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Exactly 60-years-ago today, July 27, 1957, my Dad, Russell Voris, converted to the Catholic faith from his childhood Nazarene upbringing in southwest Ohio. Happy anniversary, Dad. He had grown up in an environment where Catholics were seen as idol worshippers for praying to statues and so forth. Of course, that attitude was born from an ignorance like so many attitudes about Catholicism.
That was four years after he married my Irish Catholic mother, who he met in England while he was in the U.S. Air Force. Seems all so surreal, saying all this on air. It was three years after my brother was born and four years before I was born, and the Church my Dad converted into all those years ago bears very little resemblance to the Church he sees now.
Back then, the clergy cared about your eternal salvation. Today, only a small minority of them even think in those terms. Back then, the Church had all the respect that could possibly be mustered, but little was it known that dastardly Churchmen were already conniving and plotting behind the scenes the overthrow of all that was good. And back then, fathers, Catholic fathers, understood their role, at least more so than Catholic fathers today do.
My father knew that he had one single vocation in his married state — to help save his family from Hell and do everything he could to help us to Heaven. Like all dads, not everything he did was perfect or went the way he planned. But he, in cooperation with my mother, made sure that my brother and I had a deep grounding in the Faith so that if and when we might wander from it, the tether would always be there. The role of a father is to do all he can to save his children's eternal lives, period.
The role of a husband is to do all he can to save his wife's eternal life, period. Nothing else on this planet matters more than those goals. If a father gives his children everything but does not encourage them in the ways of salvation, then he is a rotten father and not worthy of the title. My father came to a deeper and deeper understanding of this as he grew deeper in his faith, after having been received into the Catholic Church at 28 years old, husband for four years and father of a toddler.
Sixty years later, I am proud, in a good way, to say that my father is one of the best Catholics, walking the planet. He knows the Truth and lives by it every waking moment, although he does take more naps these days. He's lived with me for about ten years, moving in a couple years after my mother died. I watched him never stray from her bedside, as she bore an awfully painful stomach cancer, a suffering she had called upon herself for the salvation of my soul and my brother's.
My Dad has grown into a wise old man who understands that his role as a father was to be a reflection of Almighty God who is the Father. He spends hours in prayer each day, even when he occasionally has not a good day, suffering from the effects of an old body. He often remarks how these crooked bishops and evil clergy, nearing death themselves, can so blatantly disregard what is awaiting them if they do not repent and mend their ways.
In some early dark days of the apostolate, it was my Dad who kept my spirits up with his wisdom, pointing out to me the need for souls to be fed — something he had much earlier recognized was not happening. He could recognize this easily because he knew what things were like. He used to watch Bp. Sheen on TV, as did most of America in the 1950s. He even watched the saint in the making when he wasn't Catholic yet.
My Dad was able to become Catholic because he is one of those of whom the angel Gabriel said is like the shepherds — "a man of goodwill." He has always loved the Truth. When we were growing up, he always stressed to us the importance of telling the truth, of keeping your word, whatever the cost. My father became Catholic because he was already a man of integrity and so the clarion call of the Truth of Catholicism echoed in him as soon as he was exposed to it.
My father was evangelized and converted, not with any silly blathering on about joy and emotions. He grew up with that in the Protestant congregation he was born into and saw through it, even telling us about how they were taught how to speak in tongues. It is completely phony, all this emotion-focused lunacy in the Church. That's exactly what he thinks and isn't shy about saying.
No, what drew him to the Faith was the clarity that is so lacking today. A clarity that has been replaced by a false charity and false mercy — too scared, too unloving to speak the Truth. When my Catholic father does eventually leave the Church Militant on his final journey to the Church Triumphant — and don't worry Dad, yes, we will offer many Masses and prayers for you because of Purgatory — the world will have lost a great Catholic. God willing, that will not be for some more years to go. Russell Voris, my Dad, a man who understood that from the moment his fatherhood began that his main role was the salvation of our souls.
Say a little prayer of thanksgiving for my Dad's conversion. Without it, you wouldn't be watching this right now. Love you, Dad.