Pillar IV: TEACHING
The novel Bourne Identity opens with Jason Bourne being found by Italian fishermen floating—unconscious with two gunshot wounds in his back—in the Mediterranean sea. When he awakes, he discovers that he is suffering from extreme memory loss. While attempting to recover his identity, he realizes that his life is in jeopardy, as he undergoes a series of assassination attempts. Bourne doesn’t understand who the enemy is, or why he is being hunted because he does not understand his identity or his true mission. Satan has struck the human father a nearly fatal blow, and like Bourne, this blow has caused him temporary spiritual and moral amnesia regarding his true identify and mission. The human father has a been targeted, and is being hunted by Satan and his minions, but so often he does not understand why because he does not comprehend his noble, divinely ordained identity. Satan presses his insidious will upon the father, relentlessly pursuing him, working tirelessly to submerge him with tides of temptations, with the purpose of drowning the human father’s desire to discover his true identity and purpose. Why? Because the evil one knows that the human father has the power to change this fallen world, to lead his family from the jaws of shadow and death to the land of eternal light and bliss. Satan knows that if the human father assumes his divinely ordained Charitable Authority to protect, provide and teach, the micro-church of the family will be restored and revitalized, and these micro-churches of the family will renew and revive the universal Church, and the renewed Church will eventually convert the world. This is the epic battle of our time and you and I are at the center of this confrontation between good and evil.
Authority to Transmit Glory
The human father has been endowed with the divinely ordained commission to lead. He leads by loving and loves by leading. This is Charitable Authority: to assume our position as leader in order to author the story of salvation and glory in our family’s life by means of our self-donation. Authority united with, and animated by, love is the weapon which will win this epic battle. Over the last several FOSJ sessions we’ve discussed the four pillars that constitute St. Joseph’s spirituality and therefore constitute the spirituality of every father: embrace silence; embrace woman; embrace the child; embrace Charitable Authority. We’ve discussed two of the three fundamental components of Charitable Authority: to protect and to provide, and today we will conclude this series on the four pillars by discussing the third component of Charitable Authority: teaching. Before beginning, a couple of qualifiers ought to be mentioned: first, as always, we can only swim on the surface of these topics, for, due to limitations, we do not have the opportunity to dive deep into the still waters of theological and practical insight; second, as with the other components of protecting and providing, it is imperative that we understand that the goal of using our Charitable Authority is to transmit the glory of God to our children. This, in fact, was Jesus’ goal: to share God the Father’s glory with us—His children. Jesus Himself, speaking to the Father of the apostles said, “the glory You have given to Me I give to them.” The human father, in a limited, yet real sense, is like Christ in that he receives the glory of the Father and is also called to share this glory with his children to ensure that they become like Christ.
Teaching and Leading
In other words, the human father is called to awaken, within his child, the reality that the child is a holy temple of God—a dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. This is the essence of Christianity, the very core of God’s plan—the indwelling of God in man. When we believe and live from this truth, great things happen—we become manifestations of God’s glory. To accomplish the goal of our children becoming temples of God, the human father must become a leader who teaches. St. Thomas Aquinas says, “to teach in order to lead others to faith is the task of every preacher and believer”—especially the human father. It is imperative that we fathers teach our children to lead by leading our children to one day teach; and in order to teach, one must be taught. Today we will outline three simple ways in which we can be taught, and by living what we have been taught become capable of teaching. To be an effective leader-teacher, we fathers should bear the three qualities of Priest, Prophet and King.
Catholic theologians argue convincingly that in the era of the early world, God ordained every father to be the priest of his family. However, when Moses came down from the mountain and discovered that the Israelites had risen up to revelry and were worshiping a golden calf, the men from the tribe of Levi were chosen to be the only priests who could offer sacrifice and make atonement with the Lord on behalf of the people. However, God the Word became a human being in order to restore the universal priesthood, as well as begin the apostolic priesthood, as St. Peter attests: “be yourselves as living stones, built into a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” ( 1 Peter 2:5) This indicates that the father is the priest of his domestic church, who offers spiritual sacrifices on behalf of his family in order to reconcile his family to God. We offer ourselves and our spiritual sacrifices by having a “vision for charity,” that is, by setting the example of self-sacrifice. By spending quality time with our children, engaging in conversations, anticipating our wive’s and children’s needs, and doing these things—without, on one hand complaining, grumbling or resenting our wives or children, or on the other hand, boasting or drawing attention to the fact that we are serving—we will be teaching our children by our humble example. Each father’s spiritual sacrifices will vary. For some it could be helping with the dishes, changing a diaper, helping with homework etc. So often, at Holy Mass, I see many of you holding your babies and toddlers—allowing your wives to worship in peace. I admire your sacrifice. By having a vision for charity, we simply anticipate our wives and children’s needs and begin to serve in a manly—not pouting—manner. These spiritual sacrifices when offered to God in a secret manner, draw down grace, but also speak profoundly to our children of the love of God—and that the love of Jesus Christ is alive and real within us. Pope Benedict says that “being for the other” is the most effective means of teaching.
