Another Unlikely Conversion: Chad Miller

This post is by my friend Chad Miller. Chad is a lay Christian Apologist, part time musician, and avid bibliophile who sells lighting products to provide for his wife and three children. He is a former Protestant Deacon and Worship Leader, currently attending RCIA at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Keller, TX.

“I don’t know how anyone can be a Catholic and be saved.”

“Catholicism is the world’s biggest cult.”

“I put the Protest in Protestant.”

“The Gospel of Rome is not a gospel at all. Gospel means “good news” and sending billions of people to hell is not good news at all.”

The Whore of Babylon in Revelation 17. AKA, the Roman Catholic Church (obviously)
The Whore of Babylon in Revelation 17. AKA, the Roman Catholic Church (obviously)

All these quotes are from yours truly.

I didn’t say them to be controversial or start an argument but genuinely believed all of them. I’d read countless books, listened to debates, and digested sermon after sermon all proclaiming the Roman Catholic Church to be apostate, on some level (I’m not sure if there is a sliding scale for apostasy, but I digress.)

I didn’t know many Catholics or read Catholic authors, but with scores of reputable Protestant scholars who had already done the research, I was perfectly content to read what they had to say and trust it as truth.

So How Did I Get To That Point?

When I first became a Christian at 19, I spent a short season in the charismatic church of my youth and was exposed to what Jack Chick teaches about Catholics. After listening to Hank Hannagraff’s “Counterfeit Revival,” I quickly gravitated toward the Bible Church, which wasn’t much different in its view of Catholicism.

I believed the Bible Churches and conservative Baptist churches to be the closest representation of what Biblical Christianity should be. If someone isn’t sure what constitutes a Bible Church, think John MacArthur, and that’s where I was. Men like MacArthur, James White, RC Sproul, John Piper, and all the puritans and reformers hit me right in my sweet spot. These men have a deep love for the Bible and go to great lengths to interpret it accurately, which is truly admirable in any Christian; a sentiment I still hold to today.

But how do you really feel?
But how do you really feel?

Flash forward to around 2008, and I had started to soften my stance on the cult of Catholicism, thanks in part to sitting next to a Professor at a Catholic Seminary on a flight. We had an hour and a half to go back and forth, and I came out thinking it might be possible for Catholics to be in heaven after all. (How gracious of me!)

I had also started to read more Protestant apologists who didn’t “major on the minors” but instead focused on defending the big truths of the Christian worldview (God as Creator, the deity of Christ, the atoning death, the resurrection, the Holy Trinity, etc.). These men were much more gracious toward Catholicism and even worked alongside them writing books and inviting them to conferences.

I still had extreme disagreements with Catholic theology but thought there was enough in common on the “big stuff” that I could lighten up a bit. The doctrines of justification, Mary, purgatory, and many others were enough of a deterrent to leave it outside of the realm of possibility for me to even consider, so I was safe.

Then I met Tim Francis…

Tim’s son and my son met in our homeschool group, so they all came over for Christian’s birthday party in September of 2014. Tim noticed my library and started up a conversation about theology and apologetics, which I am always more than happy to discuss with someone who is interested.

He told me he worked for an apologetics ministry full time, and when I asked him what it was, he was pretty insistent I had never heard of it. He clearly knew from my book selection I wasn’t too engaged in apologetics ministries specifically focused on helping Catholics to better defend their faith, which is exactly what he did/does. At that point, I extended the olive branch and let him know what an anti-Catholic I used to be and how we could all sing Kumbaya together now.

Unfortunately, Tim didn’t have much interest in singing with me.

He challenged me, firmly but graciously, on many Protestant doctrines I had never been challenged on, as I had always been around people who agreed on these foundational truths. He went straight for the headshot by asking me to defend my source of authority, which for the Protestant always comes back to the doctrine of Sola Scriptura, or “scripture alone.” When he asked, “What is the pillar and foundation of the truth,” I immediately shot back with “Obviously, the Bible.” It turns out that’s not what the Bible actually says:

1 Timothy 3:15: “I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth.”

I had studied this chapter multiple times, as the doctrine of ecclesiology leans heavily upon the opening verses. Conservative Protestant Churches take this seriously and defend their belief in a plurality of elders in the local Church primarily from this passage. I had never considered within the chapter where Paul is spelling out the qualifications for leaders in the Church he also calls the Church of the living God “the pillar and foundation of the truth.”

