National Catholic Register

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Helping Catholic Men Help Themselves

Tarek Saab was “fired” by Donald Trump on “The Apprentice,” but he’s using his short-lived fame to promote the faith through clothing fashions for men.

BY CATHERINE PAKALUK

December 10-16, 2006 Issue | Posted 12/7/06 at 11:00 AM

 

Tarek Saab is trying to turn 15 minutes of fame into something beautiful for God.

Saab, 28, was a popular contestant on Season Five of NBC’s reality TV show “The Apprentice.” He was “fired” by host Donald Trump in Week 10, but his post-season popularity carried him to numerous television appearances, radio interviews and magazine features.

Born in the United States to a Lebanese father and an American mother, Tarek is CEO of his own company, Lionheart Apparel (LionheartApparel.com), and author of a forthcoming book for young men, Gut Check: Confronting Love, Work and Manhood in Your Twenties (Spence Publishing). Recently married, he spoke with Register correspondent Catherine Pakaluk.

You have an amazingly full life for a 28-year-old. A lot of guys don’t really seem to get it together on marriage, career, and faith until much later. How did you get here?

Well, I knew from very early on in life that I wanted to have a loving wife and a lot of kids, and instinctively I started making choices that would help me get to that end goal. For me, I’m an athlete and a competitor at heart, so the analogy of the end goal has always been useful. I try to decide “what is it ultimately that I want out of life and out of my career?”

Now certainly, you can’t just go out and get a wife — only God can provide a wife and a family — but you can make the decisions that will shape you into the sort of husband and provider you will ultimately become.

And so, for me, knowing that I wanted to be a top-notch husband and father, this goal began shaping my decisions from all the way back in high school and college. A lot of guys say they want to become CEOs or multi-millionaires, or have huge houses, great cars or live in the tropics. But that was never stuff that motivated me. That was never a passion for me. I was thinking solely about the family I wanted to have.

So, I knew I wanted to be in business and I knew I wanted to work for a good company — all so that I could be a good husband and provider. And I knew, also, that I wanted to stay focused on what makes me truly happy. That has always been my faith. Sometimes I’ve been stronger on this than at other times when I might have let my faith play a secondary role — but it’s those times that I’ve been the least happy. I’ve been the most happy when I’ve let my faith influence all my decisions.

You say that early on you knew you wanted to be a husband and a father. What gave you this conviction?

My mother comes from a family of nine. For her, that was something powerful in her life. So I’ve always been surrounded by a lot of cousins, and a lot of children. This was a huge source of happiness and joy for me as a kid and into my young adulthood. I learned from this that there is no greater happiness than the love that you share between your family, and especially the love between a husband and a wife. And the pinnacle of this love is children.

Strangely, I think we’re living in a time when for a couple of generations now the big family has gone by the wayside. Most of my friends are not accustomed to being around children and family. They don’t realize it is such a source of happiness and they think they can get happiness from material things, nice homes and beach houses, or the things they see on TV. But they fail to realize that true happiness stems from love and can’t be manufactured.

It’s a disordered view of what happiness is. And of course, I don’t mean to say happiness is solely from your family; but it is all derived from persons, starting with God, and extending from there to our spouse and children and larger family circles.

Do you think it’s possible to communicate this experience of happiness to your peers? And if so, what are the obstacles?

Absolutely. The main way is to have families and be a living example of what gives us happiness. I know that a lot of my friends think I’m crazy to have settled down already. But I expect that in 10 years or maybe sooner they’ll be getting sick of the single, promiscuous life and they’ll be coming back to take another look at my choices.

The obstacles to overcome are selfishness and a fear of sacrifice.

People recognize that kids are expensive and that kids get in the way of living a certain kind of life, a life centered on me and what I want to have and do. People who are raised without family often don’t realize that letting go of selfishness, which is a sacrifice, actually brings happiness, though it seems impossible. And so this is a big obstacle for people.

The gift of yourself to your children is about the greatest gift that can be given — and this is a really positive message that I think young people will respond to if we are open and honest about the real sacrifices and the real benefits.

You were on a national TV show, but you don’t own a TV. That seems strange.

Well, this is a lifestyle choice for me. What I find is that the programming on TV doesn’t elevate my soul in any way, or my mind in any way. TV in and of itself isn’t inherently bad or anything. There can be some very good and formative shows on TV that are beneficial, but that just isn’t the case with most of what’s on. TV is being used as something detrimental to society.

When I give talks around the country, a lot of parents come up to me and say “Gosh, I have a 14- or 15-year-old son; what advice can you give me to help raise my son in a good way because I’m having a lot of issues and he doesn’t listen to me,” and I say, “The first thing that you can do, the most important thing you can do to benefit yourself and your family is to take out the one-eyed monster. Remove the TV.”

And the look in their faces when I say this is amazing. They’re shocked, and I say if you can’t live without your “Cosby” reruns (or worse) then how are you going to raise your kids the way you want? Because what happens when you get rid of the TV? You start talking! You remove the images and language that are detrimental to their development both spiritually and mentally; you help foster an environment of education instead of entertainment.

When I’m talking to kids, I tell them it’s not that I don’t like bad music or movies, it’s that I do! And that’s the problem; that’s why I’ve gotten rid of a lot of my music and movies. And my TV. I’ve thrown away a lot of my CDs. I’m human too. That stuff is fun. When I get addicted to those things I can see the impact it has on me, spiritually and mentally. And I don’t want it to have that impact on me, so I get rid of it.

Since “The Apprentice” ended, you have been speaking to young men around the country with a positive message of Christian manhood and faith, and you’ve founded a business that aims to spread the Christian faith among young men. How receptive are your audiences?

Well, fathers love it when I come and speak because I have the same messages they would like to communicate, but the kids would rather listen to me because I am closer to their age group. My audiences have been very receptive in general. It’s great.

Young men are pining to hear about chastity, being gentlemen, and their natural God-given mission as husbands and fathers. It’s because we are hard-wired to protect women and children, to be good and noble, but Hollywood and our entertainment industry are trying to send a different message that makes men feel bad about their natural instincts and elevates actions that ultimately lead to self-loathing and disgust.

So I get a big charge out of helping guys to see there’s a reason why they hate themselves; there’s a reason they’re not feeling fulfilled. They’re trying to live this 007 bachelor life, and in the meantime they are pretty much going down the tubes and trying to figure out why it didn’t work for them. So my message resonates with a lot of guys, and it’s been very rewarding.

How did you meet your wife?

It’s an ideal story. When I first moved to Dallas I felt a strong pull to make my spiritual life more important to me. I was in the corporate world, in the rat race, traveling around, and I felt that something was missing. So I started going to daily Mass before work every morning at 6:30. As God would have it, my wife also started going to that same daily Mass around that same time. I was actually already looking for a sign. I had left it in God’s hands. I told him, “God, you have this girl waiting for me, and when you’re ready to present her to me, make it clear.”

And then there she is, this beautiful girl at 6:30 a.m. Mass a pretty unlikely place it seemed to me. It was impossible not to notice her because there were about 10 people there and eight of them had white hair and were over the age of 50. I actually didn’t get to meet Kathryn officially until her sister had a party on the feast of the Assumption and that’s where we met. And very soon after, we knew it was right for us to be married. We were engaged on Dec. 25 — Christmas Day. We were married on May 27, in the month of Mary.

So for us we’ve been blessed to have a relationship founded in a very real way on the most important things. We met through the Eucharist, and the Blessed Mother showed obvious care for us along the way by marking our relationship within her special feasts. To me Kathryn is a gift from God in every way.

Catherine Pakaluk is based

in Cambridge, Massachusetts.