Family Faith Snapshots: Sam Guzman, The Catholic Gentleman
“Ultimately, heaven is a perfect communion of love, a family that lasts forever.”
Who are you?
My name is Sam Guzman. I'm a husband, father, and the founder of The Catholic Gentleman, an apostolate designed to inspire men to follow Christ, pursue holiness, and be servant leaders in the Church and in the world.
Tell me a little about your family.
I've been married to my wife, Laura, for the past seven years. Together we have four beautiful children, ages five down to three months. Two boys and two girls make for perfect symmetry – at least for now!
What is your family’s prayer routine on an average day?
We pray before meals, and we also strive to do morning prayers, naptime prayers, and evening prayers. This isn't complicated. It usually involves lighting a candle (kids love candlelight) and singing the Our Father, prayers to our Lady, invocation of our guardian angels and patron saints, and the St. Michael the Archangel prayer. Nothing warms my heart like hearing my 2-year-old daughter singing the Our Father. The boys especially love the St. Michael prayer because it's so warlike and they say it with great gusto. These three prayer times anchor our day and give it a sort of rhythm. Of course we do pray other prayers like the Rosary or the Divine Mercy Chaplet, but I admit we are less consistent about those, despite our best intentions to pray them regularly.
Do you have a devotion that is particularly important to you as a family?
We have a special Marian devotion in general, and to Our Lady of Guadalupe specifically. I am of Hispanic heritage, so she is special to me partly for that reason, but also because she is such a wonderful symbol of life and love in the face of a culture of death. Our kids especially love the story of Juan Diego, and enjoy reading books about that particular apparition. The boys especially love any saints that were soldiers, including St. George and St. Martin of Tours.
Does your family have a patron saint?
I would say the closest thing to a family patron is St. Maximilian Kolbe. He is my most beloved saint, and my devotion has been passed on to my kids. My second son is named after him, and all the kids love hearing his story and asking questions about his life. I learned about him early on in my conversion, and I was immediately drawn to his love and missionary zeal. I also have in my career worked in both the pro-life movement and currently work for a company that helps people recover from addictions. St. Maximilian is the patron of both addicts and the pro-life movement, so I feel like he accompanies me in my work every day.
How do your children inspire you to grow in faith?
The knowledge that the father is the "priest" of the domestic church is awe-inspiring. My kids help me grow through the knowledge that they are watching everything I do: how I pray, how I treat others, how I love Jesus, how I love my wife, and more. They will be influenced far more by what I do than by what I say. This motivates me to be a man of God, not just in word but in deed. Also, seeing how children learn almost without effort is inspiring. They memorize prayers almost instantly. They re-enact the stories of saints’ lives. They ask questions about heaven and God. They are hungry for truth and they look to me to answer all their questions. It keeps me on my toes, and makes me want to study to guide them effectively. Finally, seeing their simple faith and trust in prayer and in the fact that they are loved by God makes me want to have the same simple faith.
Is there a specific book or resource that has been especially helpful in your effort to raise a holy family?
Saint John Paul II's teaching in Theology of the Body is important to our family. It is so powerful because it gives a depth and dimension to human sexuality that goes beyond prohibitions or merely negative interpretations. It is an anthropology that sheds light on the very core of our identity as human beings, showing the beauty of God's design for us as male and female. Theology of the Body has been helpful in strengthening our marriage, and we plan to use it in guiding our children to a healthy and mature understanding of the human person, human sexuality, and our identity as children of God in what is otherwise a very confusing world.
Do you have a written or unwritten mission for your family?
It's not something we've defined on paper, but we hope to witness to the joy of family life – to the fact that children are not a curse and that every life is a gift. We also hope to witness to the beauty of free, total, faithful, and fruitful love in our marriage in a world that is increasingly giving up on it. Ultimately, heaven is a perfect communion of love, a family that lasts forever. So demonstrating that communion of love here and now, in the concrete, daily acts of family life, can be a powerful witness to the Gospel.
What is your family's favorite Catholic tradition or celebration?
It's so hard to pick just one! We love celebrating the cycle of the liturgical year. However, the kids do especially love Candlemas/the Feast of the Purification. My wife makes crepes, which are delicious by the way, and we gather every candle we can find in the house. We then light all the candles on the kitchen table at once. It makes for a beautiful scene. We read a few prayers and then dive into our crepes. This year, we also helped the kids make beeswax candles as a Candlemas craft, and they loved it. It is a joyful celebration for all!
What are some of your DOs and DON’Ts when it comes to technology and media?
We keep pretty strict limits on technology in our home. Our kids are not allowed on tablets or cellphones. They usually watch an hour or two of TV on the weekends, and we also make exceptions on days when it's too cold or wet to play outside. But as a rule, we try to keep media a treat. Not only is this good for their intellectual and imaginative development, it also minimizes some of the dangers inherent in technology, such as early exposure to pornography. Tragically, the average age of first exposure is now 8 years old, and in many cases younger. Many parents don't realize the dangers, but they are real. We take it seriously. Of course, the best method of prevention is constructive conversations early about God's plan for sexuality, but nevertheless, it is also prudent to be cautious with what access our kids have at a young age. When they get older and are more responsible, we will certainly give them more freedom.
Can you share a word of wisdom that has been particularly beneficial to you in your Catholic family life?
Parenting is a difficult job. It's so easy to make mistakes, and it can be a bit overwhelming at times trying to meet everyone's needs. That said, the one thing we hope our kids know, despite all our failings, is that we love them. We want them to know that they are each precious to us, and that we value their unique gifts. I truly believe that you can make a lot of mistakes as a parent, but if your kids know fundamentally that they were loved no matter what as a beloved son or daughter, they will be all right. Children learn what God's love looks like through the love we show them. Even if I fail at everything else, if my kids can say, "My dad loves me the way God loves me," then I will still be a success.