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How Can a Married Man Truly Love the Lord with ALL his Strength?

How Can a Married Man Truly Love the Lord with ALL his Strength?


Fr John, if one is a married man with family to support, how can he truly love the Lord with ALL of his strength, when what bugs him most is raising his family? Is taking full care of the FamilyEatingLunch3home reason enough to decline service in the parish or some religious organization where there certainly would be an equal demand for his time?

This is a great question. The bottom line of the answer I will offer is this: God will never contradict himself. Let me explain.

The Role of God’s Will

Loving God with all our heart translates into seeking to discover and fulfill God’s will in our lives: “Thy Kingdom come – thy will be done!” as Jesus taught us to pray. Love is communion between persons, union of wills, wanting and pursuing the same thing together. As Jesus put it: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). In our communion with God, our loving him, obedience is key. Because God is the Lord, and his wisdom and goodness are superior to ours, we obey him as part of our relationship with him. We also know him, enjoy him, open our hearts to him, ask him for things, offer him things… Obedience isn’t the only dimension of our love for God, but it is an essential dimension.

What Is “God’s Will”?

Okay, so what is “God’s will” for us? On the most basic level, it is his commandments and the commandments of the Church. The next level has to do with what our spiritual tradition calls “the duties of your state in life.” A priest, for instance, has certain basic duties that comprise God’s will for him: celebrating the sacraments for the people entrusted to his care, preaching the Gospel, counseling and guiding his faith-community, etc. God may also give him some inspirations to engage in additional activities, additional ways of building up the Kingdom – teaching a course at the local college, for example, or starting a new ministry for widows, or writing a book. These types of activities are in harmony with following the commandments and fulfilling the duties of his state in life, but they are additions to those basic manifestations of God’s will.

Good or Bad Inspirations?

So what would happen if a priest felt that God was inspiring him to train to become an astronaut? That kind of training would require him to abandon the duties of his state in life. And so, unless it were some kind of special mission entrusted to him by his bishop, it would be incompatible with those most basic duties. This “inspiration”, therefore, could hardly be from the Holy Spirit. It may be a distraction coming from the evil spirit, or a product of his own vanity, or something coming from his subconscious (in which case he should try to figure out what it is really saying to him), or it may just be a random whim. God will not contradict himself. He will not give us his commandments, and call us to a particular state in life, and then give us inspirations that go against those things.

God Will Never Contradict Himself

I am sure you are already seeing the application of this principle to the situation you describe. A husband and father needs to seek God’s will in his life, and seek to embrace and fulfill it with love, excellence, and devotion. The first manifestations of God’s will for him are the commandments (which includes developing his spiritual life) and the duties of his state in life, which includes being a present and devoted husband and father. That includes providing for the family – usually this means some kind of employment or career. DSC_0033 2Depending on the particular combination of circumstances, one man may be able to combine involvement in an apostolate or ministry at the parish with those duties, and he may feel God inspiring him to do so. Another man may not feel that inspiration, or may feel a desire to do it but be unable to without neglecting his primary duties. The key is to identify not just “what I would like to do,” or “what everyone else would like me to do”, but “what is God really asking of me?” And God will never contradict himself.

How to Discern?

It is not always easy to discern where a particular desire or inspiration is coming from. A steady and growing life of prayer, good advice from trustworthy sources, and personal reflection all go into good discernment. For a husband and father, open conversations with his wife would be part of that process as well. I have known some cases in which a strong desire to be more directly involved in apostolic activity led men to change careers, putting their professional skills directly at the service of the Church. So you can see that there are many paths which the Lord may lead us.

I would encourage you to take some time to read, listen to, or watch one of my online retreats called “Unleashing the Power of Pentecost.” In that retreat I discuss, in the conference, some criteria about how we can discern whether certain inspirations come from the Holy Spirit. You may find it helpful:

God bless you!


Art: Family eating lunch, Bill Branson for the National Cancer Institute, 26 July 2007, PD-Worldwide; Deacon at a Mass, McN1316, 21 June 2009, Free Art License Copyleft, Wikimedia Commons.

