What Peter Kreeft told me about being a father

Before each of the keynote addresses at the World Meeting of Families, they've been playing clips from Humanum, a series of short films about marriage and the family that aim to "highlight the inherent truth, goodness, and beauty underlying the global human experience," according to the website. They're beautiful, and you can watch them all online. 

One of the first people featured in the films is Peter Kreeft, the wise old Boston College philosophy professor and prolific Catholic writer and speaker -- which reminded me that a few years ago, when my wife was seven months pregnant with our first child, I wrote Kreeft a letter (he doesn't do email) and asked him: What advice would you give to a new father? 

I didn't know if anything would come of it, but a few weeks later I was delighted to receive a handwritten response. My request, he said, was "one of the most challenging and intimidating tasks I've ever been assigned." Nevertheless, he offered four points that I've never forgotten, even as I've often failed to live up to them. Here's what he wrote: 

1. Augustine, asked to name the four cardinal virtues, replied: Humility, humility, humility and humility. You know lesson one: You write: "I know enough to know I know nothing." Just remember it (= lessons 2-4). 

2. The best thing you can ever do for your children is to love their mother forever and iflessly (no "ifs"). 

3. From Day One your kids will be both adorable and exasperating. Look at the adorablenesses 10x more often than the exasperatingnesses. 

4. At least 10x a day smile and salute your Commanding Officer who invented this "pay it forward" system. Literally. We all have serious spiritual ADD. A salute takes 2 seconds and zero words. It reminds us of Who we serve and why we're here.

(Photo: screen capture from Humanum)

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