WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ
Lay Franciscans Dorothy and Frank Steffler believe everyone is spiritual.
People say faith is caught, not taught, implying that what one sees and experiences as a youngster determines one's faith experience.
Dorothy and Frank Steffler say that's not the whole story because people with no religious background can also be spiritual.
"Faith development is a combination of human influence, cognitive decision and God's Spirit continuously prompting us, encouraging our openness and response," the couple says.
In their recently released book, Nurturing Your Hidden Spirit: Straight Talk About Spiritual and Psychological Development, the Stefflers say that our early Church experiences provide us with cultural symbols that motivate us to develop a personal religion.
However, they maintain if we don't have those early traditional experiences, we can still find God because God works through our natural environment.
"Searching for the sacred is a common human experience," they say. "Our ideas about the sacred, religion and spirituality are constantly changing, thus faith develops within the context of our everyday life experience. Faith builds on human nature."
Released in October, Nurturing Your Hidden Spirit has been described as a dynamic interplay between psychology and spirituality where the Stefflers integrate sacred writings with literature on human development along with personal stories describing how ordinary men and women have experienced the sacred in their lives.
They maintain that to be fully alive one must nurture the spiritual dimension of one's life.
"I was so excited about the book because I wanted people to really know that it's the greatest thing to hang around with Jesus on a regular basis," Frank said in an interview. "To have a relationship with Jesus is really something and I think that's what happened to me through my studies and experiences and having three kids and seven grandkids."
The Stefflers, who live in Morinville and are lay Franciscans, have been married for more than 40 years and spent many of those years actively seeking and nurturing their own relationship with God.
They have years of experience in pastoral ministry, specializing in adult education and conducting workshops on personal growth. Years ago, they served as parish administrators in Edson and Grand Cache.
Frank, who has degrees in theology and Scripture from Newman Theological College, works in the construction industry. In Nurturing Your Hidden Spirit, he integrates his experiences in the industry with Christian spirituality.
Dorothy is a professor of psychology at Concordia College. In the 137-page book, she integrates scholarly research on psychological development with spiritual development.
"From a developmental perspective I'm trying to say that everybody is spiritual," she said in the interview. "Part of the human person is to be spiritual and to deny that is to deny a piece of yourself."
Through his work in construction, Frank met many ordinary men and women who shared important stories with him. He jotted the stories down and compiled them.
"They would talk to me about some odd experience that happened to them or maybe some illness, the miracle of childbirth – a high point in their life," he recalled. "I saw them as spiritual people and having a relationship with God but they never thought themselves as spiritual people or connected with God. It was like a conundrum to me."
That's why the Stefflers decided to write the book – to encourage people to identify that they are spiritual even if they don't see themselves as such.
"We are all spiritual," including those that haven't being taught to believe in Jesus, Dorothy says. "That's my premise, that everybody's spiritual. If you don't nurture that vast part of yourself, you are not going to reach your full potential."
Can people develop a relationship with Jesus if they don't know Jesus?
"Absolutely," Dorothy replies. "That's part of the stories that people told us. It's never too late to develop a spirituality."
In the book, the Stefflers write: "Each one of us has our own time with God. God will reach out to us and, with ultimate patience, wait for our response. To think there's only one path to God is to limit God and deny that we all contribute as co-creators in the universe of life."
At the end of the book, the Stefflers recommend several steps to develop one's spirituality, including creating your own prayer space, being alone, being quiet and enjoying the beauty of the music, food, wine and nature about you.
Published by World Alive Press, Nurturing Your Hidden Spirit is available through Chapters and Amazon both in paperback and e-book formats.