Pillar IV: Protecting
Survive or Succeed?
Years ago I was having a conversation with a fellow church goer about the evils that face our children—from peer pressures, to the perversion of human sexuality, to the pervasive media—when this gentleman responded, “We survived didn’t we?” Without hesitation, I immediately retorted, “I don’t want my children to have the life I have had, I don’t want my children to merely survive, I want them to thrive. I don’t want my children to merely exist and get by, I want them to succeed and get to heaven.” We didn’t talk for a while after that… Begin endowed with the gift of charitable authority, we fathers are called to ensure that our children not only survive this war, but win it—to victoriously and heroically win at life. And it is a ware. Satan is waging a tremendous, full-scale assault on our children. We could consider the many stats that testify to this war—from the rise in teenage pregnancies, abortions, suicide rates, teenage depression, increased STDs—Satan is waging a war on our kids and we fathers are endowed with the heroic task to defend our land, our domain, our family—our children. We are called to be like the Good Shepherd that Jesus refers to in the Gospel, who lays down his life for the sheep. At the end of the day, the shepherd would gather his sheep into the sheepfold and at the sheepfold gate he would lay his body across the threshold of the sheepfold in order to protect his flock from predators. What is the message? If you are coming for my sheep—it will be over my dead body. This must be our attitude in feathering our children. If you are going to come for my children—it will be over my dead body. Jesus compares the true shepherd to the hireling. The hireling flees when the going get tough, when the predators come he neglects his post to defend and protect his flock. The true shepherd is concerned with his sheep’s life and will risk his life by giving up his hopes, his endeavors,—even his very life in order to save the sheep. We are the shepherd of our families and our motto is: over my dead body.
The three enemies and the three Ideals
During our last FOSJ session we discussed the fourth pillar of the human father’s spirituality: embracing charitable authority. Charitable authority is a father’s distinctive, divinely ordained call to lead by writing, authoring, influencing or creating the story of salvation and Christian love in his family’s life. Today we will continue our discussion on this fourth pillar by outlining the three basic ways in which a father expresses his charitable authority. Before we discuss these three basic expressions of charitable authority, it is important that we realize that in our pursuit to author the story of Christ’s love within our families, we will encounter three tenacious enemies: the world, the flesh and the devil. It is our duty as heads of our families to lead our families away from these threats towards the opposite ideals, So, it is imperative that we lead our families from the world toward the ideal of heaven; from the flesh toward the ideal of the Spirit, and from the devil, that master of rebellion, toward obedience to God—which is actually true freedom. The world is at war with heaven, the flesh is at enmity with the spirit, and the devil is the poster child of rebellion, who attempts to undermine true freedom, which is derived from obedience to God. The human father uses his charitable authority to lead his family away from these three enemies toward these three ideals by doing three things: protecting, providing and teaching. If we desire to overcome the world and lead our family to heaven, we must fulfill our duty of protecting. If we desire to empower our families—our children—to overcome the flesh and live by the spirit, we must fulfill the responsibility of providing. If we desire to defeat the devil and lead our family from rebellion, we must instill obedience to God in our wives, and children’s hearts by means of teaching. Protecting, providing and teaching are the three means in which the human father leads his family to obedience to God (freedom), by living by the spirit (love) in order to obtain the true and ultimate goal of heaven (happiness—beatitude.) Today, we will discuss how a father protects his children in order to provide the context for his children to obtain happiness.
The enemy known as the world attempts to convince us and our children to live for that which is seen rather than that which is unseen; to live for the creature rather than the Creator; to fixate upon temporal goods rather than the eternal good. We are called by God, as leaders of our families to “seek the things that are above, not the things of the earth, for you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (See Col 3:2-3) The empire of the world is the shifting sand of human respect which tempts the human father and his family to succumb to the alluring temptation of vainglory, longing for popularity, temporary prestige, a false confidence in self. These worldly ambitions cause us to become jealous, envious, bitter and malicious; for when we do not obtain these things, we despise those who have them, and when we have them, we are fearful that attention given to another robs us of that attention. Man’s glory is self-seeking—God’s glory is self-giving. You use you lose—“you give you live.” Being known by God rather than being noticed by men brings peace and confidence and joy that only God can impart. In other words, it is imperative that we protect our wives and children from the temptation to desire to be noticed by man and rather, train them to live to be known by God alone.
