On Sunday, June 1, 2014, I was happily privileged to become, for the first time in my 58 years, godfather to an absolutely beautiful child, John Paul Xavier Millegan, the latest addition to the growing family of my dear friends Brantly Callaway Millegan and Krista Millegan. I sent the following letter to them but wanted to share it publicly too, as many of you are familiar with them and their up-and-coming ministry and conversion to the Roman Catholic Church. They are some very special people.
June 3, 2014
Dear Brantly and Krista—
I want to share something that is so very deeply on my heart tonight. I do not know why you asked me of all people to be John Paul (aka “Batman”) Xavier’s godfather. I really do not. I have been pondering this ever since last week when Brantly asked me. And I do not have an adequate answer. You both know many people far more qualified than me. N–, your good (and brilliant) friend R–, dozens of other folks from your parish, for that matter a whole world of people from your blogging and otherwise public ministry—any of them would have gladly done so and with honor. You also both know my many failings in life and background, including since my return to the Faith in 2005. I will be 76 years old when John Paul graduates from high school. I will not likely live to see him give you grandchildren or become a priest, or if I do I will be indeed tottering and possibly dementia-ridden by then. And I will not ever be able to offer him what some or several of those mentioned above could do had they been chosen instead of me.
I am not trying to be over-dramatic here. I am just speaking the truth. I was plainly not the most qualified person available. Yet you chose me. And I accepted gladly and gratefully. Perhaps you felt badly for me because I have no children on earth—4 in heaven (who incidentally have been clearly instructed by their earthly and Heavenly Father to watch over and pray for John Paul Xavier)—but none here or present physically. I have little money and, as Jimmy Stewart said in “It’s A Wonderful Life,” I am likely worth more dead than alive. Facts are facts.
Maybe you felt, and perhaps rightly so, that it would help me as much as John Paul, since such a commitment tends to keep one on the straight and narrow. As I jokingly said to you, Brantly, now I can never leave the Church again and become a Buddhist monk hehe (not that it was ever my plan obviously) but, and this is my point, being responsible on any level for the spiritual well-being of another does cause a person to live more circumspectly, or at least it should. And I definitely believe it will, and has already in fact.
Perhaps you felt you should have reached out to me more often than you did since our acquaintance—and yet in reality it was you who invited me to live in your home when I was nearly jobless, you who drove into town on a snowy day just before Christmas just to deliver me home-made cookies, and have never asked one thing of me other than my prayers, which you certainly have and always will have from this end. I was 32 years of age when you were born, Brantly, and not sure of your exact age Krista but I suspect somewhere near that same age difference with you as well. Truth be told, you do not particularly “need” me in your lives. Yet you have allowed me to be there, and in one of the most intimate ways possible, through this gesture especially but in so many other ways as well.
All of this is to say something beyond “thank you.” It is to say that you have given me an irretrievable gift, and made me essentially part of your family. And I frankly and seriously do not get it! I probably never, ever will. Nor do I really need to. I would not have picked me, had I been in your shoes. But I am glad I am not in those shoes anyway. They would not fit me, as much as I might wish that they could or would. You have a gift and calling, both as a family and individually, that I envy. And that does not mean I do not realize how difficult it is for you at times too. I know you pay the cost for your stands for life, your writings and work, and raising a truly Catholic Christian family in an age where what was once ideal is in fact unpopular by some very powerful people’s standards. You have, as the late Keith Green wrote and sang about, “Pledge(d) your heads to heaven for the Gospel.”
I do not think I am truly or fully expressing myself here as I honestly want to, or am attempting to. But the bottom line is this—you both matter to me a great deal—as do each of your children. And I can only say, once again, I am grateful. Pallid word for what I am feeling tonight as I write this. You have enriched my life in ways you will never know this side of eternity.
So again I would just say thank you. And I love you both very much, both in our Lord and just as one human being to another. You are some of the most special friends I have ever known. I hope you really, really, really know that. And I do not say those words to many. Not to this extent or level. But I am saying them tonight.
So that is it. Words that I would regret ever missing the opportunity to say. And I pray I will worthily live up to the commitment made in the sight of God and each of you yesterday.
Your friend, brother in Christ and the Church, and godfather to my most amazing “adopted son” John Paul,