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The O'Bar Family: Happiness Amid Suffering

St. Josemaria Institute

Tags: Suffering, Sickness, Children, Marriage, family, happiness, St Josemaria Institute
"You gotta have barbecue in Texas," proclaims Houston native Vince O'Bar, as he deftly arranges hamburgers over a hot fire in his backyard. He is a man who enjoys fishing with his sons, playing basketball with the guys, and drinking a cold beer on a hot afternoon. A hardworking salesman, he appreciates simplicity and straightforwardness. That is exactly what attracted him to the spirituality of St. Josemaria: "It's so simple: you can sanctify your ordinary work."



At that point in my life, I just wanted to make a lot of money. But St. Josemaria’s message of having a deeper meaning with our work and being a good husband or a good salesman, it was so simple and it wasn't intellectual...
Vince first heard about the spirituality of St. Josemaria when a friend from the gym invited him to an Opus Dei evening of recollection. It was there, he first met other men who were trying to live their faith. That night, a priest give an inspirational talk that really stuck with him.

Afterwards some of the men gathered at a local bar. "We had a couple of beers," Vince says, "and this fellow in med school was becoming a pediatrician. It was the '90's and healthcare was a big deal, and I said 'aren't you concerned about making as much money as a physician?' He just looked at me and says 'no, I'm not doing it for the money; I'm doing it to take care of children.'" Vince remembers thinking, "this is different. This guy is devoting his life to taking care of children... trying to take care of other people and serve Christ through other people."


The men at the bar were trying to live their lives according to St. Josemaria's teachings. Their genuine spirit of service left a deep impression on Vince. "At that point in my life, I just wanted to make a lot of money. But this message of having a deeper meaning with our work and being a good husband or a good salesman or a doctor to take care of other people, it was so simple and it wasn't intellectual. I could see these guys trying to live it."

As Vince was learning about the spirituality of St. Josemaria, his wife Wendy was taking classes about the Catholic Faith. She had decided to convert to Catholicism as a birthday present for Vince. "I thought I am doing him kind of a favor, but really it was God drawing me in," she says, "I didn't know it at the time." She remembers seeing changes in Vince as he started to learn more about St. Josemaria.

They were faced with a clear choice: come to terms with their suffering or, as Wendy says, "cave in."
"He just became a great, great spouse. I mean, he was dating me again really." She says with a smile, "things like I've just come home from doing whatever, grocery shopping, and there'll be a beautiful vase of flowers, and it's not my birthday. It's not an anniversary and the card would, you know, just be something sweet. 'Wendy, thanks for being my wife.'"

At the same time that Vince and Wendy began to discover the richness of their Catholic Faith and the spirituality of St. Josemaria, they encountered tremendous hardships. "We've had seven pregnancies in the last eight and a half years. And we only have three children here on earth with us," Wendy shares. "Our first pregnancy we lost in a miscarriage, which was very difficult. Then we had Nicholas, our first son in '97, and then David in '98. Then in 2000, in August, we had James, our son who had a genetic disorder that was fatal. He lived for six days. It still brings tears to my eyes to think about him," Wendy says, "As a mother, you know, you always want your child to hold."

For Wendy and Vince, the loss of James was a defining moment in their lives. They were faced with a clear choice: come to terms with their suffering or, as Wendy says, "cave in." With the help of their newly discovered Catholic Faith, Vince and Wendy began to see their struggles in a different light.

This was one of those opportunities that was very, very difficult as a mother. ...But as a Catholic and wanting to be Christ-like, I had to unite my suffering with Jesus' suffering which he did for me, for everyone
"Suffering is something not just to be endured. Suffering can be a gift," Wendy says. "James brought us our greatest joys and our greatest sorrows," she says. "He taught us what it is to love. When you lose a child, then you realize what life is: Life is such a gift and the two (children) I came home to needed me as a mother. My husband needed me as a wife. My mom needed me as a daughter. So James gave me the great gift of actually loving better, I actually owe him quite a bit."

It was during that difficult time that Wendy discovered the writings of St. Josemaria. "The Way was the book actually that I carried with me and had with me in my little bag, my overnight and there's a great chapter on suffering in there," Wendy recalls. "I looked at our Lord Jesus and I'd say, you know, Lord, make me like you. I'm Christian, I want to be Christ-like. So this was one of those opportunities that was very, very difficult as a mother. But as a Catholic and wanting to be Christ-like, I had to unite my suffering with Jesus' suffering which he did for me, for everyone."

After James, the O'Bar family suffered another miscarriage and then gave birth to Johnny, a perfectly healthy red-haired baby boy. Most recently Vince and Wendy welcomed William into the world. Sadly, little William was born afflicted with the same genetic disorder as his brother, James. He lived four days.

"William was a huge part of our family," Wendy says proudly. "It wasn't easier,but we kind of knew what William's situation was. And so we were better prepared knowing he was sick and that we probably wouldn't get to have him long," Wendy says not quite holding back the tears. "It was my duty and honor as his mom to live those times we had with him well."

When asked why they didn't stop having children after James, Vince doesn't hesitate. "If we stopped after James, we wouldn't have John, and if we stopped after Johnny we wouldn't have William--it's the incarnation of our love."

Despite their great hardships, the O'Bars are an exceptionally happy family. They have learned to find blessings in their sorrow and happiness in the service of God and others.

"Everybody wants to be happy," says Vince, "and happiness is really within our ordinary circumstances of everyday, being a good dad, being a good husband. We're happiest when we're taking care of other people because we're not thinking about ourselves. That makes sense."


From the documentary film Passionately Loving the World released by the St. Josemaria Institute in April 2006.