“Finding Holiness at Home”: An Interview with Gina Fensterer
St. Josemaria explains: “Everyday life is the true setting for your lives as Christians. Your ordinary contact with God takes place where your fellow men, your yearnings, your work and your affections are. There you have your daily encounter with Christ. It is in the midst of the most material things of the earth that we must sanctify ourselves, serving God and all mankind” (Conversations, no. 113).
In this interview, the St. Josemaria Institute speaks with Gina Fensterer of Someday Saints about encountering God in the midst of everyday life, pursuing holiness as a family, and practical tips for a fruitful Advent season.
Q: Can you share with us a little bit about yourself: your background, family, work and life of faith.
Gina: I’m a cradle Catholic, but an experience in my teens transformed my life and kick-started my personal relationship with the Lord. I joined a group from my high school to pilgrimage to World Youth Day in 1997. We were standing in a park for one of the opening ceremonies when the crowd began praying the “Our Father” together in different languages. I could hear all these young voices praying together, and I was overcome with emotion and an incredible experience of God’s presence. That pilgrimage changed me, and I’ve embraced my faith in a more dynamic way ever since.
I went to a Catholic university, met my husband, and now we’ve been married for 17 years! We have six children, between the ages of 5 and 16. It’s rather busy! My daily faith journey is marked by spurts of prayer offering up the dishes, homeschool lessons, and large-family challenges. By the end of this year, both my teens will be Confirmed; that’s been a great blessing in 2020.
Q: When and why did you decide to launch Someday Saints? What is the mission or goal that inspires you in this work of evangelization?
Gina: I started Someday Saints as a blog several years ago, when I wanted to write more about our family’s faith life and not just personal stories, which I had been sharing on a personal blog. About 4 years ago, I started the shop. My goal was to provide items to help families bring their faith into a visual and physical presence in their home. It’s changed some in those years, but it’s still about finding God right here at home!
Q: You explain that “it is here and now that we have to make holy, and our homes are a reflection of that!” Why do you believe that our home life is so important for teaching and inspiring our family and friends in the lifelong goal of holiness?
Gina: For most of us, home is where God calls us to become saints. We won’t all have the opportunity to be “in the public eye” like some famous saints, but all saints came from families. Here and now is the only time I have, to seek God and to share His truth and goodness with my family. Whatever foundation I set for my children now is the only foundation they will have for life. The way we live and pray together at home will have a trickle-effect on the world.
So, whatever is good and true and beautiful must be found at home. The Church teaches that parents are the primary educators of their children; this isn’t only about academics. It’s even more so–I believe–about character and virtue and knowing who God is. I can’t rely on any parish program–no matter how incredible it is–to be the sole or primary source of encounter with the Lord. Jesus elevated day-to-day family life to something sacred and to be imitated by himself growing up within a family. It’s pretty incredible to ponder what hidden ways holiness can be found in the family, by imagining what life was like for Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.
Q: In your vocation as a mother and wife, you strive to be an example of holiness for your husband and children. What are a couple things you do each day to nourish your life of faith and prayer?
Gina: This seems to change seasonally, but my “tried and true” prayer habits include bursts of prayer throughout the day, reading Scripture, and offering up whatever I’m doing for someone else. I’m working on renewing a habit of praying the Morning Offering each day, with an ‘honorable mention’ of sorts to keep one family member in mind. With my husband plus six children, each day of the week is dedicated to intentional prayers on their behalf. I also set a timer on my phone to repeatedly remind me to pray through the day; short aspirations like the Jesus prayer.
Q: What are some ways that have helped you to explain holiness to your children? Do you have any practical tips for other parents striving to do the same?
Gina: What a good question! I talk about trying to reflect God’s image, in which He made us. Any time we live like He modeled for us, we’re living more like He desires. This is an on-going conversation at our house, sometimes about virtue, sometimes about being our best selves, sometimes about honoring God by using the gifts He gave us.
Lately we’re talking about what unique gifts each of us has to offer, even the youngest of us. My seven year old, for example, is so generous–always sharing his leftover Halloween candy. When I point out these things that come naturally in various ways to each child, I also let them know these are gifts God has given them, and when they use these gifts, they grow in His image. And growing in God’s image is growing in holiness!
Another quick tip is to chat after Sunday Mass, reflecting on the homily message. I like to start by sharing something that I liked, and then ask them what they heard. We’ve had great conversations about the readings and homilies.
Q: Advent is an exciting time of expectation as we await the coming of Our Savior. How do you and your family prepare your hearts and home for Christmas? What prayers and devotions would you encourage other families to incorporate into their homes this season?
Gina: I want to encourage parents to choose what fits their family dynamic and their needs this season. The Advent wreath is a staple in our house. Even if we skip reading any devotional (we light the candles at dinner time), we light the candle(s) each evening and eagerly wait for the celebration of Christmas. We love to read stories together, so Jesse Tree stories fit well with our family life and bedtime routine. We make sure to receive the sacrament of Reconciliation during Advent, too.
Some years, I’ve been eager and able to do more crafts and things, but those aren’t necessary for a holy, meaningful Advent! It’s meaningful to rest, to slow down, to pray. To find quiet in Advent can be tricky, but so important so that our hearts have space for Jesus. He’s coming to meet us in our homes, so whatever it looks like to make a space in your home, do that!
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to share with us? Where can our readers learn more about you and Someday Saints?
Gina: You can find me on my blog www.somedaysaints.com (which also has a shop), or on Instagram @somedaysaintsdesigns. Thank you so much for the interview; it’s been fun to “be here” and share about myself and Someday Saints!