Fatherhood –spiritual or human– is the greatest calling a man can receive.
No honor, no pleasure, no salary—nothing, can overcome the joy of being a father.
No peace of mind, no life experience, no job it’s worth what being a father is worth.
There’s nothing bigger we can aspire to. To be a father is to be the whole world.
Being a father, with its joys and crosses, is the most counter-cultural, revolutionary decision a man can assume today.
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And by “being a father” I don’t solely mean having children, but being a father with all it means: being present, teaching your sons how to be men and treat women, and showing your daughters the kind of man they should aspire to find in their lives. To love and protect your wife with all your might and your soul.
One of the most misunderstood passages of St. Paul’s letters is Ephesians 5, 23-28:
Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is head of his wife just as Christ is head of the church, he himself the savior of the body. As the church is subordinate to Christ, so wives should be subordinate to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her to sanctify her, cleansing her by the bath of water with the word, that he might present to himself the church in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. So husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.
Sadly, this passage has been much used to justify domestic tyranny and sexism. However, the solution is not to deny it or ignore it, but to read it in its wholeness. Obedience and submissions are ugly words in our liberal times, but which Christian can say he’d refuse to submit and obey the Lord? None, if they are truly Christian.
Saint Paul is not calling us to become domestic tyrants or useless aristocrats that need everything to be done for them. That’s not Christian fatherhood. Saint Paul and our Lord are calling us to love our families as Jesus loved the Church: Wholly, to the death if need be. It is not a call to become spiritual dictators within our families, but to be first in striving for sainthood, Love, and good deeds. To lead by example. To show our children what a Christian virtuous man looks like, that they needn’t be afraid of anything if they put their trust in the Lord: “Be firm. Be virile. Be a man. And then… be a saint.”
Fortunately, our Lord did not leave us without examples of what it means to be a father for he chose to have a human father. Saint Joseph does not utter a single word in the Bible. He does not complain about the difficult circumstances he usually finds himself in. He is a man of action; he does nothing but God’s will and nothing but to protect and love his family. When we read the Gospels and see Jesus’s personality, we see the impact his father had in his life. A good deal of our personality is modeled after our fathers’. When we see Jesus listening carefully drawing His heart near to those who suffer; when we see Him suffering patiently in His Passion; when we see Him eating with his disciples and anyone who would join Him, we’re seeing both his Heavenly and human fathers in action.
Whether you, reader, are a Christian or not, if you’re a father, you’ll see an example in Saint Joseph: first in Justice, first in Love, and first in Deeds. The only real tragedy for a father in this life is not professional or social failure, but not striving for that ideal. Let’s pray to the Lord we can be the fathers our children deserve in this wicked, confusing, and unjust world.