The Five Forms of the World
We fathers have been endowed with a sacred responsibility to protect our own flock and to protect our flock correctly, we must understand this enemy of the world and its various cunning forms. Before begging, a couple of qualifications must be made. First, some of the things that I am about to mention may hit a nerve, or hit a little close to home. Let’s pray to the Holy Spirit and ask Him to give us the courage to assess these enemies objectively. Second, each of these forms of the world are actually intrinsically good in themselves. Satan who cannot create anything out of nothing can only use the good that God has created to deform it into something bad. So, each of the forms of the “enemy of the world” is good in itself, but has been hijacked by Satan. Satan offers the perversion of the good as a means to happiness. But, we must understand and explain to our children that only the true form of any good can lead to happiness. Considering all of this, the world has many forms, but generally, the basic forms of the world which pervade and invade our children’s souls are 1) perversion of sex 2) peers 3) prestige and popularity 4) pervasiveness of the media and technology and 5) parenting
Perversion of Sex
Sex is good. The one flesh union in marriage was created by God to symbolize Christ’s desire for union with His Church—His desire for union with each of us. Satan however, maligns and distorts the true meaning of sex—offering it in ways that malign the divine intention. We must explain to our sons that they are called to be real men—who like Christ become real men by laying down their lives for the bride, woman. We need to explain to our daughters that they are a symbol of the Church and should only give themselves to a man who will love them as Christ love the Church—by sacrificing himself for her. Our daughters should settle for nothing less. But this demands that I become such a man. I must sacrifice myself for my wife in order that my sons understand how to be a real man, and so that my daughters understand what type of man they should marry.
Our children’s friends, schoolmates and peers have tremendous influence on our children. If our children do not sense that they have value at home—that is from Dad—they will seek to that value from their classmates. If they do not feel affirmed at home, they will look for false affirmation from their peers. The pressure in this area is intense. So often, kids believe that High school is life and that these are best years of their life and that this is their only world. Often, it takes all of their will to make it through, what can be, some of the most hellish years of their lives, and sometimes they don’t make it. To ensure that our children do make it and become the person God is calling them to be, we must engage them, give them the attention that they deserve, point out their strength, their beauty, their goodness, their dignity, their talents and gifts, and explain that peers don’t determine their value—God determines their value—and God does not make junk.
Prestige and Popularity
Children are often and easily convinced that they need to be rock stars, celebrities, sports heroes in order to be happy. In other words, they are easily convince that the road to happiness it to be noticed by men, and often, we dads, reinforce this idea. Sports are good. Music is good. Show choir and acting is good—but when we make these things the priority, these goods become gods. How many of us, have been tempted to live vicariously through our children. How many parents seek value in their children being popular or have the recognition of men. It is an easy trap to fall into. Too often these activities cause us to neglect family dinner, family time. And rather than activities being at the service of the family, the family is sacrificed for activities. We may need to sacrifice activities for the sake of the family.
This is the hot-button issue. TV, cell phones, i pads, i pods, video games—what are we to do? Yet, with the advent of social media and mobile technology it is nearly impossible to defend one’s children from the enemy of the world. In fact, this is where the perversion of sex, peer pressure and prestige nd popularity all converge. As one friend of mine says, “60 seconds of tv could destroy 15 years of parenting. Technology is good, TV is good, mobile technology is good—as long as it transmit good things. Would you put an automatic weapon in a ten year old’s hand? Consider the vast epidemic of pornographic images and consider also the unregulated cell phone use by children 9 years of age and over. As fathers, we must use these goods in a good manner by redeeming them. TV tends to usurp our authority, teach our children things we don’t truly believe in, create unnecessary needs.
Which brings us to the last form of the world: parents. In the area of protecting we tend to toggle between two extremes !) neglecting to protect—we let them go, or 2) we overprotect—we lock them up. When we neglect to protect, believing that we are offering our children freedom, they often become enslaved to their passions. Children who are not protected often feel unloved, un-cared for. When neglect ot protect and spoil the child, leaving them to their indulgences, the child intuits, “my parent’s don’t care—my dad doesn’t really love me. When we overprotect, we suffocate our children, lock them up in our rigid world, use scare tactics. The overprotective dad says conveys to his children that everything is bad: TV is bad, sex is bad, friends are bard. The balance between neglecting to protect and overprotecting is protecting by building the foundation. Again, is a five year old boy want to become a a fireman, you don’t buy him an ax and a hat and throw him into the inferno. We train him, for years— about fire, its goodness, and it potential to destroy. We teach him to become a master of fir. We accomplish this by training our children—for years—to see goodness in everything, but also teach them how to spot the counterfeits.
St. Joseph our Protector
Matthew 2.20 reads: “Rise up, take with thee the child and his mother, and return to the land of Israel; for those who sought the child’s life are dead.” Literally, the Greek and Latin says, “those who sought the child’s SOUL are dead.” St. Joseph was the guardian of the soul of Jesus, and we, following our patron are the guardians and protectors of our children’s souls.