That one stung a little bit, but I was confident there was as valid an answer to this as there was to a number of passages which seem to support Catholicism. I had always found a Protestant response, so this wasn’t too big of a deal. My foundation wasn’t even cracked, but he had put a stone in my shoe which I had to get out.

He also challenged me on the doctrine of Sola Fide, which means justification “by faith alone.” In spite of what many Protestants may believe, Protestants and Catholics do indeed agree on the other three Solas (Soli Deo Gloria – to the Glory of God Alone, Sola Gratia – by Grace Alone, Solus Christus – in Christ Alone).

Tim parked on the two Solas we clearly disagreed on and that ended up being where I would park for the next year. In order to be convinced Catholicism was true, I had to be convinced Biblically first and foremost. I didn’t want to focus on the peripheral disagreements over Mary, the Saints, Purgatory, etc. I wanted to focus on the crucial issues of authority and salvation.

The way I see it, if the Church has the valid authority of the apostles and there is merit to the doctrine of Sacred Tradition, then those peripheral issues can be handled under that umbrella.

After Tim left that evening, we decided to stay in touch, and he sent me some resources. I told him I was just interested in pursuing truth, and while I was convinced he was wrong, I had to be intellectually honest enough to read what he was sending me and consider what these Catholic authors had to say.

I had to be open to the possibility I was wrong.

I had done this countless times before when it came to being wrong about Christianity, theism, etc., so I had to be willing to admit I was wrong about Protestantism, even though I was firmly convinced I’d come out a stronger Protestant than before.

Then along comes Devin Rose and Catholic Answers

I think Tim knew he had drawn a little blood on my Sola Scriptura stance, so he sent me the book “The Protestant’s Dilemma,” and being a sucker for free books (and also wanting to get that stinking stone out of my shoe), I decided to read through it. As a convert from Protestantism to Catholicism himself, Devin does a fantastic job of hitting on multiple Protestant stances in quick, pithy chapters framed as:

If Protestantism is true, then X

Because Catholicism is true, Y

Therefore Catholicism is preferable to Protestantism

I am not being paid to promote this book
I am not being paid to promote this book

Reading through his book did not convince me Catholicism was indeed preferable to Protestantism, but the stone in my shoe remained. Correction; rather than one stone, I felt like I had just left a quarry.

While I was going through the book, I was also reading article after article on Catholic Answers, which are primarily written by former Protestants who have converted to Catholicism. I knew the best way to get through the challenges they were posing was to go to the Church Fathers to see how they interpreted these Biblical passages. I needed to study Church history, look into the epistles and sermons of the Fathers, study the reformers, and study my trusted Protestant theologians.

Big mistake…

Not cool dude, not cool at all
Not cool dude, not cool at all

Well, it was a big mistake if I wanted to remain Protestant. Since I truly did want to believe what was true (and still do), it was a journey I had to make. I realized a number of the gymnastics Protestants have to do around certain passages fit quite nicely when viewed through the lens of Catholicism.

I realized all the early Church fathers were quite unanimous on the key doctrines of Catholicism on which the Protestant Church largely disagrees. Did all the Saints from Polycarp up until Luther’s time somehow get these things wrong? I also realized the passages from St. Paul’s epistles which seem to flat out refute the Catholic doctrine of justification actually support it, as well as many other passages relating to other issues.

Suffice to say I spent countless hours reading books, digesting articles, listening to lectures, talking to people, etc. I discovered a number of things I believed about Catholicism were simply not true at all. As the Venerable Fulton Sheen so eloquently put it:

Give me some scissors, stat!
Give me some scissors, stat!

