“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. From now on there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7–8).
Have you ever wondered if you will have the opportunity to tell the people you love all that you want them to know about what is important in life and convey important life lessons? How many of us have benefited from the influence of our fathers, grandfathers, and other important people in our lives? Out of my strong desire to raise my sons to be strong and faithful Catholic men, I have composed a letter to them which I hope inspires the readers of this post to do something similar with your children and grandchildren. This letter was included at the end of my book, Journey to Heaven: A Road Map for Catholic Men (Emmaus Road Publishing).
Our children and future generations will not know Christ or our Catholic faith unless we share our experiences and hard-earned wisdom. As we near Father’s Day, please reflect and pray on this serious responsibility . . . for their sake as well as our own.
My Dear Sons,
It must seem strange that I am writing specifically to you at the end of this book. When you finish reading this you will hopefully understand the reason. I want you to know your mom and I love you both very much and we could not be prouder of you. We are not perfect parents, but we have done our best to help you make your way through these difficult growing-up years and prepare for the future.
As I’ve grown older I have gained a sense of perspective and am grateful for the ability to reflect on the many lessons I have experienced. I appreciate the challenges I have encountered because they have helped to shape me as a man, husband, and father. I wish I could remember all of the wisdom my parents shared with me when I was your age, but I can only catch fleeting memories every now and then as the years pass.
There is so much I wish to share with you! I want to tell you what it feels like to fall in love with the woman you will marry. I want you to know the indescribable joy I felt when both of you came into this world. I want you to understand the rough years I spent in the spiritual wilderness with no faith and the profound conversion experience I had when I surrendered to Christ and found the truth I was seeking for most of my life in the Catholic Church. The list of rich experiences and lessons is almost endless . . . but perhaps I will share some of them now and save the rest for future books.
To keep it simple, here are eight things I want you to think about, pray over, and hopefully remember for the rest of your lives:
- God loves you, no matter what. Stay true to yourself and always love and serve Him. Stay devoted to our Catholic faith despite all the temptations you will have from the world to leave. Be men of prayer and observe the sacraments, especially the Eucharist and Reconciliation. Never forget you were made for heaven and not the world.
- Your mom and I have taught you the difference between right and wrong. Our Catholic faith has helped you learn to love your neighbor and serve others. Never lose touch with your values—they define who you are. Don’t be tempted to sacrifice your values for a little temporary comfort or pleasure. It is never, ever worth it.
- School isn’t always going to be fun. It wasn’t for us either. But, it is very important to have a quality education if you want to have good career options. Never be satisfied that you know enough. Become lifelong learners, not only in school, but also about our beautiful Catholic faith. Be insatiably curious about other people and life in general.
- Work Ethic. Nothing in life is truly free. Work hard and you will be rewarded. Pay your dues and out hustle everyone around you. No matter what you hear later in life, I promise you there is no easy path to riches and there is no substitute for hard work. I know, I know, this part sounds just like Papa!
- Love. You will meet lots and lots of girls in your lives. Treat them all with dignity and respect. Care more about their inner beauty than their outward appearance. Treat your bodies like holy temples and don’t give in to sinful behavior. You will know you are in love when your knees go soft, your stomach has butterflies, and you can’t stop thinking about her as the most beautiful girl you have ever seen. Then what? Get to know her, build a relationship, and take the time to see if she is the one. You will eventually know if she is and she will be looking at you the same way. Be countercultural, do the right thing, and save yourselves for marriage. The world might make fun of you, but Jesus will love you for it.
- Responsibility. You have heard your mom and I say this a million times: “You need to be more responsible!” Well, you do. Someone has to be responsible, why not you? If you are involved in an activity or project, act responsible and be a leader. If you make a mess, clean it up. If you say you will do something, do it. One of my old bosses told me years ago that if “I touched it, I owned it!” This has always served me well and helped me in countless ways. Don’t wait for somebody else to take responsibility. It may be up to you. By the way, do you know who is always responsible for your actions? You.
- Friendships. Be true to yourself and your friends. Hang out with people who share your values. Be a good enough friend to others that you always tell them the truth. This is the sign of a true friend. If your friends go down a path you know is wrong, stand your ground and do not follow. The tricky thing about friendships is you sometimes find yourself alone because you are committed to following the teachings of the Church or the values you learned as young people. Trust me on this one—never abandon your faith or your values to follow the crowd. On the other hand, you will hopefully have a few close friends who stay with you a lifetime and they are to be treasured as gifts from God.
- Be Real. Don’t ever pretend to be someone else. You are who God created you to be. Don’t be tempted to hide your true self, your faith, or what you really think from others.
I hope you read this and come to me with lots of questions. I promise that I (and your mom) are always here to help you. Did you know your mom and I have a vocation (job) given to us by God? Our vocation is to help our family (and everyone else) get to heaven. That is our number one responsibility as parents. You are going to stumble and struggle at times in life, but always remember we are here for you and we love you. Most importantly, God loves you and He will never abandon you. He wants you to learn, grow, and think for yourselves, but never stray from His love.
Boys, I want you to be happy. Really, truly happy! You know what? You can’t be truly happy unless you have joy. Do you know where joy comes from? Joy comes from putting Christ first in your lives and loving Him so much that everyone sees Him at work inside you. Then, you will have true joy, which will make you really and truly happy.
Did you notice the Scripture passage at the top of this letter? Reflect on the beginning of the passage: I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. One day, when you are husbands and fathers with children of your own, I pray you will say these words to me…and pass these lessons on to your own children.
One more thing . . . I wrote this book for you.
With all my love,
Editor’s Note: Would you like to learn more about Randy Hain’s book Journey to Heaven: A Road Map for Catholic Men (Foreword by Patrick Madrid)? The book is available through Amazon and Emmaus Road Publishing as well as Catholic bookstores around the country. The Spanish version of Joureny to Heaven is titled Camino Al Cielo: Una Guia Practica Para El Himbre Catolico and it can be found on Amazon.
His newest book is Special Children, Blessed Fathers: Encouragement for Fathers of Children with Special Needs (Foreword by Archbishop Charles Chaput). All of Randy’s books are available through Amazon.