasts far beyond the lesson plan.
For instance, choosing to share personal struggle with students is a way to minister strength. The hardship of being a mother and raising three children with serious medical conditions is revealed to students. The students and their families find refuge in the experience as they learn from a living journey of faith. By ministering to students and families, the acknowledgement of being Spiritan is concretely lived out in the Spiritan charism.
The Spiritan vocation for professed and lay members is the same: to follow the call to individual ministry in a range of locations. As each person is called to a different ministry, the Holy Spirit is always present. There is not a need for all lay members to be doing the same thing. The unique situation of each individual's life enables the Holy Spirit to manifest in varying circumstances, while always remaining one unifying Spirit.