As the entire world advances beyond our wildest imaginations, we often forget the humble beginnings of technology. Text messages sent out at the speed of light via a touchpad on a silver dollar-sized cell phone was once something that science fiction could never dream. Though no matter how far we stride forward, the past waits behind, reminding us that though our luxuries may be different, our wants and needs are still the same.
Our first real means of "instant" communication was the radio. And though this device only sent signals one way, radio hosts like Father Charles Coughlin made the audience feel as if they were directly involved in the conversation. For everything that Coughlin is remembered for, it's often overlooked that he was a comforting, familiar, righteous voice in America's most desperate time of need.
Long before Father Coughlin became a celebrity in America, he was Charles Edward Coughlin, a young religious man, raised by a strict Roman Catholic family, and predestined to worship God. Charles Coughlin was born in Hamilton, Canada in 1891. Just as we learn to speak and eat by the actions of our parents, so too did Charles Coughlin learn to follow and practice Catholicism. A young Coughlin was ordained to the priesthood in Toronto, circa 1916.
Coughlin then took a job teaching at Assumption College in Windsor, Ontario. He was at the school for seven years. Though his dedication to teaching and to worshiping never wavered during this time, he decided that the Lord's will was better served if he could reach more people – people in need of his strong faith and God's grace. Father Coughlin would cite the differences between teaching students whom were already Catholic – already believers – and preaching to unconverted, lost souls.
The latter won the moral debate easily, and after Coughlin began his radio show in 1926, his faith immediately began to soothe the hearts and minds of an otherwise inconsolable American public. He began his radio show with a strong emphasis on the Christian family, most particularly the children of these families. His weekly sermons touched on a range of family-friendly topics, all of which stressed the importance of faith.
Regardless of the ensuing "fame," Coughlin was himself a devout Catholic, even during his latter years of radio and political activism. After straying from his original radio rhetoric and leaning towards politics, Father Coughlin still managed to project heavily Christian-laden tones. When he backed Franklin Roosevelt in the Presidential election, he did so under the word of God. And when he fought Roosevelt some years later, it was again God and the principles of his religion that remained the driving force.
Even when Coughlin's radio show was cancelled and he blatantly flamed the Jewish people with anti-Semitic diatribes, his belief and priesthood was never called into question. For everything that Coughlin was perceived as at the time, "Father" was always first. Coughlin always remained loyal to his religion. And when the Bishop of Detroit demanded that Coughlin retreat to the duties of a parish priest in 1942, he quickly obliged and remained a pastor until his retirement in 1966.