Shortly after she was born, Fr. Karl who was one of my supervisors in my previous job, used to ask me, “Are you getting any sleep?” I’d always respond “No, of course not.” And he’d always snarkily respond with, “Good, that’s why God gives children to young people — they can handle it, unlike people my age.” Although the banter was half-joking, there was some truth to it.
When we think of vocations, we often think of a vocation to the priesthood or religious life, which are very noble (and very much needed) vocations. But how often do we think of a vocation to married life (which, as Catholics, implicitly becomes a vocation to family life — even for those who aren’t able to have children).
When I think of my vocation as husband and father, I refer to my responsibilities as outlined in Ephesians 5:
Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the Church and handed himself over for her to sanctify her, cleansing her by the bath of water with the word, that he might present to himself the Church in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.
Like any vocation, this challenge given to me as the spiritual leader of my household, and as co-worker with my wife for our children, involves self-sacrifice. I mean, to love my wife and kids as Christ loved the Church — that means I have to be willing to die for not only their lives, but for their salvation. Every decision I make I have to ask myself, “How will this lead to my family’s sanctification?” Sometimes, I still make the wrong decisions, like when I buy unnecessary (but supercool) power tools — but that’s what confession and customer service are for.
I remember when I accepted this job and uprooted my family from Texas seven months ago. Before I left, I spoke to Fr. Karl. “Well, I’m sad to see you go,” he told me, “but you really are making the best decision for your family.”
As Catholics, the family is very important to us, whether we are married and have children, or if we are single but still look to our parents or other parental figures in our lives.
Planning Pope Francis’ apostolic visit to the U.S. began with organizing the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia later this month. In addition to covering various aspects of his visit, we included local stories about the family in a Catholic context to helps us understand the importance of family life.
So here we are, approximately 4:30 a.m., and like any writer, I write when I feel the compulsion to. I still hear Fr. Karl’s words in my head, but there’s another reason we have children — when I’m with my daughter, there’s nowhere else I’d rather be. When I come home, she runs to me, holds her little hands up and as I reach down, she clasps my thumbs and pulls herself up, until I lift her all the way.
There’s a divine spark in this encounter. At this moment, nothing else matters — Katie doesn’t care about my daily successes and failures. She knows I’m her papa, and that’s all that matters to her. Looking to our Father in heaven, I look at her with unconditional love. And she looks at me the same way.
I know we’re still young — I know she’ll give me heartache in later years, as will future kids, just like I gave to my parents. But for now I’m going to enjoy these moments and thank God for my vocation, and ask Him for the grace to live it.