The Families of Nazareth Movement (FNM) began in the early 1980’s in Poland where a small community of people found themselves searching for a way leading to spiritual growth and sanctity. It then spread rapidly beyond the borders of Poland and it is now present on all the continents. Its members seek a radical way of entrusting themselves to God through the Blessed Virgin Mother. They follow the example of such spiritual masters as Saint John of the Cross, Saint Therese of Avila, Saint Therese of Lisieux, and Saint Maximilian Kolbe. In the Movement, a special emphasis is placed on the spirituality of Nazareth – following Jesus in his poverty and humility.
The movement was officially approved by Church authorities in Poland in the year 1985. The Movement was the fruit of Fr. Tadeusz Dajczer’s own spiritual search and meditations, as well as his long-time ministry among university students. Father Dajczer started his academic journey in Warsaw, Poland, and then studied at The Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome where he obtained his Ph.D. Upon his return to Poland he established the Phenomenology of Religion department at the Academy of Catholic Theology in Warsaw. In 1994, the President of Poland, Mr. Lech Walesa, awarded him the title of Professor of Theological Sciences, the highest academic title given to outstanding university teachers and scientists. He is the author of many articles and books in the field of religious studies and spirituality. In addition, he is the editor of materials dedicated to the FNM, whose co-founder is Fr. Andrzej Buczel, Ph.D (1951-1994), professor at the Metropolitan Major Seminary in Warsaw.
In its essence, the charism of the Movement consists of an effort to live in full personal communion with Christ the Savior, described as: “The act of total abandonment for the service of Christ in His Holy Church.” This communion teaches the love of God and of other human beings in the way Christ loves.
The one word which perfectly describes the Movement is ENTRUSTMENT. This is abandonment to the Blessed Virgin Mother, as described by the late Pope John Paul II:
Of the essence of motherhood is the fact that it concerns the person. Motherhood always establishes a unique and unrepeatable relationship between two people: between mother and child and between child and mother. (…) This is true not only of John, who at that hour stood at the foot of the Cross together with his Master's Mother, but it is also true of every disciple of Christ, of every Christian. The Redeemer entrusts his mother to the disciple, and at the same time he gives her to him as his mother. Mary's motherhood, which becomes man's inheritance, is a gift: a gift which Christ himself makes personally to every individual. The Redeemer entrusts Mary to John because he entrusts John to Mary. At the foot of the Cross there begins that special entrusting of humanity to the Mother of Christ, which in the history of the Church has been practiced and expressed in different ways. The same Apostle and Evangelist, after reporting the words addressed by Jesus on the Cross to his Mother and to himself, adds: "And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home" (Jn. 19:27) (…) Entrusting himself to Mary in a filial manner, the Christian, like the Apostle John, "welcomes" the Mother of Christ "into his own home" and brings her into everything that makes up his inner life, that is to say into his human and Christian "I": he "took her to his own home." Thus the Christian seeks to be taken into that "maternal charity" with which the Redeemer's Mother "cares for the brethren of her Son in whose birth and development she cooperates" in the measure of the gift proper to each one through the power of Christ's Spirit. (Redemptoris Mater, 45)
Additionally, the Families of Nazareth Movement highlights the importance of Mary in the History of Salvation and in our personal lives. For the members of the Movement, the Virgin Mother is seen as the Mother of the Church and that is why they entrust themselves to Her, following the example of Saint John the Apostle.
The basic principle of the Movement’s spirituality is establishing a unique relationship with Mary. In day to day living, it calls for surrendering to God’s will through Mary, and following Mary’s footsteps in humility, trust and total obedience to God. Life in communion with Mary establishes the proper hierarchy:
- primacy of person above action;
- an act of pure love being more valuable than all other acts;
- contemplation as the source of this act.
According to St. Basil’s thought, we must remember that God cares more about us than about our actions. In our lives we must strive to reach the point where the role of Christ is increased in us, and as a result our actions will become more submissive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.
Members of the FNM pay special attention to the Holy Mass where they find the source of spiritual nourishment and authentic Christian life. Deeper understanding of the Holy Eucharist leads to fuller and more frequent participation in it.
The main experience of the community is in seeking a radical way of giving oneself to God. In the life of Fr. Dajczer, such a decisive moment took place during his confession with Padre Pio. Padre Pio asked his penitent, with astonishment and great force, why he did not want to go toward God to the end. For Fr. Dajczer it was a shocking experience and at the same time the beginning of a search for sanctity both for himself and for his penitents. After many years, Fr. Dajczer said that the turning point in everyone’s spiritual life is when we question our faith. This experience leads to a discovery that the gift of pure faith makes one see the world from a totally different perspective.
