The lives of the saints have always inspired my faith journey and vocations. As a husband and father, I turn to the marriage of Blessed Frederic Ozanam and Amelie Soulacroix. Ozanam is the founder of the St. Vincent de Paul Society and he served the most vulnerable in 19th-century Paris. Frederic and Amelie were also parents to their daughter, Marie. Before their wedding in 1841, he wrote to her: “I give you the will of a man, an upright and honest will, the will to be good so as to make you happy.”
These words continue to resonate with me as I try to live up to Ozanam’s pledge with my own wife, Suzie. I am blessed with an incredible partner, who overcomes her own health disabilities and leads with a heart for justice for all, especially those most vulnerable in our society.
I pray my two daughters, ages 5 and 2, will be as courageous and loving as their mom. And I pray that they find in their relationships those who love and care for them, the way I do for them and their mom.
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As Father’s Day approaches, I’ve been reflecting on the role my beloved has played in my life, supporting me to be my truest form and best version of myself. I hope that as you read this, if you are also called to the vocation of marriage and fatherhood, you will trust Paul’s words to Corinth as he reminds them of the words of Isaiah 64:3: “What eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, and what has not entered the human heart, what God has prepared for those who love him (1Cor 2:19).”
And for those who have been blessed with their own beloved partner as I have, may this reflection happily remind you of the great gift God has blessed you with to accompany you during this one, precious life.
After 12 years of marriage, and 15 years together, there are countless stories to share. I highlight three briefly with prayerful gratitude and love.
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Love at first song
On our second date, Suzie and I were approaching an Irish pub known for the best burgers in Queens. As I searched for a parking spot with the radio on, I heard Suzie sing for the first time. The song playing was the Loggins and Messina 1971 version of “Danny’s Song,” in which the lyrics reflect on a father anticipating his first child.
It was one of the first moments I thought of her as a potential mom, and I could almost hear her singing these same words to our future children.
“And even though we ain’t got money,
I’m so in love with you, honey,
And everything will bring a chain of love.
And in the morning, when I rise,
You bring a tear of joy to my eyes
And tell me everything is gonna be alright.”
She has lived out the message of that song every day since, discerning her various vocations as an educator, researcher, advocate for those most underserved, and yes, mother. Suzie has also supported my discernment of vocations: As I went through several years of book proposal rejections, she reminded me “that everything is gonna be alright.” And when the books started getting published, she was right by my side with love and affirmation.
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When our first child, Shea, was 18 months old, she climbed out of the crib and banged her head. Suzie was on a job interview in Atlanta, GA, and we were at home in Queens, NY. It was the first time she was away from Shea.
The situation worsened when Shea started showing signs of a concussion. Rushing to the hospital, Shea was in distress, and I couldn’t console her as I was driving. I called Suzie, and in a bathroom stall between interviews, she started to sing over the phone. Within seconds, Shea calmed down. That same voice that I heard sing 10 years prior was now bringing peace to our child.
Thankfully, Shea was fine. That night, as I held my precious child a little closer, I reflected on how God calls us to different roles for different people. Although I felt terrible about what happened, I knew I was a good father and that I had other abilities that benefited my daughter, like making her laugh or cooking her favorite meals. I recognized how my wife and I complemented one another to create a safe and comforting home for our children and one another.
I think of the Holy Family, and how Mary and Joseph influenced Jesus. I pray we too can walk in faith and create a home rooted in a love of God and love for one another.
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Our second child, Lily, was born at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. I stayed home with Shea as Suzie brought Lily into the world alone just nine miles away at a local hospital. Thankful to technology and a willing nurse, I witnessed Lily’s birth via FaceTime.
As I watched my wife hold our new daughter against her chest, I was reminded of another quote from Frederic Ozanam, after the birth of his first child:
“My dear friend, one day you will experience the same emotion after several hours of terrible pains you hear the last cry of the mother and the first cry of the newborn child, then suddenly you see a tiny creature appear, that immortal creature of whom one becomes the guardian. At that moment something terrible and yet supremely sweet occurs in the depths of the soul, not in the metaphorical sense but in a real, physical sense. One feels as if the hand of God is remodeling one inwardly and shaping a new heart within…”
As I heard the initial cries of our baby and watched Suzie gently soothe her, I felt a love that I never felt before. I never knew I could love like this as I never knew a love like this. I, too, was being remodeled inwardly as my vocation as husband and father was reinforced and continues to be affirmed in every cuddle, diaper change, and prepared meal. Side-by-side with Suzie, we, like Frederic and Amelie, create and nourish life in our continued shared vocation of love.
On this Father’s Day, as I reflect on those like Ozanam and other mentors and spiritual leaders, it is Suzie, my partner, who has perhaps modeled most of all how to live an extraordinary life of love. I pray everyone finds their “anam cara,” or “soul friend” as I have with my beloved. And I pray, as Ozanam wrote to his wife, that I can “give my wife the will to be good so as to make her happy.”