Fulton Sheen said: “There are not a hundred people in America who hate the Catholic Church. There are millions of people who hate what they wrongly believe to be the Catholic Church — which is, of course, quite a different thing.”

If only there were some memes out there containing my truth bombs…
So how could I come into a Church with such a messy history, full of sinful men doing sinful things? Where there is a Pope who says and does things that drives people nuts, including many Catholics? What about all the weirdness and baggage that comes with it? How could I throw away the doctrines of Sola Scriptura and Sola Fide and embrace Apostolic Succession, the Magisterium, as well as justification by faith and works in relationship to one another?

In short, because I am convinced it is true. To quote G.K Chesterton:

The difficulty of explaining “why I am a Catholic” is that there are ten thousand reasons all amounting to one reason: that Catholicism is true.

I may look grouchy, but I’m actually the bomb.com.
I may look grouchy, but I’m actually the bomb.com.

To remain Protestant would have been considerably easier for all of my relationships, with the significant exception of my wife. We both went through this journey together, and I realize how fortunate I am for us to be in complete agreement on this. We both come from families where there is no Catholic ancestry and our closest friends are all Protestant. Hearing stories from other converts who did not have their spouse in agreement can be quite heartbreaking so I understand what a blessing this is.

To become Catholic has been a disruption in our lives and we had to be dragged kicking and screaming into the Church. I did not want to become Catholic. I had no desire to lose friendships or drop the bomb on family members in firm opposition to the Church.

To have some friends accuse me of committing the sin of apostasy, sending my kids on the path to eternal destruction, and now sharing the gospel with me as though I am lost has been a tad discouraging… but I get it. I used to believe the same way they do so I understand where they’re coming from. I appreciate their concern for my soul and I don’t begrudge them for reacting how they have. I also greatly appreciate those friends and family who have respectfully disagreed with us while still remaining close to us.

In spite of the tension it has caused and will likely continue to cause, becoming Catholic has been the best decision I’ve ever made. I now see things in the Bible and in my life with clarity like I never have before. I have always been a searcher, digging for the truth, and I have finally found the pearl of great price.

Catholics frequently tell converts “Welcome home,” and I now know exactly why they say that. I am indeed home. I didn’t realize what I had been missing for so long, and now that I’ve found it, I can’t imagine how I could ever turn away from it. I didn’t come into the Church focusing on the Eucharist, but now I know I could never leave the one Church where Jesus is truly present: body, blood, soul, and divinity… and I haven’t even been able to partake of the Blessed Sacrament yet.

fultonSo yes… I am Catholic. The reason I laid this out there is because I have a number of friends and family members who do not understand why I’m doing this, some who don’t know, and hopefully this will help them understand.

I haven’t been able to be as vocal about it as I would like to be, and this seems to be an important enough issue to properly lay out the reasons why I have made such a big change. I know some people are already upset over this and others probably will be when they find out, but I want everyone to know this is not something I took lightly. A LOT of time in prayer and study went into this and it was not easy to cross the Tiber, to put it mildly.

I would encourage anyone who desires truth to be open to the possibility that the Catholic Church is indeed the Church founded by Jesus Christ, which the gates of hell shall not prevail against. It’s probably a good thing to study the Scriptures and look at what the Fathers had to say about the Eucharist, justification, Mary, apostolic succession, and others.

Those same men, who were guided by the Holy Spirit to settle the Canon of the Bible we all love so dearly, may have something important to say about the Catholic Church. We may not all become Catholic, but hopefully we’ll at least come out with a better understanding of what the Church truly teaches and why they teach it.

Just a Few Points of Clarity

I still believe the Bible is the inerrant word of God… and so does the Church.

I do not worship Mary or any of the Saints… and the Catholic Church doesn’t teach that I should.

I believe we are saved by grace through faith… and so does the Church (works do come into play on justification, but Catholics don’t believe in “works alone” or “works based” salvation which is how many Protestants frame the Catholic doctrine of justification).

I don’t believe the Pope is infallible in everything he says and does… and neither does the Church.

