Being known and being noticed by another are very different in meaning. To be known by another demands that we give ourselves in service to another for their own sake. “Man can only find himself by becoming a sincere gift to others.” (See GS 24) By giving ourselves to another we become known for who we really are. A father discovers himself by giving himself away, first and foremost to his own family.
Often, in the attempt to be known, that is, to be a gift to another, we inadvertently fall prey to the temptation to use ourselves by placing ourselves on stage in order to be noticed, using or manipulating our talents, our person, our bodies, so that others may notice us. When we act in this manner, people do not truly “know us,” but rather, “know of us” and our true self remains hidden beneath the psuedo-person that we desire to make noticed.
The vocation of fatherhood has been created by God as a purifying fire that burns away the desire to be noticed while purifying the sincere desire to be known. Often the human father, when lacking recognition from others, is tempted to believe that his life is almost entirely meaningless and doubt that he has provided, by means of his hidden, silent, unknown, sacrificial service to his family, anything of true value for God and God’s Kingdom.
If a father surrenders to this temptation he will attempt to be noticed by others, become a success by worldly standards and eventually neglect his vocation of fatherhood for the sake of self-exaltation. At the heart of the battle to be known versus noticed, is the battle for the family.
The evil one works tirelessly to persuade men who are called to the unnoticed mission of raising a holy family to neglect this mission in order to become noticed by others by means of public service. Often, Satan will lure a father away from his vocation by tempting him to invest himself in a ministry beyond fatherhood. This is a cunning snare for it has the power to seduce a father to believe that this “outside” ministry has pride of place – even before his service to his family.
The evil one will attempt to convince a father to be exteriorly active, seen by others, performing deeds to be seen by men, tempting him to measure his value based on what other think of him rather than what God knows of him. A confessor once said, “Do not become a street lamp only to have your house go dark,” and another said, “you will become a saint by means of your vocation, not outside of it.” Motives matter. Our motive must always be to glorify the Father by means of our fatherhood. Our families come first before any external activity.
Often a father, believing his actions to be Christ-like performs duties outside of his family for the larger family of God, only to neglect the family entrusted to him. Yet, if a father neglects his immediate family, he is ultimately neglecting the larger family of God. If a father serves his family, the micro-church, he will be participating in the mission of transforming the macro-family – the Universal Church. This does not mean that a father should not serve the Church but rather that he must serve his family – the micro-church – first.
If we use ourselves and others to become noticed, we lose. “You use – you lose, you give – you live.” If we exalt ourselves attempting to be noticed, we will lose our very identity. But if we humble ourselves, embracing the hiddenness of fatherhood – like St. Joseph – God will make our fatherhood known. If God has called you to be a saint by means of the vocation of fatherhood, believe that “He Who has began a good work in you will bring it to completion,” (Phil 1:6) regardless of whether or not you are noticed. God did this for Joseph – and he will do this for us.