Josh Thaler
Josh Thaler
WALDPORT — In February 2020, we lost my father in an automobile accident and I lost the opportunity to make amends and forge a relationship. This, along with the world seemingly thrown into chaos because of the pandemic, prompted me to seek answers and find God.

I was fond of St. Francis and his friars, even before deciding to take the path to Catholicism. His genuine heart and kindness spoke to me even as I wandered aimlessly in the dark.

Now I find myself starting a new me in Christ. I am filled with a paradoxical, calm fire. I am filled with zeal and passion unlike anything I have ever before felt. My mind, which has been tormented most of my adult life with self-loathing, has been calmed, something neither medication nor therapy ever did.

I hunger to draw closer to God and consume anything and everything Catholic from the moment I wake to the moment I go to bed. I might be driving my daughter nuts with it all. I scour the internet for more blogs, podcasts, books, and YouTube channels for anything related to Catholicism. My Kindle is slowly filling with books on saints, Scripture and life lessons from other converts.

I have been a full-time single dad for more than 14 years. I was not prepared, nor did I ever plan to be a single parent raising two children. God, it seems, had other plans.

When it first sunk in that my civil marriage was over, it hit me hard. I quickly spiraled into a deep depression. I am not afraid to admit that I found myself, more than once, hiding in my closet in tears, contemplating ending it all. I stayed here for my kids, but they were also there for me.

Because of my children, I have steadily grown more patient. At first, I managed to bury my frustrations, and through many struggles, learned to reduce my angry outbursts. I quit smoking, completely gave up drinking, and tried to be a better influence. But I dreaded the day when they would leave the house and I would have nothing but my thoughts to occupy me.

My fears of being alone, of being inadequate, of not being able to provide my children with a motherly influence, especially for my daughter as a counterbalance to myself, drove me to many unhealthy relationships post marriage. I would rush into serious relationships in the hopes that they would fill the void. But always they were built on my own hang-ups and so did not last.

It wasn’t until after a final push and finally getting baptized and confirmed that there was almost an explosion of hunger to be closer to God. My life has changed radically.

Before baptism my days were mostly filled with sci-fi, anime, and video games. After baptism, I rise early, pray, shower, listen to Catholic news, walk and listen to Mater Dei Radio, read “Day by Day with Saint Francis” and “Padre Pio's Spiritual Direction for Every Day. That’s all before breakfast. I eat while listening to Catholic podcasts, podcasts like “The Catholic Talk Show” or “The Catholic Man Show.” I pray more Liturgy of the Hours, say the Angelus, get back to Liturgy of the Hours, read about saints, walk and listen to Christian rock and say the Divine Mercy Chaplet. In the evenings I cook dinner while listening to Father Patrick Tuttle’s live chat from Macon, Georgia. I read Scripture and say more Liturgy of the Hours until bedtime.

Amid all this, and sometimes causing the schedule to shift, is Dad’s time with the kids, checking on their school progress, prepping for my daughter’s college entrance in the fall, and various chores.

I don't claim to be a super dad, even with recent improvements. I forget to bless the meals, in part because I am often too hungry to remember this new habit as I am trying to lose weight. Now, I pray that I am half as good a father as St. Joseph.

I know not every dad has the luxury of a schedule like mine. But as Father Joseph Hoang told me, you get out of your spiritual life exactly what you put into it. It’s only by God’s graces and blessings that I can calmly deal with the millionth argument between the kids.

When I investigated the Catholic Church, I learned a tithe should be 10% of your money, time, and works. In my typical 16-hour day, that equates to at least 1 hour and 36 minutes of prayer or study. I have gone a tad overboard, but if we are honest with ourselves, is there really such a thing as too much time with God, especially after everything he has done for us?

If you are struggling, not acting like the parent you always hoped you would be, try spending more time with your Father in heaven. What have you got to lose? Your old self?

Thaler, 42, is a Portland native and Army veteran. He was baptized April 4 at St. Anthony Church in Waldport.