I don’t worship idols… and the Catholic Church doesn’t teach that I should.

There are many more but I, like many Catholics, will never truly plumb the depths of knowledge and wisdom within the Church. May God continue to lead all of us on our journey.

Eight Reasons We’re Going to the Traditional Latin Mass

We’ve been attending the Traditional Latin Mass regularly over the past two months, and it’s raised some eyebrows among our friends. In this post I’ll explain why we made this decision.

Background

The Traditional Latin Mass (TLM) or Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, based on the 1962 Missal, is the “Old Mass” that the Church used for centuries and centuries. (It is also sometimes called, somewhat inaccurately, the Tridentine Mass because of the Council of Trent in the mid-1500s, but its origins are much more ancient, and it has been modified in certain ways since then in any case.)

cathed1In the fifteen years since becoming Catholic from atheism and Protestantism, I’ve almost exclusively gone to the Ordinary Form (Novus Ordo) of the Mass, which is the normal English Mass that most Catholics in the U.S. attend.

Prior to the most recent few months, in the preceding ten years I had only gone to the TLM a few times. I found it inaccessible and hard to follow, even using the blue booklet with Latin and English on facing pages.

But several factors led me to want to take my family to the TLM. Here are eight of them.

#1: Tradition

The TLM is the traditional liturgy of the Church in the Latin Rite.

This liturgy has ancient roots and is substantially similar to the Mass that the vast majority of the saints in the West experienced. Its language is Latin, the traditional language of the Church in the West.

For most other institutions, a bare appeal to tradition alone is not enough to retain a practice, but in the Catholic Church, Tradition is of divine origin and cannot be ignored or brushed aside as antiquated or outdated.

#2: It’s Approved

The TLM was never abolished, in spite of the fact that it became quite hard to find after the Second Vatican Council.

Not only was it never abolished, but in 2007 Pope Benedict issued a motu propio called Summorum Pontificum that greatly expanded its ability to be celebrated by priests in the Latin Rite.

The Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms of the Roman Rite Mass are, therefore, both completely valid, saith the Church. For a good book that discusses the TLM and the current state of the Church today, check out Peter Kwasniewski’s Resurgent in the Midst of Crisis.

#3: Beauty, Transcendence, Reverence

The TLM is beautiful; it points clearly to the transcendence of God; and is celebrated reverently.

latmassAt many parishes, the Mass is something of a busy affair. There’s lots of bustle, chatter, and little silence. At almost every moment of many Ordinary Form Masses, there is sound: priest speaking or praying, congregation responding/speaking, choir singing, or musicians playing music to fill in the gaps. This isn’t the case everywhere but is fairly common from my experience at many different parishes.

The TLM, on the other hand, provides ample space for silence. The priest prays inaudibly while the congregation is kneeling, for instance. This silence fosters reverent worship and prayer.

I love the priests at parishes that we’ve been members of over the years, but, as an example, one of them would walk up the aisle at the start of Mass high-fiving the children. My kids loved it, but it didn’t cultivate a reverent tone for the liturgy. My son even tried high-fiving him during communion one time (he was still a few years away from his first communion).

At many parishes, including ones with good priests and lots of faithful Catholics, it is not uncommon to hear multiple outbursts of applause and clapping during the Mass.

I’ve heard applause for catechists, or new extraordinary ministers of holy communion, or a married couple on their anniversary, or the Boy Scouts, or the students going off the college, for the priest, for the lectors…you get the idea.

Now, most of these things are laudable, and I understand why the congregation and priests want to publicly recognize them, but having clapping during the Mass for them is distracting and makes the liturgy feel more like a civic event than a holy sacrifice. And every time I hear it, Pope Benedict’s words are called to my mind:

Whenever applause breaks out in the liturgy because of some human achievement, it is a sure sign that the essence of liturgy has totally disappeared and been replaced by a kind of religious entertainment.

Is it the goal of our parish priests to be doing “religious entertainment”? Of course not. And none of the parish priests I know and respect think this way. They believe in the sacredness of the Mass and its central importance to our Faith.