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About Fr. John Bartunek, LC

Fr. John Bartunek, LC, S.Th.D, received his BA in History from Stanford University in 1990. He comes from an evangelical Christian background and became a member of the Catholic Church in 1991. After college, he worked as a high school history teacher, drama director, and baseball coach. He then spent a year as a professional actor in Chicago before entering the religious Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ in 1993. He was ordained a Catholic priest in 2003 and earned his doctorate in moral theology in 2010. He provided spiritual support on the set of Mel Gibson’s "The Passion of the Christ" while researching the 2005 Catholic best seller, "Inside the Passion"--the only authorized, behind-the-scene explanation of the film. Fr. John has contributed news commentary regarding religious issues on NBC, CNN, Fox, and the BBC. He also served as the English-language press liaison for the Vatican’s 2005 Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist. His most widely known book is called: "The Better Part: A Christ-Centered Resource for Personal Prayer". His most recent books are "Spring Meditations", "Seeking First the Kingdom: 30 Meditations on How to Love God with All Your Heart, Soul, Mind and Strength", and "Answers: Catholic Advice for Your Spiritual Questions". Fr. John currently splits his time between Michigan (where he continues his writing apostolate and serves as a confessor and spiritual director at the Queen of the Family Retreat Center) and Rome, where he teaches theology at Regina Apostolorum. His online, do-it-yourself retreats are available at, and he answers questions about the spiritual life at

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  • Ioannes

    Great post Thank You Good Father!!!

  • Diane

    Excellent post! I’m a wife and mother and I had a conversion experience about 4 years ago. I jumped into several ministries thinking that this must be God’s will. All while my husband and children were being neglected because I was practically living at the Church. It started to cause problems with my husband and I and, my children were suffering too. My house was falling apart as well. I started to resent my duties in ministry because of it all. I finally decided to pray about this and ask the Lord what his will is for me. He answered simply saying “go home”. Ever since I left ministry to take care of my family I found that I had more time not only to take care of my family but I also had more time to pray. I decerned whether it was really God speaking his will by the fruits of it. My husband, my children, and myself have never been closer. But the main thing I got out of this whole experience is living out my vocation as wife and mother is not only serving God but encountering him in my family.

    • Pina

      Your post helped me tremendously. I am currently going through the same thing and discerned that the Lord told me to ask my husband about a major undertaking at my church that I thought the Lord was calling me to because I was simply approached with this major project. I agreed knowing my husband did not want me to do it and had no peace about it – even after speaking to a priest who told me to pray and ask my husband, and after the Lord told me to ask my husband and do whatever he tells me regarding this matter, because I was afraid of letting down the church and ironically, the Lord. I did speak to my husband a few days who, again, told me that he prefer I not do it. I still did not feel peace about it until I read this article and your post. Thank you so much! I finally have PEACE about this matter. The Lord used you to bring me and perhaps many others peace. God bless you and your family.

      • Diane

        I’m so happy you have peace with this. I also asked the intersession of St. Rita because she was obedient to God in fulfilling her vocation as a wife and mother. This is our calling and like the Gospel said today- “when did I fed you when you were hungry, clothe you when you were naked, visit you when you were in prison, etc?”The Lord will respond- when you did it to the least of my little ones, in other words- when you took care of your family…

  • Rose

    Just a mention of the example set by St. Joseph. He did not stay to pray in the temple, but walked away from his life into exile for his family. He was blind and confused but still listened and believed the Angels. He did not put his work, his tools, his reputation, nor his buddies before his family. His humility was boundless. We know so little about him, but what we do know says it all.

    Let us pray to St. Joseph that he may intercede for all fathers and husbands, including our clergy. The selfless acts of love that present themselves to these men require great strength, courage, love and endurance as well as deep faith. So many fathers and husbands fail, simply because they have not these graces to move them past their self-love. They fear they will lose themselves, exiled into a life of giving all for the sake of their families. But in giving we receive, as St. Joseph can demonstrate. Look to him and pray!

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