When we were married, as in most Catholic weddings, my wife and I prayed before the statue of The Blessed Mother seeking Her intercession in our marriage and family. My wife remembers that her prayer to our Lady was that She wrap Her mantle around us as protection from evil. (I don’t recall what my prayer was.) Recently we were reminded of this when a young Priest visited our home and when giving a blessing to our family before his departure, he also asked our Lady to shield us with Her mantle. It is true our Lady is a power ally for us in our fight against the evil one. We pray our Rosary daily as a family and encourage other families to do so as well. We have ourselves and our children invested in the Brown Scapular and all continually wear one for protection. Recently, I have become increasingly aware of Her powerful intercession in the spiritual combat in which I find myself embroiled.
I recall someone saying that an old wise Priest told him that a prayer that is not followed by action is no prayer at all but only a mere wish. He tells a funny fable that makes a good point. A lady’s house was infested with cockroaches. She prayed and prayed and prayed to no avail—they did not go away but only multiplied. She offered novenas that God spare her of her roach problem but it did not work. How often do we as families do the same with the more important issue of the eternal souls of our children? We pray that they remain chaste and resist temptations to sin, but do we protect them from the onslaught of evil dumped on them by the world? The common reply to this is, “Well you can’t protect them from everything.” No you can’t, but you can protect them from very many things. Another is “You can’t shelter them all their lives.” No you can’t, but you can shelter them for some of their lives and while doing so train them on how to be strong and virtuous amidst the pressures to succumb to immorality. The prayer we offer must be followed with these actions if we wish that prayer to bear fruit.
The father is placed at the head of the family for this purpose. This is the reason he must be respected and revered so that his authority remain intact for the good of the family, especially the children. James Stenson, a Catholic educational consultant, has done extensive research on what he considers to be successful families. Of course that designation can mean different things to different people. But when you get down to it, most people want the same things for their kids. Through his research he found some common traits among the fathers of these families and they are outlined in his book Father, the Family Protector. He says they were smart. “Whether they relied on rational, reflective thought about their fatherly role or were moved more by intuition, they seemed to understand what a father is and does.” (p23) That knowledge showed up in three areas: they understand that (1) the main mission of the parents is to build strong character in their children, (2) a father’s main role is to protect his wife and children from harm and (3) a man must have integrity, acting consistently at work and at home.
There are a few powerful insights we can glean just from these facts. For one, it doesn’t sound like these men relied exclusively on a prayer (wish) but that if they did pray, they asked for wisdom and guidance on how to act then they acted. Next, they were smart but not necessarily from academics or experts. How often do we hear about the child behavioral expert who can’t handle his own children? These men had care and concern for their duty and had wisdom (again which is a virtue thus can come through prayer) when fulfilling their role in the family. A lot of this is common sense and just plain love of our children in action. We have to remember the natural law is written on our hearts. So many times the “experts” have been indoctrinated and have STUDIED all the wrong material. They may have academic credentials but no concrete working knowledge of human nature from raising a family. Mr. Stenson sought out those men who actually did it and were successful at raising good kids.
So if it’s the father’s job to be the head, what does the wife have to do? Of course she is to enforce the father’s rules while he is away. But he also says it is important that he listen to her concerns about the children. They of course have their own intuition and are very sensitive to their children. I know I tell my wife to let me know when she sees something in our children that is of some concern. Sometimes I may have already addressed it, but often times I am unaware simply because she is with them more than I am. Bear in mind, for a mother to be able to do this she has to be WITH her children, which is the principal reason for her dedicating herself to the home instead of a career.
Additionally, Mr. Stenson offers three bits of advice to the wives (pp.249-251): (1) Don’t expect your husband to be perfect, (2) don’t expect him to be like a woman, and (3) do all you can to lead your children to respect their father and his authority. He prefaces these three bits with this statement, “Your husband’s success as a father depends enormously on you.” It takes teamwork to raise a family. This is why God created family to be father, mother, and children. We all have a part to play, and when we each play our position well, we all win.
God bless you+