Nonetheless, though turning the Mass into religious entertainment is not their intent, it perhaps can be the effect of such frequent clapping.

#4: Male Altar Servers

At the TLM all the altar servers are male.

My young son sees many of his friends–boys a few years older than he generally–up by the altar and wants to emulate them. They are kneeling reverently and assisting in small ways at Mass.

roseFamMale-only altar servers is traditional in the Church and also in stark contrast to the gender-nullifying ideas of the spirit of the age. Male-only altar servers give boys a special group they can belong to and provide fertile ground for discerning a vocation to the priesthood, a calling that only males can receive in the Catholic Church.

I’ve seen parishes where almost all the altar servers were female. Combine this with the majority of extraordinary ministers of holy communion being female, and boys can feel that serving at the altar and being involved in the Mass is a feminine thing, rather than a masculine one.

I want to point out here that, at one parish we go to the Ordinary Form Mass at, almost all the altar servers are male. Knowing many of the families who have their children doing altar serving there, I can say that these families, even without going to the TLM, see the sound reasoning for only have their sons as altar servers. So this is a positive sign of renewal happening in the Ordinary Form Masses.

Another argument for male-only altar servers is that, because it is traditional, it appeals to other traditional Christians, namely Eastern Orthodox. I have corresponded many times over the years with an Eastern Orthodox apologist, and frequently during our dialogues he has brought up female altar servers as being a hindrance to him ever becoming Catholic.

For me, that is not a deal-breaking reason to remain outside of full communion with the Catholic Church, but for him it is a big deal. The TLM is a refuge and example for such people, showing them that the Catholic Church has not abandoned her liturgical tradition.

#5: People Dress Appropriately

This is a small but important factor. On any given Sunday at most parishes, how appropriately people dress is a crap-shoot.

During summer here in Texas, it is not unusual to see people wearing shorts, tank tops, and flip flops. Women wear clothes appropriate for laying out at the beach but not for holy Mass. Our regular parish has pew inserts that clearly spell out what is appropriate dress for Mass, but these are often ignored.

And even in the other seasons, people generally don’t dress up too much for Mass. If a man is wearing jeans and a polo shirt, he’s above average.

For whatever reason, at the TLM people dress much more appropriately. Men usually wear button up shirts and khakis or slacks. Some wear jackets or sport coats. Women wear more appropriate attire, covering up more of their body.

We show reverence to God in how we dress, and respect for our fellow man. So how we dress is not just an irrelevant accident that doesn’t matter.

#6: Our Children See That This Is Different

This reason is the most important to me: our children see that something special and different is happening at the Traditional Latin Mass.

fss1They intuitively pick up on the distinctive qualities of the TLM and act accordingly: they’re more reverent and silent.

This isn’t just another performance or musical concert. It’s much greater. It points to God. We are in His presence. And they are aware that something important and awe-inspiring is happening.

I have seen so many of my friends’ children leave the Catholic Faith in their teens or in college. Somehow, the seed that was planted, even among families who went to daily Mass, was snatched up by the evil one.

Our modern society is incredibly alluring: gadgets, games, sexual pleasure without consequences, luxury, money, and worldly success. I want to provide a bulwark against those powerful allures, and the TLM is a key part of that.

If “Church” is no different from–or worse a boring imitation of–the world outside, our children will continue to fall away. We have to effectively present to them the Gospel and the mysteries of our Catholic Faith. We have to present to them the truth of the Good Shepherd in ways they can grasp as they grow up, to provide a fertile soil for the seeds God has planted to take root. A reverent and traditional liturgy is central to that.

#7: Hearing Sacred Music

Music in the Mass should be sacred music.

The Church has long-affirmed this and the Second Vatican Council reaffirmed it in unequivocal language. Now, in the past fifty years that guidance has not been widely put into practice, a perplexing fact that has only dubious justifications.

The TLM has sacred music. Most of the Ordinary Form Masses I’ve been to over the years have not had sacred music. In fact, many of the songs have been campy, doctrinally incorrect folk tunes of one kind or another.

