"Big Four" Highlights


That Catholic Couple

The radio Willits write a book that’s funny and true

Greg and Jennifer Willits live their Catholic life out loud. Hosts of the weekday radio show “The Catholics Next Door” (on satellite Sirius XM 129), they talk regularly about their family life, married life and their faith.

In their new book, appropriately named The Catholics Next Door: Adventures in Imperfect Living, Greg and Jennifer take turns addressing topics such as “Our Neighbors Think We’re Nuts,” “Imperfection Leads to Perfection,” and “Family-Rosary Wrestling.”

Willits Family

Greg and Jennifer live with their five children in Georgia, where Fathers for Good found Greg by e-mail for this interview.

Fathers for Good: Your book is an extension of your radio show, with both of you airing your views – and agreeing most of the time, but not always. What's the message you want readers to take away?

Greg Willits: I think the book is particularly important in light of all that is being said and done in preparation for the upcoming Year of Faith, as well as October’s synod of bishops that will focus on New Evangelization. On our radio program, in our book, and in all of our other endeavors, our hope is encourage people to keep pushing forward, to keep growing in their faith, and not to be discouraged if the people around them seem like “uber Catholics” who have it all together. Being Catholic is not like a course that you complete and you know all that you need to know. It is a lifelong, ongoing process that only ends with our last breath. It is a journey upon a narrow path (Matthew 7:13-14) and on that journey we’ll stumble along the way. I’ve known too many Catholics who stumbled in their faith, but rather than being contrite and getting back on the theological horse, they walked away from the faith and walked an easier path that leads them away from God. We want to encourage people, no matter where they are in their faith walk. The key is learning how to stumble less, and experience more freedom, by living out the teachings of the Catholic Church in all areas of their lives. We try to show this in a joyful, humorous way, because even though we sometimes experience pain in our lives from various factors, the reality is that when I’m in communion with God, when I’m faithful to the teachings of the Church, that is when I experience the most joy in my life.

FFG: You wrote a chapter “What’s It Like to be a Good Catholic Dad?” So, what’s it like?

Greg Willits: For some strange and ironic reason, people sometimes ask me for parenting advice even though I sometimes feel like a terrible dad. In some ways, I wrote this chapter for myself as a reminder of the times and the methods that have brought about the most success in my own misadventures of fatherhood. When I adhere to certain principles, I feel like a more successful father and a more loving husband. This chapter simply shares my suggestions for Catholic Awesome Dadness, and will hopefully serve as a reminder to me of what my daily goals and priorities in life should be.

FFG: Readers may be "shocked" that you used contraceptives at one point in your marriage, yet converted to NFP.

Greg Willits: When Jennifer and I got married, she wasn’t Catholic. Despite being a cradle Catholic myself, my understanding of Church teaching was very weak and poorly formed (several years of Catholic school notwithstanding). Going into marriage, we listened to the advice of the world rather than the wisdom of the Church and the use of contraception from day one was just assumed. A few years later, after our first son was baptized, Jennifer decided to come into full communion with the Church and we embarked upon several years of questioning Catholicism and coming to a better understanding of the faith. The “contraception conundrum” was one that troubled us for years for several reasons.  

1) Our ignorance of Jennifer's natural, God-given physiology kept us from realizing God made her body in a perfect way. Her body worked. Contraception broke her body. We didn’t realize that in the early years of our marriage.

2) Sadly, several Catholics (including priests) led us to believe that using contraception was just a matter of conscience. This didn’t help our confusion, and it wasn’t until we started to actually forgo our willful ignorance and read documents like Pius VI’s Humanae Vitae that we learned that contraception not only could chemically harm my wife, but it placed a physical and/or chemical barrier between us and God. We soon realized we were hypocrites if we said we gave ourselves 100% to each other, when we held a percentage back through contraception. If I wasn’t willing to accept my wife completely – including her God-given fertility – then we weren't giving ourselves 100%.

3) We allowed fear to come into play to keep us from trusting God. We were afraid we couldn’t afford more children. We were afraid we psychologically couldn’t handle it. We were afraid we’d have to give up too many things and make too many sacrifices. And yet, with every new child that God has blessed us with, he’s also blessed us with everything we need to care for every child.

FFG: From the honest stories, readers may conclude that Catholic family life can be very frustrating but a lot of fun.

Greg Willits: It’s exactly that: Frustrating but a lot of fun.  Do our kids drive us nuts sometimes? Sure. But that’s one of the gifts of children, I believe. Through their antics, I’ve grown in holiness. Their driving me nuts has provided countless opportunities for me to grow in virtue and in the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Until we had children, I never had so many opportunities to ask God for help! But years into this fatherhood gig, I know my children have made me more patient. They’ve helped me learn to love their mother more. They’ve made me appreciate my own parents on whole new levels. Frustration isn’t always a bad thing. Carrying crosses is not something to avoid. Sometimes the things our kids do can be like mini-crosses in our lives. But Jesus Christ himself taught us how a cross can bring about miraculous changes in our lives. So when my kids break my tools or throw a shoe at the television, I may want to go crazy, but God uses these moments to draw me closer to him. And I learn how to bring my children along for the journey.

The Catholics Next Door is available from Servant Books.