We not only teach by means of example, but also by means of our words. Isaiah said that “fathers shall make God’s truth known to His children” (See Isaiah 38:19) and it is the father who teaches Christ’s truth by example and word. A father’s words must be informed by the Father’s Word. Our words ought to reflect our example and our example should reflect the Word. If we father’s expect our children to be obedient to our words, we must be obedient to the Father’s Word. To teach, one must be taught. By becoming men of the Word, who daily reflect upon the Sacred Scriptures, particularly the Gospels we will be infused , animated and supported by the God Who lives in us. When God’s Word lives in us, we can give God to our children—particularly when they ask us questions, need guidance or simply need our company. We must not neglect these opportunities, lest our children neglect these opportunities with us when we are older. When teaching we can use analogies, examples from life, stories from our experiences, bed time stories, all at the service of teaching life’s most valuable lessons. Many fathers—who have succeeded in raising their children to become noble, virtuous adults—attest that one of the secrets of their success is being courageous enough to share the Faith with their children. Some of these fathers discussed—with their children—the homily, after Mass, over breakfast every Sunday. Other fathers set aside a weekly time in which their family would pray over and discuss the upcoming Sunday’s Gospel. This may be challenging and intimidating, but in the end, to consistently do this is very rewarding. By sharing our faith with our children, the children intuit that this is important, and also understand subconsciously that their father believes in them and believes that they can live this faith.
We are called to be kings of our domestic kingdom, but in order to rule our kingdom, we must be able to rule ourselves. A king who masters himself is worthy of being known as master. A King who rules his own power is capable of ruling with power—without his power ruling him. It is vital that we become kings in order to transfer the kingship of Christ, that we have received to our children. A true king does not jealously guard his power, but rather, shares and distributes his power, glory and responsibilities to those whom he rules. But to give power, we must possess power. To rule others we must be able to rule ourselves. “The Man is rightly called a king who makes his own body an obedient subject and, by governing himself with suitable rigor, refuses to let his passions breed rebellion in his soul, for he exercises a kind of power over himself. And because he knows how to rule his own person as king, so too does he sit as its judge. He will not let himself be imprisoned by sin, or thrown headlong into wickedness.” (St. Ambrose) We fathers have an invisible, unquantifiiable, God-given ability to transmit our hidden qualities—for better or for worse—to our children. The evil one knows this, and therefore ceaselessly bombards us, invades us and tempts us in hope that he will overthrow our kingship. The evil one attempts to rule us with temptation to dethrone us from our kingship. Why? So that we do not transmit the glory of God to our children. The battle against the evil one for our kingship exists in the 5 S’s: sleep, sex, sweets, sounds and sights. The evil one tempts us to oversleep, to omit prayer time in the morning and at night. The evil one tempts us with pornography, illicit affairs and lustful thoughts. The evil one tempts us to indulge in foods that we really do not need, so that being full we do not hunger for Christ. The evil one tempts us to constantly be tuned into music, radio shows, television, movies, You Tube videos etc., in order to numb our senses to the voice of God. Sleep, sex, sweets, sounds and sights are good—very good, but often we hold on to the gift rather than the Giver, we make an ideal an idol, we love the good above the Great One. If we expect our children to master these things we must also master ourselves in these areas. By mastering ourselves, we will become more capable or transmitting the glory of Christ’s kingship to our children.
St. Joseph the King of the King of Kings
St. Joseph shared the glory that he had received from the Father with God the Son. Being a son of David, St. Joseph literally transferred the royal, Davidic kingship to Jesus. Joseph was the king of the king of Kings. Joseph conferred this kingship not by merely being his human adopted father, but rather by means of his hidden, silent, priestly, self-donating example. Jesus lived what Joseph taught, and Jesus taught what Joseph lived. Our children will live what we teach, and teach what we live.