The National Catholic Singles Conference 2014 is being held in San Diego, California on August 8-10. The CatholicMatch institute spoke to John LaBriola, who will be speaking at the conference about healing the wounds caused by the world. LaBriola, who is a father of three, radio host, evangelist, and author of Onward Catholic Soldier, spoke to us about the role of Catholic singles in the Church Militant, how Catholic singles can help families and vice-versa, and why you should attend the National Catholic Singles Conference.
Each time I gave a talk in support of my book Onward Catholic Soldier, parents would come up to me after the conference and ask, “What about my children? They’ve left the faith. What can I do?” I came to the realization that families are being attacked and destroyed. We have to fight back. So many people don’t know how to raise their children to be holy, happy, and healthy, but it’s absolutely possible.
What is the mission of your organization?
The mission of the Catholic Family Foundation is to heal, promote, and strengthen Catholic families.
How can Catholic parents raise children that will stay in the Church?
It’s a pretty cliché answer, but the most important thing is that husband and wife love God first. Second, they have to love their faith, and, third, they have to love each other. If those three things are in order, then the rest will come.
The fourth step towards raising faithful Catholics is for parents to pray—not only alone, but together. I’m not saying it is automatic, but if those four things are in the place, it’s a lot more likely that your children will stay in the Church.
You are the author of Onward Catholic Soldier: Spiritual Warfare According to Scripture, the Church and the Saints. What is the role of Catholic singles in the Church Militant?
The Catholic singles have a huge role in the Church Militant. Their initial role is, like all of us, to do spiritual battle. I think they have a unique role in that they are not yet a family, in the sense of husband and wife, but they can be. They are the foundation of where all families come from. Those that are called to the vocation of marriage need to be tended. If they aren’t being taken care of, if their needs are not addressed, if they aren’t strengthened in their faith as singles, then they aren’t going to be strong Catholics as marrieds. I think it’s hugely important that we help Catholic singles in such a way that strengthens and promotes their vocation.
How can single Catholics support families?
Singles came from a family, so to still be part of that family is important. They might not have their own children, but they can still honor their mother and father. I was in charge of young adult ministry in our parish for about eight years. I saw a lot of young Catholics go through that stage of being alone and maturing into the realization that this is their own faith. It’s important that they be prepping for what’s coming next; that’s going to make them better parents, if marriage is their vocation. What singles can do for the existing families is pray for them. We need those prayers; all of our families are under constant assault. Part of our duty as the Church Militant is to pray for others, and prayers that are offered on the behalf of families are valuable.
How can families support Catholic singles?
Families can support single Catholics by being witnesses of a happy marriage. Who wants to get into a job where everybody is unhappy, everybody is complaining, everybody is miserable? If that’s all I see as a single Catholic, why would I want to get into that? So married couples need to be joyful witnesses to Christ and of Christ in marriage. When we see families where husband and wife love each and their children are good, happy, and faith-filled, it gives great hope to everybody.
Why should Catholic singles attend the National Catholic Singles Conference?
To know that they are not alone. To know that they are not bad or odd or wrong, but they are simply where they are right now. There is strength in numbers, especially when those numbers are decent, holy people who are fighting for the same goal. If I know that there’s an army out there that is working to achieve the same goals I’m looking to achieve, you bet I’m gonna join. What it does is it takes our need for community and fulfills it and strengthens us.
Why do you think the National Catholic Singles Conference is important?
A lot of times Catholic singles have been forgotten and marginalized in some ways. I think it’s easy to be a 22-year-old single, but not so easy to be a 28, 35, or 40 and single. As singles get older, it’s seems like they are being put aside, and we put our hope in the younger Catholic singles. That’s crazy. People of all ages have so much to offer the Church. I think it’s important that we recognize this, and we give a special place to Catholic singles as a community and as a Church.
You are a speaker at the conference. What will your talk be about?
The talk is about healing the wounded heart. We can think of ourselves, fairly accurately, as the walking-wounded. We’re in this world and we try to not be of it, but too many times we are. We sin, we fall down, and so we’re wounded. The source of our wounds is the perception that we are not loved. When we perceive there is a lack of love in our lives, what we’re really perceiving is a lack of God. So we go out and seek that love in other ways; through drugs, sex, work, or whatever it might be.
The purpose of the talk is to acknowledge that we’re all wounded and to acknowledge there is a healer that can heal us. Also, we must realize that healing is not only a possibility; it is exactly what God wants for us. He wants us to be perfectly healed in His time and in His way. So the talk is about healing our hearts, so that we can love God and others perfectly.
How we can find that healing in God?
We find healing in Him when we understand the true nature of love. St. John Paul II put it this way in Salvifici Doloris: “We come to know the truth of love through the truth of suffering.” So when we accept suffering, that’s how we come to know love. Sometimes we have a hard time with suffering and love being linked, but just look at the Cross; that’s the greatest act of love there ever was. So when we understand the true nature of suffering, it helps us to love more.
One very practical way to affect healing in our lives is to serve others. St. John of the Cross said,”Where there is no love, put love and there you will find love.” Often we’re stuck wallowing in our own mess, our own woundedness, and our “poor me” attitude. If we could just get out of ourselves and serve others, so much of our own wounds would begin to be healed.
What would you say to Catholics in the San Diego area who are thinking of attending but need a word of encouragement?
You know what? Get up off your butt and go. If you feel even a twinkling of an urge to go, respond to it. If we continue to do what we’ve always done, nothing is going to change. Another way to look at it is: you be the change you want to see, not only in yourself, but in the Church. It’s very easy to sit on the sidelines and complain. There’s a lot to complain about it—a lot of things that are not being done right. The question becomes: what are you doing about it? What are you doing to do to affect change? Because it you aren’t doing anything about it, you don’t have a right to complain.
This is an opportunity for you to grow in God’s grace, grow closer to Him, spend time with a community of like-minded individuals who really are all desiring the same thing. Why would you not go? Time? Time is going to pass anyways. Money? The money is going to be spent anyways. Just go, enjoy yourself, and see what God has planned for you.