“I can’t ‘make’ my kids have faith, but I can cultivate and teach them. God is faithful and does the rest.”
Who are you?
My name is Jason Craig and I am a farmer and writer in Western, North Carolina. Our farm sells artisan yogurt through Once Upon a Cow Micro Dairy, and we do retreats for fathers and sons, focusing on traditional crafts and husbandry though St. Joseph’s Farm. I am the co-founder of Fraternus, blog editor for Those Catholic Men and The New Catholic Land Movement, and have a book coming out soon from Our Sunday Visitor about rites of passage and the Catholic man crisis.
Tell me a little about your family.
My now-wife Katie was my high school sweetheart, and we are pregnant with our sixth child. We both had conversions to Christ in our teenage years through Protestant ministries and entered the Church together in 2006. Our oldest, the only girl, is eight and the rest are rather wild boys from 1 to 7.
What is your family's prayer routine on an average day?
Now that’s a moving target if there ever was one. Of course we pray at meals together and sneak in the Angelus whenever possible. The evenings are our primary time of prayer, and we bounce between the Rosary and the traditional Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary. I love the Little Office because it repeats the same psalms daily and the children memorize them rather quickly. We pray in the living room where we have icons of Jesus King of Kings and Great High Priest and Our Lady of Perpetual Help. Lighting candles helps, because small boys love fire. I kneel and slowly the older kids are starting to kneel with me (we don’t force it). In this way prayer is seen as the thing men do, which is important with so many boys.
Do you have a specific devotion that is particularly important to you as a family?
We have always had a special devotion to the Sacred Heart. Our Lady of Perpetual Help has also been important to us, because it was the first devotional image I had after becoming Catholic. The brown scapular and Rosary are always close at hand.
Does your family have a patron saint?
We were infertile for two years, and during that time we had a special devotion to St. Anne and St. Anthony of Padua. Our other heavenly friends are those whose writings have had a big impact on our way of life, including St. Benedict, St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Francis de Sales, and St. Josemaria.
We had an amazing and obvious answer to prayer from a novena to St. Therese, so we’re one of her many devotees. It was during our infertile time, and my wife had asked St. Therese to let us know if we would have a baby soon. But she got more specific than that. She said if it was a red rose the answer was “no,” but if we got a white one the answer was “yes.” The day the novena ended and the tradition says we would receive a rose, I told my wife to look for a spiritual rose and not ask for such specifics. That day we were at my grandmother’s house and someone yelled downstairs to us that a neighbor had brought us roses! It looked like a specific answer was coming. We went up and saw that it was a bouquet of fresh cut roses in all sorts of colors. They asked Katie which color she wanted, and, of course, she didn’t want to chose because she wanted an answer – red or white. “You pick,” she said. So, they turned around and arranged a vase for my wife and presented her with a bouquet of pink roses, which we interpreted as, “yes, but not now.” It turned out that was just how it ended up. We were pregnant a year and a half later.
How do your children inspire you to grow in faith?
Seeing their piety grow is always a blessing, because it’s their own. Often you realize its grace acting in ways you don’t see, and it’s not your efforts or strategic formation approaches. It’s God. He loves them and moves in them. You might lean over and whisper some holy thing to them in Mass and they just respond, “Your breath stinks.” But then later you find your daughter kneeling privately and praying or your son all of the sudden overwhelmed with a desire for the Eucharist before his first communion. I can’t “build” a tree and I can’t “make” my kids have faith, but I can cultivate and teach them. Blessedly, God is faithful and does the rest. This inspires me because it reminds me holiness is not effort alone, but a life totally given over to a good Father who does what He says He will do.
Is there a particular book or resource that has been helpful in your effort to raise a holy family or have a faith-filled home?
The authors that have had the biggest impact on our way of life as homesteaders and homeschoolers are certainly John Senior, Stratford Caldecott, Dorothy Day, Peter Maurin, Josef Pieper, Joseph Pearce, St. Benedict, and Wendell Berry. We also treasure poetry and literature, though my wife is much better at reminding me of the value of literature. We love Wendell Berry’s novels, and other southern authors like Flannery O’Conner; we like to read the short stories to each other at night.
Do you have a written or unwritten mission for your family? What is it?
We discuss frequently the principles that guide us. John Senior called his educational method the “poetic mode,” which places one in touch with good and beautiful things, trusting the power and place of fully awake senses, leading one to the realism of right thinking. By forming the imagination and keeping the senses alive, we are able to grasp and ascend to higher truths. This is what we strive for – living and loving in the world as it truly is. We believe in being rooted in a place and loving your actual neighbors generously. Leisure, in the spirit of Josef Pieper, is an overarching principle. We want our bodies and mind to be occupied with good things, which we simplify as doing the meaningful work of men (homesteading, craft, and husbandry) and reading the great works of men (the classics and the worthwhile). Psalm 128 expresses how we see the reception of God’s blessing – walking in His ways is blessed by enjoying fruitful labor, home, spouse, and children.
What are some of your DOs and DON'Ts when it comes to technology and media?
As parents, we don’t do smartphones or tablets, and have recently experimented with going from two computers down to one laptop. I think it makes it easier on the kids when we don’t have those things. I do work from home and they see me on my computer often, so we try to not be on screens when with other people. With the farm and rural life in general, its not hard to “stay busy” in such a way so as not to desire screen time.
It may sound extreme, but we think that a “hidden life,” as Jesus had, is worth the effort. We don’t want them to think that experiences have to be “translated” onto a screen to be worthwhile. We do watch movies and use the computer for some school things, but we have definitely taken a techno-skeptic attitude toward media in general. We’re not opposed to it in a total way, but research and experience is piling up to show that it’s problems with media are not just about the content on it, but the “form” of the screen itself.
Can you share a word of wisdom that has been particularly beneficial to you in your Catholic family life?
The most important wisdom we were given is the ability to communicate and reconcile as a couple. Most arguments are not about the thing being argued about, but deeper confusions and mistrust. Being able to work through that is invaluable. It takes humility, but when marital tensions come the father should always be the first to seek reconciliation by asking for forgiveness (not just saying “sorry”). This trickles down to our children too. Family life is messy, so keeping the habit of repenting and forgiving is critical in keeping hearts united.