I’m enjoying the celebration of my 25th Father’s Day today. I recall how often my wife and I were told to “not wish the time away” or to “not blink” when the kids were infants as to how quickly their lives would advance and we may miss out on parts of their childhood. I think we’ve heeded that advice to a large extent, but I must say I still feel that large amounts of time have seemed to slip by me. Seven children and 25 years later after holding my first infant amazed at God’s creation of humanity, I am now no less humbled.
The Church gives us wonderful guidance as to the direct link between marriage and the acceptance of children, not simply as a right of passage, but more so as a duty to allow God primarily to decide the size of our families. “A child is not something owed to one, but is a gift. The ‘supreme gift of marriage’ is a human person.” (CCC¶2378) “Sacred Scripture and the Church's traditional practice see in large families a sign of God's blessing and the parents' generosity.” (CCC¶2373) Fortunately, we have been blessed to have had mentors all along the way during our marriage that have encouraged us to be open to life, to be “generous,” and to receive and accept “God’s blessings.”
“Called to give life, spouses share in the creative power and fatherhood of God. ‘Married couples should regard it as their proper mission to transmit human life and to educate their children; they should realize that they are thereby cooperating with the love of God the Creator and are, in a certain sense, its interpreters. They will fulfill this duty with a sense of human and Christian responsibility.’” (CCC¶2367) I think the reason many men are tempted to and do actually succumb to the tendency to stave off life and not father children, often through mortally sinful means of contraception and mutilation, is that these type of terms and the actual commitment required by this “responsibility” seem so overwhelming that we are not up to the task. Surely, the society we live in today has given men cause to seriously doubt ourselves. But this is where we are called to turn our backs on the world, the flesh, and the devil and look toward Truth from God, guidance of the Church, and the power of Grace from the Sacraments. Today God still enlivens men with strength and power to properly and rightly father and rear children through their various stages of growth from infancy to adulthood.
I often recall hearing Jim Stenson say “we are not called to raise children; we are called to raise adults.” And this is the realization we currently find ourselves in at this juncture. There was a lady in front of me in the checkout line at Macy’s yesterday with a 3-week-old infant she was carrying in a sling. I remarked to her at how beautiful the child was and that our youngest is now 7 years old. It’s been a long time since we had an infant, and we do miss it; I do miss it. But that is only when I may have minute quiet moments to pause because our home is still bustling with 9 members all accounted for. Now with 3 adult children still living here on the verge of embarking upon God’s call for them, we are able to observe the results of nearly a quarter of a century of work we have arduously progressed trough together. It’s far from perfect, but still in all pretty good. Of course we dads are pretty hard on ourselves. We feel that stabbing guilt in our chests when we observe our faults present in our children, and we rightly should. But how often do we observe with righteous pride our virtues present in our children?
The other night, Fr. Jeffrey Jambon gave a discourse on fatherhood to our men’s group. If I may paraphrase a bit, he told us that we men actually get “credit” for the qualities and accomplishment of our children, especially our sons. He said that our children should imbibe what is present within ourselves and subsequently reflect it in their own actions and the way they eventually conduct their own lives. What a great responsibility of good example and proper guidance we have as fathers! Yet, through the grace of God and only through the Grace of God are we up to the task. It may seem a bit of a sacrifice to embrace such a commitment of fathering since the commitment lasts for a lifetime. But the rewards are immeasurable when compared to any of the fleeting pleasures of this world. Knowing that our children are in the image and likeness of God and possess an immortal soul makes the task and toil all worthwhile.
Finally, a bit of a warning to the younger men: Heed the guidance of the Church on the blessings of a large family. (I put “large” in the title of this article in quotes because of course that is a relative term. By today’s standards we do have a large family, but my parents both came from families in which their parents each had 15 children.) I do often make the warning in our material that when we go the way of the world, only a few years later we wind up with great regret. Often that is expressed in women who have been deceived by the feminist culture now prevalent who have taken on careers and forgone their greatest opportunities of bearing children only to realize in their 40’s the great treasure they have lost never to be recovered. These women suffer great pain, and I am truly sorry for them. But this is not limited to them. I have had men about my age confide in me that they also went the way of the world only to have 2 or 3 children, who have now gone off to college or to their adult vocations and are experiencing the empty nest in their 40’s. They admitted to me that they do not like it, are lonely, and wished they had done as we have. Men, there is irreversible regret from making fundamental poor choices for our own comforts and desires. All too often men do this through gravely sinful means of contraception and the ultimate cowardly relinquishment of their generative powers by allowing their anatomy to be mutilated, literally severed. That’s what we do to dogs; this is not manly in any sense. It is no wonder why there is a lack of manliness and masculinity today with so many who have allowed their manhood to be snipped away. But that’s a recurring theme for days to come.
Today, let’s celebrate the august calling of Fatherhood, where we as men emulate God the Father in our own homes. To all the fathers out there, physical and spiritual, a heartfelt Happy Father’s Day!
God bless you+