ian / May 21st, 2014

Every father’s fear

Every father who loves his child and takes his vocation seriously battles with a certain lingering fear: the fear of his child’s failure. We fear that they may not succeed in their academics; we fear that they may not have friends; we fear that they may choose the wrong friends, the wrong boyfriend or girlfriend, the wrong husband or wife; we fear that they will leave the Church; we fear for their future; we fear their end—their death. Why? Because ultimately, every good father wants his child to discover happiness. Every disordered behavior of a child—or of any human being—is the result of a failed attempt to achieve happiness. We all long for happiness, satisfaction and fulfilment. But when we look for that happiness, satisfaction and fulfillment in anything other than the One Who alone can provide true happiness, we make ideals idols. Christ alone is the answer to our children’s hunger for happiness. Christ Himself says, “Without me you can do nothing.” (See John 15) This includes achieving happiness. At our last FOSJ session, we learned that a father is to spiritually adopt his child as St. Joseph spiritually adopted Jesus. Jesus’ words, “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me” (Matt 18:15) are the key to spiritual adoption. We must receive our children as though they are Christ, that is, we must see Christ in them, and love them as Christ, in order that they may receive and love Christ. This is the only way that our children will have true happiness—if they love Christ and let Christ love them.

The Catechism our Children will read

As fathers, it is our responsibility to give our children Christ—it is essential to their salvation and to their having futures filled with peace, joy and fulfillment. Pope John Paul II said that “the first school of catechism is the family. From the father and the mother the children must receive the treasure of the great truths of Divine Revelation. Most importantly, parents must educate children in prayer, to the progressive discovery of the mystery of God and to personal conversation with Him.” We fathers have been entrusted with the talent of our children, and it is our duty to invest in that talent lest it be buried—buried without becoming more—without becoming what God created it to be. We fathers must live what we believe and believe what we live. We must share our own faith with our children in order that our children may own their faith. We may be the only catechism that our children will ever read. All of this indicates that we must have an intimate relationship with the Father and claim God the Father as our own. My father-in-law’s motto: “do as I say and not as I do” doesn’t work, unless of course we want our children to do the same thing.

Two Fatherly Wounds: Neglect and Domination

The evil one is bent on intimidating us, distracting us, tempting us, doing anything to keep us from becoming icons of God the Father, who like St. Joseph, transmit the image and love of God the Father to our children. The evil one comes to steal, kill and destroy. (See John 10:10) He attempts to steal our children’s innocence and joy, kill their souls and destroy their faith in the Father—and he attempts to accomplish this by using us to inflict our children with the fatherly wound of neglect. As Fr. Joseph Mary said, “the devil attacks woman in her fecundity, that is, her fruitfulness, whereas the devil attacks man in his fatherhood.” This is precisely the way the devil attacked Adam, the first man—he tempted him to avoid becoming a true father who would protect his wife from sin, and by doing so, he would have spiritually adopted his future children, protecting them from sin. But in the face of the test, Adam became a coward, fled from his post, and allowed sin to be transmitted to the entire human race.
On the flip side, because of Adam’s neglect to defend woman, woman was cursed by man’s will to dominate her. (See Gen 3) These are also the two ways that we fathers often wound our children: by neglect or domination, that is, by trying to control our children, nag them, and attempt to determine who they should actually be. Either of these two approaches—neglect or domination—wound our children severely. If we neglect to give our children our love and attention, they will seek false loves—false attention—loves that will wound them terribly. If we dominate them, or try to control them, they will rebel against us and eventually against God and quite often attempt to dominate and use others.

Inflicting a Wound that heals

God, through the example of St. Joseph, teaches us that there exists a way to inflict a wound that actually heals—it is the wound of love. Joseph initiated Jesus into God’s covenant by circumcising Jesus,—by inflicting a wound that served as a perpetual reminder to Jesus of his father’s love for Him. Here love is signified by a wound inflicted by the lover upon the loved one. If a father loves his child, he must introduce him into the ways to God, which are often painful. God’s ways are directly linked to discipline, “for the Lord disciplines him whom He loves and chastises every son whom He receives.” (Heb 12:6) Today, we fathers are to initiate our children into the sacrificial ways of God by first drowning the sin of the child’s flesh in the baptismal font and raising the child from the water of death to new life. By doing this, we fathers acknowledge that our allegiance and affection is not toward the child of the flesh, but to the child of God’s Spirit. In other words, by means of baptism, the child no longer belongs to his earthly father, but belongs solely to the heavenly Father.

To Wound with Love we must accept the Wound of Love

If we want our children to be happy, it is vital that we wound them with the wound of love. We accomplish this by teaching them the faith. We teach our children to deny themselves by means of our self-denial. We teach them to offer themselves by means of our “of-for-ring.” We love with discipline and discipline with love. It is our job as fathers to initiate our children into the faith. We should pray for them and with them, lead prayer at dinner and before bed, take them to Mass—maybe even daily Mass—take them to confession—even if your perfect and don’t need to go. It is imperative that we transmit our desire for God to our children, which indicates that it is vital that we stoke the fires of love for God within us. We can do this by developing a consistent prayer life, by going to Mass regularly if not daily, by going to confession monthly, by committing to spiritual reading—especially the lives of the saints. We can only give to our children what we ourselves have.
St. Joseph inflicted the wound of love in Jesus’ flesh—right where it counts. This is a perpetual reminder to all men, that it is precisely in our sexuality that we are all called to sacrifice. Part of becoming a true man is to overcome lust and love rightly. Christ’s wound in His flesh serves as a reminder to each of us to die to our lusts and live in self-donation. Joseph allowed himself to be wounded by God and thus He could pass on the wound of love to Christ. Joseph obeyed God and denied himself the satisfaction of his sexual desires and chose to love Mary purely—thus Joseph, by means of his self-denial, taught Jesus to deny Himself. Joseph taught Jesus to offer Himself by means of his fatherly “of-for-ring”—and Jesus was reminded of his father’s sacrifice by means of the wound in His flesh. To wound with love, we must accept the wound of love.

You are essential

You, my fellow fathers, are a means to your children’s success, to their overcoming failure, to their discovery of authentic happiness. You are a link between the Father in heaven and your children on earth. You are so vital. Our children’s future, to a great extent, depends on how we love them today. “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me.” Let us receive Christ in our children that they may receive Christ. You are irreplaceable. Our children need us to be their spiritual fathers because they need their true spiritual Father—God. You are called to greatness, and it is never too late to respond to this call.