Yet, these unfortunate songs are deeply entrenched with the musical directors and leaders at countless parishes. I’ve seen “Anthem” sung regularly at several parishes:

We are called, we are chosen.
We are Christ for one another.
We are promise to tomorrow,
while we are for him today.
We are sign, we are wonder,
we are sower, we are seed.
We are harvest, we are hunger.
We are question, we are creed.

No doubt in the 1970s this song was cutting edge. But the only “question” about it is its questionableness for being sung in the liturgy. It should not be. Yet it is still, with few signs of its popularity abating.

A professor and good friend of mine explained sacred music this way:

There is a difference between sacred music, religious music, and secular music. If we should strive for excellence in art in general, then we should do so even more in the case of religious art, the purpose of which is to lift up our hearts and minds to contemplate the divine truths about God and the honor and praise due to Him.

Sacred music enters most intimately into sacred liturgy, and so it must be suited for lifting up the minds of the faithful to God, not distracting them or entertaining them. Sacred music is to be the very servant of sacred liturgy. The purpose of the liturgy is the worship of the infinite and unchanging God, who made heaven and earth. And God should be worshiped in a way that is fitting to His transcendence and dignity. That’s why pop music is not fitting for Church, even if it ‘reaches’ the youth, as found at various Protestant mega-churches.

Two good resources for how music should be done in the liturgy are MusicaSacra.com and ChantCafe.com.

#8: Community

I long regarded Catholics who went to the TLM as aloof and somewhat snobbish. They seemed to regard the TLM as “the only right way” and had disdain for the Ordinary Form and Catholics who attended it.

fss2This bias was strengthened on the occasion of receiving a disapproving glare from a man at a daily TLM I was attending with my two very young children. He turned full around and made a face at me, in spite of the fact that I had already retreated with my boisterous children beyond the glass-paneled doors into the narthex, where they were being quiet. I could tell that my children’s small noises had polluted his pure experience of the Latin Mass

Fast forward four years to a few months ago, when we started going to the TLM on Sundays to see if it would be endurable for our family. The atmosphere felt a bit stuffy at first, probably because of our own fears of being judged, but we persevered to give it a fair chance.

After a few weeks, we learned that after every Mass many families would go to the bishop’s hall and have light snacks and coffee together. We began going to that and meeting the families. Soon we had made new friends and to our surprise discovered that they were from a variety of backgrounds. Some had started going to the TLM only recently, or went when they could, or had happened upon the TLM at some point and thought it very attractive.

In short, they were normal families and not the stereotype I had for “rad traddies” (more on that moniker in the conclusion at the end of this post). And they were an active and close knit group, in part because of their love of the TLM and traditional practices of Catholicism.

While we have many good friends at our regular parish, most of the time after Mass we all just go home. Perhaps once a week there’s a play date with the moms, and once a month I may see one of the husbands whom I’m friends with, but that’s about it. The sense of a close community of faith is more dispersed.

Suspicious of Traddies

“Traddies” and “rad[ical] traddies” are two nicknames given for Catholics who go to the TLM. But they are also used for Catholics who are members of the SSPX. And they are used for people who have broken in schism from the Catholic Church. These are three distinct groups of people that cannot be spoken of as a single entity.

The ambiguity of these nicknames renders them unhelpful, yet many Catholics lump all these groups together under the “trad” banner and paint them all with the same broad brush.

I understand why this is the case. I just received an email from a man who unsubscribed from my email list with the following reason:

Pro Vatican 2 site. I stick with purely Traditional sites. Such as novusordowatch, tradcatknight.blogspot.com tradition in action, tradito, daily catholic etc. My apologies god bless in your mission.

For this man, either you are a “Vatican 2 Catholic” or you are a “Traditional” Catholic. This is the hermeneutic of rupture, and a false dichotomy. The Second Vatican Council can be defended from a traditional Catholic standpoint, which I did here.

cath1Many Catholics read statements like the one this man wrote to me and their suspicion of “rad traddies” is affirmed. But his beliefs and mine are quite different, in spite of the fact that, quite possibly, both he and I go to the TLM.

