DeSantis speaks with EWTN about power of prayer, family as ‘centerpiece’ of American life — By: Catholic News Agency

Presidential hopeful Gov. Ron DeSantis, R-Florida, speaks with EWTN News President and COO Montse Alvarado on Jan. 8, 2024. / Credit: EWTN News

CNA Staff, Jan 9, 2024 / 20:00 pm (CNA).

In an interview with EWTN News, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis shared his experience of “the power of prayer” and his belief that family should be the “centerpiece” of American life.

DeSantis is currently the leading Catholic candidate in the 2024 Republican presidential contest and has made headlines for his 2023 “heartbeat” pro-life law in Florida, his legislation reining in Disney, and his 2022 parental rights in education law.

In the first installment of the interview that aired Tuesday on “EWTN News Nightly,” DeSantis said his faith and family life are deeply interwoven.

“I was in church every Sunday from the time I can remember walking until the time I left my parents’ household,” he recalled. “And so it was just something that was ingrained in me.”  

Additional interview segments are scheduled to air on the Jan. 10 edition of “EWTN News Nightly” and the Jan. 11 edition of “EWTN Pro-Life Weekly.” The full interview, conducted by EWTN News President Montse Alvarado, will air Jan. 12 on “EWTN News in Depth.” 

DeSantis grew up near Tampa, then attended Yale and Harvard. He remembers it being “major culture shock” to go from Florida to Yale as “a blue collar kid.”

“I didn’t even know colleges were liberal. I mean, like, I had no idea what I was getting into,” he said. “I show up on the campus just dressed like you would in west central Florida: jean shorts, T-shirt, flip flops. I was a total fish out of water.”

At Yale, DeSantis remembered experiencing the contrast between the school’s motto, “for God, for country, for Yale” and the “anti-religion, anti-Christian” dynamic in some of the classrooms. 

“Where I was growing up, faith in God, love of country, it didn’t matter if you were Republican, Democrat, I mean, that was kind of how it was. And then I experienced that [at Yale]. And so I came into there with, I think, a foundation,” he said. “I’m one of the few people to get through both Yale and Harvard and come out more conservative than when I went in. And part of that, I think, is because I had that foundation of faith from a very young [age] growing up.”

Practicing Catholics

DeSantis, and his wife, Casey, are both practicing Catholics, and in the midst of the chaos of politics, DeSantis says that prayer has given him a “calmness.”

“I really believe in the power of prayer … it’s kind of a calmness just to know that ultimately we’re in this world, but we’re not of this world,” DeSantis said. “And every single day when you’re in this political thicket, they’re throwing stuff at you, shooting at you, all this stuff trying to kind of divert you off course, of taking you away from that true north. And I think just being able to pray, being able to be in touch with the Lord, it just gives you a way to just know none of that stuff really matters.”

In 2021, Casey DeSantis was diagnosed with cancer. At the time, the couple had a 4-year-old, a 3-year-old, and a 1-year-old. 

“Those types of diagnosis are hard for anyone,” he said. “But I think, especially when you have a mother of really young kids, to be in a situation where you could be having an incident where she may not get through that, and then these kids would grow up without a mother … It was really tough for us when we got the news.”

But prayer helped sustain their family in the midst of this suffering. 

“But I’ll tell you this. The people that prayed for us over those weeks and months had a huge impact, and it really lifted my wife’s spirits,” he recalled. “She had to go through a lot of really tough stuff, but she was able to do it. I, obviously, as the husband and the father, was there to be supportive, and she ended up coming out of that, I would say probably stronger now as a result.”

Family is a core value for DeSantis that shows up everywhere from his campaign to his legislative priorities.

“I think one of the things we bring is we show the importance of family, because that’s just who we are as people,” he said. “We try to bring our kids and involve them in this just because we want to spend more time with them.”

DeSantis said the kids have been able to see much more of America than he did when he was growing up.

“Prior to this campaign, they had never seen snow before,” he said. “They are Floridians, and so they didn’t know. So, they got to make snowmen in New Hampshire, throw snowballs in Iowa.”

Beyond snowball fights, parenthood in 2024 involves facing many political and social difficulties, such as transgender ideology in school. 

In fact, DeSantis signed into law a Parental Rights in Education bill in 2022 that put guardrails on Florida public school teachers giving instruction on “gender identity” or “sexual orientation” in kindergarten through third grade classrooms. 

Restoring family as ‘centerpiece’ of American life

DeSantis said he hopes that he and his family can represent a “restoration” of the family in America. 

“But I do think what we represent is kind of a restoration of the idea that family really is the centerpiece of American life,” he said. “If we have strong families, we are going to have a strong country. If families continue to disintegrate, a lot of the problems that we deal with, those are going to end up being magnified.”

DeSantis noted that “government isn’t the solution to all of this,” but it does play a role. 

“We take our responsibilities as parents seriously,” DeSantis said, noting his stand against gender ideology in elementary school and the “battle against Disney.”

“I’d like to think I would have taken those strong stands anyways. But the fact that I’m a father of young kids, it’s really personal to me because I’m thinking to myself, I have a first grader. It’s totally inappropriate to tell her that she can change her gender or that her gender is a choice,” he said. “And so I think that it’s helped us really be strong on education, parents’ rights, and these core issues that matter so much to parents.”

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