To the participants of the very first retreat which took place right after his personal conversion in a picturesque town of Zakopane, Fr. Tadeusz said that, in the light of faith, every occurrence in life has an immeasurably deep sense because it is a passing by of God, a calling directed to a human being. “There is only one important, serious reality worth living for, that is God and His will.” (Dajczer, Tadeusz, Fr., The Gift of Faith, published by: In the Arms of Mary Foundation, 2001, 99.)
The Families of Nazareth Movement expanded very quickly. In just two years it grew throughout Poland. In 1987, it expanded to France (“Les Communauteś de la Sante Familie"), Spain, Portugal, and a year later to England, Holland, and Germany. In 1989, the Movement extended to Mexico, Colombia, Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela, the USA, and Canada, as well as to Cuba. In the early 1990’s it reached Italy, Austria, Belgium, Hungary, Belarus, Lithuania, Latvia, Ukraine, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. In 1994, new communities of FNM were established in New Zealand and Zambia. Two years later in the Philippines, Australia and India.
Wherever FNM develops in the world, its activities take place within the diocesan-parish structure. The Movement is universal. There is room in it for everyone: families and single people, priests and religious, youth, children and the sick. The FNM is a meeting place for those who have already ‘found’ God and for those embroiled in the many battles of life today.
The spirituality of the Families of Nazareth Movement is based on Gospel values. The most important characteristics are:
Christocentric – as an endeavor directed toward full communion with Christ the Redeemer, that is, to love God and people with the love of Christ.
The ideal of Nazareth – imitating Christ in His poverty and humility.
Eucharistic – frequent participation in the Eucharist, and life in the state of sanctifying grace.
The love of ‘poor means’ – a predilection for, among others, renunciation, self-denial, and prayer as a perfect help on the way to God.
Marian devotion – entrustment to Blessed Virgin Mary as the Mother of the Church.
Ecclesiality – seeing in the light of faith the Church’s hierarchy as a particular channel of grace, which generates the filial relationship of love and obedience toward bishops.
The formation of the FNM members consists of following elements:
Spiritual Direction – Spiritual direction by the Movement's priest is a very special blessing for those in the Movement who are seriously seeking holiness. It is an amazing grace. This direction provides life-long spiritual formation and is especially valuable when emotional dryness and distractions in prayer begin. Taking care of spiritual life requires frequent cooperation with a priest, whose help in the Movement becomes spiritual direction.
Spiritual Reading – The practice of spiritual reading helps to form a new way of thinking and evaluating reality. It helps a person to acquire a faith-filled outlook on life.
Weekly group meetings – Spiritual formation of the members of the Movement takes place at weekly group meetings, typically held at local parishes. The purpose of the meeting is to share different experiences of faith and to discover God's presence in our lives. The meetings, led by the animators, consist of prayer, readings, and faith sharing. The readings are selected from the Bible or the Movement publications. They focus on a particular aspect of the Movement's spirituality and its application to everyday life.
General meeting – Every month, all members are invited to gather at a general meeting, which includes celebration of the Holy Eucharist, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, conference with faith sharing, and fellowship.
Annual retreat – At least once a year members are encouraged to gather at a special (up to 5 days) retreat. Usually, priests from the Movement are present to give conferences.
Finally, the ministry of Families of Nazareth Movement is a continuation of the Papal program of the New Evangelization. Members of the Movement strive for sanctity in their communities and neighborhoods. One of the main goals of the Movement is the evangelization of the family. Its goal is to create the atmosphere and ideals of Christian family that would be visible in the society.
The building of God’s Kingdom, that is, an increase of Christ within us, is the goal of the history of humankind as well as our own.
Acceptance or rejection of Christ determines the individual history of every human soul. It seems that this is the context in which we can locate the call to the New Evangelization as the late Pope John Paul II identifies it. The task of the New Evangelization requires our surrender to Christ, after the example of the Blessed Virgin Mary – without any hesitation and looking back. The New Evangelization, by which we should respond to our baptismal call to holiness, takes place in an extremely difficult situation, because it is addressed to the world, which is penetrated by the decomposition of human and Christian values.
To the contemporary human being incapable of denying himself and turning away from his own egoism, the Church wants to remind the ideal of the evangelical child.
Spiritual infancy, expressing itself in being small and helpless up to the limits of an abyss, calls for and attracts another abyss – the abyss of God’s mercy.
God desires that in response to His Love we allow Him to work within us, that we allow Him to love us. (Booklet number 1, FNM, Poland)
The apostolic activities of FNM members are directed toward local parish communities. Besides the prayers meetings, members of FNM cooperate with the local pastor as they make an effort to respond to the needs of the parish. As a result, members of the Movement join the parish’s charities, participate in liturgical life as extraordinary Eucharistic ministers and lectors, and are engaged in helping churches in need.