The first duty of the head of the family is to attend to the sanctification of his dependents. Nature imposes it on him; God wills it; his salvation depends on it. This duty presents itself to him under a triple aspect, corresponding to his three titles of husband, father, and provider.
Real men – who live as great husbands and fathers – have a unity of life, the welfare of their families, and therefore peace of mind throughout their lives. Their powers, their work accomplishments, their friendships with other men all come together to give their life meaning and profound happiness.
St. John Paul II made it clear in his encyclical Redemptor Hominis, “Man cannot live without love. He remains a being that is incomprehensible for himself, his life is senseless, if love is not revealed to him if he does not encounter love, if he does not experience it and make it his own, if he does not participate intimately in it.”
It is precisely in the family that most of us learn how to love. “This is love,” says St. John in his Gospel, “Not that we have loved God but that he has first loved us,” and in the family, this pattern is repeated as our parents demonstrate their love of us. In a healthy family, marriage and family life become the school of love, with each member of the family coming to honor the others for their own sake.
Unfortunately, men in our time are often encouraged by the culture to be little more than peripheral around the house – an older playmate to their children. Although the causes of the confusion of parental and gender roles are many and complex, it is clear that – in this area of life as in so many others – contraception, the weakening of moral values, and cohabitation have colluded to disconnect sex from procreation, thus “liberating” man from fatherhood, marriage, and responsibility. For a society like ours, preoccupied with preserving Nature, encouraging the consumption of natural foods, and the like, we have become strangely deaf and blind to the God-implanted wisdom of natural sex roles and relationships.
So it is that a man should first show honor and respect for his wife. This is especially true when the children are around. Doing this helps the children realize that they too must love and respect their mother, and women in general. This primary duty extends to honoring your wife in the presence of strangers and acquaintances, for how else will they show her due honor?
A husband should love his wife as he loves himself. Just as a man seeks what will help him to develop and grow, so too should he strive to seek out that which will enable his wife to live in peace and joy. The sweetness of this love should temper his thoughts of authority in their relationship. His love should be tender and pure, with God as its motive and end. A devoted love that gives with kindness to his spouse all that she needs to live and keep her position as a mother and the heart of the family, supporting her in infirmities and defects with a tender charity, and sharing her joys and sorrows with compassion.
The mentality that honors the woman more for her work outside the home than for her work within the family must be overcome because it denies this reality. It is very clear, however, that a father is also important to the family as an example of responsible masculinity. He is needed to support and encourage his God-given partner, his wife. When a man treats his wife as the number-one person in his life, when he honors and cherishes her, his children are prompted also to treat their mother with love and respect.
Since man is not composed only of a body, but also of soul and spirit, the husband should work at establishing a union with his wife that is not just physical, but also emotional and spiritual. Men must remember that women need emotional support and friendship from their husband. The spousal bond is meant to unite a man and a woman at every level, including the emotional and spiritual, which ought not to be neglected.
A husband should seek holiness with his wife. Praying together strengthens the spiritual bond and helps them achieve God’s intention, that is that strong families meld into a strong society. As every blessing is obtained from God by holy prayer, this habit of communal prayer continues to bring blessings to their union and the family that follows. In this way, the couple fulfills the will of the Father participating in His plan for salvation.
Additional notes will continue our reflection on the duties of the head of the family by addressing next our duties as fathers and providers.
Much of the content written here is adapted from a Sunday, June 19th, 2016, article from “The Catholic Thing” entitled “For All Fathers” by Fr. C. John McCloskey III and a Sunday, June 15th, 2015, blog post to the TraditionalCatholicPriest.com, entitled “Duties of Traditional Catholic Fathers #1,
Posted by Father Caroto. The original author of this blog passed away in July of 2016. RIP Father Carota.