Striving to be family’s spiritual leader

I was having a discussion with my wife in our kitchen a few weeks ago and our 11-year-old daughter, Olivia, was perched at the breakfast bar doing her homework. I don’t recall exactly the details of the conversation, but it was the regular “how was your day?” late-afternoon status report.

My wife — as we all do — started to tell me the latest gossip at her work. Normally, I would have listened intently to the drama of who said what to whom and why this person got offended, etc. — and, normally, I would have judged them all — but at that moment I recalled a quote from Pope Francis I had read in a recent edition of OSV Newsweekly: “It’s so rotten, gossip. At the beginning, it seems to be something enjoyable and fun, like a piece of candy. But at the end, it fills the heart with bitterness and also poisons us.”

So I stopped my wife mid-sentence — lovingly, of course — and mentioned this to her, about the pope and how he says we shouldn’t be gossiping because it’s a sin. My daughter — silent this entire time, mind you, but always paying attention — pulls up from her math paper and lobs a grenade into the conversation, saying “Mom, dad’s holier than you are now.”


It wasn’t sarcastic or snippy. She didn’t say it rolling her eyes, as in “Oh, dad’s holier than thou.” It was very matter-of-fact. “Mom, dad’s holier than you are now.”

Of course, her premise is absurd. My wife is a cradle Catholic who loves and lives her Faith, but it wasn’t the “holier than you” part that caught my attention; it was the last word: “now.”

Until recently, my wife had always been the spiritual leader in our home — the one who made sure we were getting to Stations of the Cross during Lent, lighting the candles for the Advent wreath, refilling the holy water font. She was in charge of all those small details that help build the foundation of our family’s faith. I would scold our 5- and 8-year-old boys for grumbling about having to pray the Rosary before bed, but inside I was grumbling, too.

Lately, I’ve been trying to catch up, to do my part.

My newfound dedication started before I joined Our Sunday Visitor a little more than a month ago, but that has certainly given me a sizeable push. It was a shock to my system, working in such a devout and faithful environment. And I felt inadequate, both spiritually and intellectually. So I’m reading more; I’m praying more; I’m going to Mass more.

Most importantly, I’m consciously striving more. And that’s why, when my daughter said “Dad’s holier than you are now,” I smiled, because it was an acknowledgement that she has noticed the effort I’ve been putting in.

I have a long way to go before I’m holier than anybody, especially my wife, but I’m proud that I’m becoming, finally, the partner my wife deserves in the spiritual formation of our family.

Scott Warden is the associate editor of OSV Newsweekly.