The Greater the Blessing the Greater the Cross
Over the last several FOSJ meetings we’ve been discussing the five stages of a successful father: 1) Crisis/Tests, 2) Discovery of Mission, 3) Sacrifice 4) Model/Example, and 5) Legacy. It was during a personal crisis that Joseph discovered his mission and understanding his mission, he learned, over time, the sacrifice demanded to fulfill it. Always associated with a divinely ordained mission is the sacrifice demanded to fulfill it. If we are to be men of glory we must be men of sacrifice. If we are to experience the glory of the resurrection we must endure the crucifixion. Every blessing has its cross and every cross has an associated blessing. The vocations of being a husband and a father are prime examples of such a paradox. The greater the blessing the greater the associated sacrifice. Now, there existed no greater blessings than the persons of Jesus and Mary—the Son of God and The Mother of the God the Son. These two people were Joseph’s greatest blessings, but also associated with these blessings were incredible sufferings. It can be said that we learn to truly suffer when we truly love. By receiving Mary, Joseph renounced sexual relations with Mary. By receiving the perfect woman, Joseph appeared to be a very imperfect man—a man whose reputation was under the scrutiny of the villagers of Nazareth for being associated with a teenage pregnancy. Joseph sacrificed the safety of his home to trek to Bethlehem, only to flee to save his family from Herod and his murderous armies. Joseph’s life was not easy—but Jesus and Mary were worth his sacrifice. We were worth his sacrifice. Joseph’s fatherhood mattered because Jesus mattered, and Jesus mattered because God believes that we matter. Your fatherhood matters because your children and grand-children matter. St. Thomas Aquinas said that salvation comes by means of fathers transmitting this salvation to their sons, and those sons, as fathers, transmit salvation to their children. We each play a part—a vital part—in the transmission of salvation. God “needs” you to father, because your children need God the Father.
A Man’s Guarding Leads to a woman’s Un-guarding
To be great fathers we must become great husbands—we must become like St. Joseph, Guardians of the Garden. To become a Guardian of the Garden of woman is among the most demanding and yet graciously rewarding callings that God can offer a man; for this calling requires that the husband be responsible for protecting his wife’s dignity as Christ protects and animates His bride, the Church. By defending sacred womanhood, particularly his own wife’s sacred dignity, a man defends not only his own wife, but also, by default, his entire family. A father’s purity and love is like a burning coal, which heats the furnace of love within the family, and from this furnace, saints are formed. Without authentic and virtuous human fatherhood, it is gravely difficult for a child to even begin to understand the true identity of God as Father. For this reason it is imperative that we become like Joseph, sincere men who, by the power of the Holy Spirit, embrace the sacrifice demanded to love purely. With the Holy Spirit a husband becomes capable of loving his wife in a redeemed manner, thus unlocking the glory which lies hidden in the person of his wife. As a husband loves his wife purely, her dignity is re-discovered, restored and even exalted, thus granting her the security and confidence to un-guard and unveil herself and thus reveal the true, beautiful and glorious woman God created her to be.
DESIRE: THE PLACE OF BATTLE
So how do we become men of purity—chastity—Guardians of the Garden? To understand how to win the fight, we must understand what we are fighting for, who we are fighting against, where the fight is, and the secret to winning this fight. First, what are we fighting for? We are fighting for our God, our souls, our glory, our children, our wives and our destiny. It is our duty to do everything in our power to help our wives and children “get to heaven”, that is, achieve intimate communion with God. This is it—this is everything—this is our path to eternal glory. But remember, we cannot give what we do not have, but we can give what we do possess. If you have communion with God, you can share that communion with your family—that is your right and duty. Second, who is the enemy? The evil one, also known as Satan, hates you, hates me, hates our families, authentic sexual relations, and always is attempting to destroy the child—the family—and he uses us to accomplish this task. That’s why he attacks fathers—because grace and sin, both flow through us, the head, to the rest of our body, that is, our families. Third, where is the place of battle? The battle is not “out there”—it’s in here—in me and in you, precisely in our desires. Desire is the place of battle. Desire is comprised of two parts: what we want and what we don’t possess. When we hope for something good, but don’t possess the good we become tempted to obtain the good by doing something bad. God allows desire to exist in order to purify us of our disordered, false desires, while also leading us to the only One Who can fulfill these desires.
Sacrificing the Disordered Desire
How do we win this fight? The answer is discovered in the very sign of our faith, the very sign we make over our bodies before praying—the sign of the cross. What are we professing with this sign? First, we proclaim: God, I believe that You are three Persons, Who are so perfectly self-giving that you are One in essence—an eternal exchange of Persons—an eternal exchange of love, and it is my destiny to enter into the exchange of Persons. Second, we proclaim: God I believe that the means to enter this divine union is Your gift of Self—Your total self-donation—your crucifixion and death; and this is my path also—self-donation, self-sacrifice. In the beginning man’s soul and body were fully integrated. Adam’s body did what his soul desired to do. Adam’s intellect directed his will and his will directed his passions. Adam knew the right thing to do and therefore willed to do it, and his emotions fueled that will in order to complete the task. However, after the fall, his body and soul became disintegrated—at war with one another—and his personal internal order became inverted. Adam’s passions began to direct his will and his will directed his intellect. Welcome to our imperfect world. So, how do we win this fight? How do we overcome our disordered desires and passions? It is only by means of sacrificing our disordered passions that we can achieve the good and win the battle, and become the true men who are capable of transmitting the Father’s love to our families.
It takes faith
In the game of football, a receiver runs his pattern without looking back, trusting that when he has completed his pattern and turns his glance toward the quarterback, the quarterback will have thrown the ball accurately into his hands; and if the receiver is ready, he will catch the pass and press on toward the goal. In the life of faith, we are called by God to run many patterns—with no ball in our arms. We run toward the goal line without the ball that makes reaching the goal of value. Yet, we must trust in God, the faithful quarterback, believing that He has not only set us on our pattern, but will provide the perfect pass, ensuring that we may cross the goal with that grace in hand. We must run the pattern of purity, setting the course without turning back, trusting, though empty handed at times, that God will provide the grace necessary to defeat lust and attain purity, to love our wives sincerely and raise our children to holiness—crossing the goal. Only by the power of the Holy Spirit can a man become pure. But it takes faith. We must exercise faith by running our pattern, believing that God will provide this redemptive grace to use our desires properly. Redemptive grace heals the rift, the rupture, that sin causes between the body and soul. Redemptive grace unites the soul and body, making a complete man—a real man—the true man. Though St. Joseph was completely continent, he nevertheless serves as the primary example of purity and chastity for all married men; for if the chaste life of Joseph can be the “first witness of a fruitfulness altogether different than that of the flesh, that is, of a fruitfulness of the Spirit,” (JP2) then we too, by loving in a pure, chaste manner, can beget both physical and spiritual life in our marriages and families.
1) Recognize and admit your desires 2) Discern the surface desire from the deeper authentic, God-given desire. Confess the disordered desire and ask God to help you discover the true longing. 3) Ask for the redemptive grace to fulfill the authentic desire 4) Sacrifice the disordered desire and donate yourself in love.