I take my family to the TLM, not in spite of the Church, but because we believe it is taking us deeper into the heart of the Church.

Traditional Catholicism is nothing to be suspicious of. A very broad spectrum exists here, and most of the TLMers I have met are simply faithful Catholics who have discovered and prize the buried gem that is the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite Mass.

The New-Old Evangelization

Yes! It is possible to take part in the New Evangelization by means of the Old Mass. In fact, it may just be the best way to be a new evangelist.

In the Traditional Latin Mass, we come to know Christ more deeply and intimately. God gave us the Mass for just this purpose, to worship Him in spirit and truth. Thus, there is no opposition between the New Evangelization and the TLM. Rather, they go hand-in-hand.

Personally, I hope to see 1) an increase of reverence and renewal of the Ordinary Form of the Mass, 2) an expansion of the Mass of the Anglican Ordinariate, and 3) an increase in the number of parishes offering the Traditional Latin Mass.

All three would help people encounter Christ and His Church and grow in holiness, consequently drawing more people to the Catholic Church.

For all these reasons, my family and I are going to the Traditional Latin Mass. But while we do so, we continue to respect our regular parish, its priests, and all our Catholic friends, no matter which Mass they go to. The Church has made multiple Forms available, and you can be a faithful Catholic by going to any of them.

The Defining Decade of Fatherhood

I’m entering into the Defining Decade of fatherhood.

Quite simply, this is the time period when my children will go from toddlers to teens.

It’s time to pull out all the stops for them.

Fatherly Priorities

What is the primary purpose of our lives as husbands and fathers?

It is to become saints and to lead our families to become saints.

fathersonAnd the most critical time in our children’s lives is in the relatively short period from toddler-hood to teenagers. (Note that their time as babies, in utero and born, is also vital, but this time is less complex, as a father just needs to spend time with their baby, holding, hugging, loving, interacting with them. Not a given in our day and age, but not rocket science either, and a prerequisite to this post.)

So my focus for the next ten years should be following the Holy Spirit in how I should lead my family, rear my children, to guide them to God.

This means that my priority should not be:

  • Making as much money as possible
  • Working as much as possible to make as much money as possible
  • Doing “me” things without my children
    • Going to bars frequently
    • Going on trips by myself
    • Playing video games, sports, hunting by myself
  • Giving in to temptation and sin

In the above list of things I should not be doing, note that going to a bar sometimes with friends is fine. It can even be good (I just met up last night at a bar with a bunch of Catholic friends.)

Same with hunting, video games, sports, and work. All fine things, when done prudently and as justice demands. I’m speaking of spending excessive amounts of time on these activities, to the exclusion of our children.

Focus Shift

Fr. Theodore Hesburgh said:

The most important thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother.

Lots of truth to that. Love your wife and in doing so you will be giving an example of Christ-like, sacrificial love to your children.

fatherhandsShift your focus from you to your family. How can you best lead them to grow in virtue, faith, hope, and love? How can you help them become a kind person, a good teammate, an entrepreneur, an evangelist?

These are the questions to ask yourself. This is the time to pour your life into theirs. Get this right and the rest will take care of itself, largely.

For me, some of the concrete things I’m doing with my children are:

  • Attending reverent Masses with them
  • Spending lots and lots of time with them
    • Reading to them
    • Playing games
    • Taking them on individual “dates”
  • Helping my wife homeschool them
  • Helping my wife prepare my son for first Confession and first Communion
  • Hugs, kind words, instruction

Regarding sin, if you are addicted to pornography and lust, conquer that addiction. You cannot expect your sons to be men of purity if you are not one. You cannot give what you don’t have, and if you lack self-mastery, you cannot show your sons how to be self-mastered.

I encourage you to examine where you are in your own life with your family, and take action to identify how you can be an awesomely Catholic dad during their defining decade.