Last September, on the day after turning in the manuscript for Joyful Witness: How to Be an Extraordinary Catholic to my publisher, I went to Eucharistic adoration seeking peace and quiet time before the Blessed Sacrament. I was exhausted, having written three books in 18 months in addition to running my business and performing my normal duties as a husband and father. All I wanted was to clear my mind and lose myself in prayer. God, however, had other plans.
All I could think of during my hour in adoration was how I could possibly help fathers of children with special needs. As the father of a teenage son with autism, I know full well the challenges faced by these dads and their families and I recognize their struggles as I face them myself. I also knew that these thoughts were not a coincidence and that God might be asking something of me. In all honesty, I struggled with this in light of my writer’s fatigue and on some level, wished God would pass this task on to someone else. Have you ever felt this way?
I left the parish chapel mentally exhausted and a little nervous, because I wondered if I had the energy or time to tackle another large project. As much as I wanted to retreat into my “bunker” and hide, I chose to trust Him and an idea came to mind. I felt that the best way I could help these fathers and their families was to write a book of encouragement, filled with practical help and inspiring stories of other men who embraced their roles as fathers of children with special needs. I wanted to illustrate how a number of Catholic fathers I know saw their special children as blessings, not burdens. These men do an admirable job of navigating the emotional, psychological and financial chaos because of their strong Catholic faith and the choices they have made in life. Perhaps, I thought, their examples along with my own humble experiences might be of some help.
Later that day, I reached out to Emmaus Road Publishing, the publisher of my book Journey to Heaven: A Road Map for Catholic Men and shared the idea. On some level, I probably wanted them to say the book proposal was crazy and they were not interested. But, they loved the concept, asked for a marketing plan and gave me the green light to proceed. So much for my human weakness: this was in God’s hands now.
A few days later, I read about a wonderful Catholic non-profit called the National Catholic Partnership on Disability led by Executive Director Jan Benton. Again, trusting and taking a leap of faith, I called her out of the blue and shared details of the book that would be titled Special Children, Blessed Fathers: Encouragement for Fathers of Children with Special Needs. Trusting that this was also God’s will, I shared with Jan that all author royalties earned from the sale of the book would be donated to her organization to support the magnificent work they do in guiding initiatives aimed at promoting greater participation of persons with disabilities in the Catholic Church.
The next act in obeying God’s will and seeing this project was done well, was to invite several Catholic authors I know who have children with special needs to each donate a chapter to the book about their fatherly experiences. I have great respect for the example they set for all of us in how they live up to their responsibilities as husbands and fathers and found all of them to be very enthusiastic about the project. My heartfelt thanks goes out to Kevin Lowry, Doug Keck, J. D. Flynn, Greg Willits, Matthew Warner, Bill Jones, David Rizzo, Chad Judice, and Joseph Pearce. These men have offered an unfiltered look into their lives as the fathers of children with special needs. The stories are moving and the lessons are invaluable.
The book is a somewhat eclectic mix of candid stories, helpful observations, and numerous examples of how Catholic fathers can and should engage with their families. I also interviewed moms, siblings, priests and others who have a bird’s eye view of the role of the father in these families. This book is not intended to solve every issue faced by families with children who have special needs. The intent is merely to show good examples for fathers to follow, provide candid insights, remind us of the power of strong faith, and encourage us to embrace our vocations as husbands and fathers and be the strong men we are called to be. The book will not only benefit dads, but everyone in the family or others looking to better understand these amazing families.
The result of trusting in God’s plan and being obedient is the book Special Children, Blessed Fathers: Encouragement for Fathers of Children with Special Needs (Foreword by Archbishop Charles J. Chaput) and it will be released May 22nd in hardcover & paperback and be available through Catholic bookstores, Amazon (print and Kindle) and the Emmaus Road Publishing website (www.EmmausRoad.org). Please remember that all author royalties will be donated to NCPD.org.
I have had the good fortune to recognize God’s will and be obedient in the past, but the last several months were a significant challenge for me as extra time for writing has been hard to come by and my creative juices were inhibited by a lack of energy. I am grateful that in spite of my human frailty and weakness, God called me to this work and gave me the strength, courage and fortitude to see it through in collaboration with other faithful Catholics who were also obedient. I am the least of His servants and I feel blessed that he chose to teach me an unforgettable and powerful lesson about the fruits that come from obeying Him.
What is God asking of you today?
Would you like to learn more about Randy Hain’s newest book? His seventh book, Special Children, Blessed Fathers: Encouragement for Fathers of Children with Special Needs (Foreword by Archbishop Charles J. Chaput), is now available in both hardcover and paperback.