I’m a cradle Catholic, and I’m married to a cradle Catholic. My parents still practice the faith, and they’re still married. My wife’s parents are still married, and only death has separated our four sets of grandparents who were all married for a long time. So in a way, my life in the faith has been easy and I haven’t had to think that hard. I have not had the “momentous” sacramental decisions that I know some Catholic men have struggled with (conversion, mixed-faith marriages etc.).
I spent a week at the Baeda College in Rome, sponsored by the Diocese of Salford, to help me in my discernment process to become a priest. It worked, because when I got back I decided to ask my wife-to-be on a date, and the rest is then history, as is said. We’ll have been married 10 years this October, and have three wonderful boys.
My boys. Yes, they’re wearing the same clothes. And yes, they have nail varnish on. Blame mum!
What have I learnt being a Catholic man?
What separates the “men from the boys”? Well, it’s not enough to be passive in your faith. I can count on one hand the amount of truly good priests I know (at least personally) that have helped me grow in faith – it’s not enough to rely on the clergy to do your thinking for you.
Like many Catholics my age, the sexual abuse scandals in the church rocked me to my core – it’s not enough to be brash and refer to the magisterium of the church like some unthinking follower of a domesday cult. I’ve had to learn my faith again from the very beginning, questioning the reason why I believe in the authority of the church. And that’s after going through what could only be described as the “model Catholic education” – reflecting back, it ill-prepared me in the faith.
So what have I done to become an active follower of the Catholic faith?
My wife and I teach NFP through the Couple-to-Couple League – we decided when we learnt it that this is something that together we could offer the wider church. We bought fully into the lessons of Humanae Vitae, and Pope St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. This has made us practice our faith openly, not only teaching the course to interested couples, but also to deliver marriage preparation sessions on it, upon the invitation of our Parish Priest.
My wife and I
What worries prey upon my mind as a Catholic man?
Well, being a good spiritual father to my boys. They will look to me for a model to follow (if I can be just half the man my father was to me…). This means being prepared for life. Physically prepared – exercise and diet, mentally prepared – keeping my mind agile, but mainly spiritually prepared. This, like exercise and a good diet, must be ongoing and developing. It is not good enough to be “comfortable” in faith. Faith is not meant to be comfortable.
How has my faith developed and changed recently?
I was in the fortunate position to experience the Traditional Latin Mass (TLM) during my last few years at university, after Pope Benedict XVI declared his Summorum Pontificum. I enjoyed it, and was friendly with a group of traditional-minded Catholics with whom I bonded.
Pursuing the TLM fell by the wayside until I started to feel aggravated by attending some seriously banal Masses – some where the priest couldn’t be bothered, or where liturgical abuses were more than just superficial. I started to look into attending the TLM again, sure that there I would feel more comfortable in the solidity of the liturgy (I recommend it to all Catholics!).
For the past two years or so, I now attend the TLM more than the ordinary form (Novus Ordo) of the Mass, and bring my kids up with a good knowledge of both – something that I feel was denied me in my spiritual formation. All I will say on this subject is this… both forms of the Latin Mass (NO and TLM) are valid, and one of the things that saddens me about our Church is the lack of charity on both sides of this divide in the Latin Church.
What are the challenges facing my family in the Catholic church?
I must be prepared to fight for my children’s spiritual welfare, against ill-informed society, other Catholics and poor catechesis. The main spiritual guide of my children is their parents. My wife as “a fruitful vine in the inner places of [my] house”; myself as the head of my family, “as Christ is head of the Church”.
I worry for my family… but I have hope in Christ. Christus Vincit! Christus Regnat! Christus Imperat!
Pray for me.