Notes from the Lecturer
Fathers are different from mothers. God has created us differently, we think differently. We have instincts and attitudes and physical strengths that empower us for tough-minded, sacrificial service to those people who count most in our lives, starting with our families.
All the special features of an adult male’s personality, developed from boyhood–our muscles, willpower, stamina, competitive drive, aggressiveness and assertiveness, mathematical and abstractive powers of mind, love for strategic planning and manipulating physical reality, strong sense of fairness and ethical conduct–all coordinate toward a single great purpose in life: protection.
God has endowed us with the physical and mental powers we need to protect our loved ones. The instinct to protect from harm lies at the core of our masculinity. Men are hard-wired–in their minds, muscles, and tough aggressiveness–to protect women and children from harm.
Related to this physical protection, here’s another aspect of a man’s protectiveness, one that fathers today often fail to understand. A man permits no one to threaten or upset his wife–and this includes their own children. A hugely important part of a father’s job is to defend his wife against their children’s rudeness, insolent disobedience, and impulsive aggression. This protection counts most to his wife when the kids are small (under 7) and later when they enter adolescence. A man will permit no one to disrespect his wife, including–and even especially–at home.
Moreover, he protects his children from forces that threaten them here and now: drugs, bullies, criminals, unjust aggressors of all types, and potential disasters arising from their inexperience and impulsive mistakes (like dashing out into traffic or playing with matches). For instance, if a father glanced out his living room window and spotted a male stranger chatting with his small daughter, coyly beckoning to her, he would swiftly lunge into defensive action. He’d race out the door, stride aggressively toward the stranger, then confront the man and demand to know what he wanted. With muscles taut, he would stand between his daughter and this potential aggressor, physically shielding her from harm.
Another example: When his teenage daughter is being picked up for a date, a father goes out of his way to size up the young man she’s going out with. He wants to meet him–insists on meeting him–to look him in the eye and intuitively size up his intentions and his worth. A father senses a duty to assess any young male who approaches his daughter. An unspoken message seems to pass between them: “She’s my daughter. Treat her nicely, kid, or else.…”
But most of all–and this is crucially important–a father protects his children by strengthening them so they can later protect themselves. In the lives of his children, he asserts loving leadership toward responsible, competent adulthood. It is a father’s mission, the challenge that brings out the best in him, to form in his children the powers and attitudes they will need to succeed in life, to strengthen them so they in turn can later protect themselves and their own loved ones. So, in his children’s eyes a great father is a lifelong leader and teacher. His protective, empowering lessons about right and wrong live on in the inner lives of his children, long after they’ve left home for good, and indeed long after he has passed to his eternal reward. A great father never stops being a father, for he lives on as a great man in the hearts of his children.
So how does a man protect his children long-term? What sort of lifelong strengths does a smart, effective father teach?
• A father strengthens his children’s competence. He forms lifelong healthy attitudes to work, along with serious habits of work. Without a father’s leadership in this arena, his kids can have trouble grasping the connection between effort and results, between standards and achievement. If he fails here, his children may never outgrow the dominant attitude of childhood–that life is play–and remain stuck in a permanent adolescence. This can later destroy them, their careers, and their families.
• He teaches respect for rightful authority. He insists that his children respect and obey him and their mother. His wife sets most of the moral tone for the household–what’s right and wrong in family life–and he enforces it. Being smart and far-seeing, he knows that when children fail to respect their parents, they can later clash with all other forms of rightful authority–teachers, employers, the law, God’s law, and their own conscience.
• A father teaches his children ethics and gives final form to their lifelong conscience. That is, he shows his sons and daughters how to comport themselves justly and honorably in the world outside the home. In his children’s eyes, he is an expert on fair dealings and personal integrity in the workplace and community. He shows his kids how their mother’s moral teachings carry over later to life outside the home: telling the truth, keeping one’s word, putting duty first, deferring to others’ rights and feelings. By his example and correction at home, he shows how responsible adults respect each others’ rights and assert their own.
• A father builds healthy self-confidence in children. His presence around the home as a physically strong man leads his children (daughters especially) to feel safe, securely protected, and therefore self-confident. As a father, he corrects and encourages, and he helps his children to learn from their mistakes. In this way, he leads his children to form a realistic sense of their strengths and limitations. Youngsters who receive this protective fatherly love, along with self-knowledge and experience with problem-solving at home, eventually form a lifelong self-confidence.
• A father leads his children to adult-level sound judgment and shrewdness. He helps them to use their brains like responsible adults: to frame questions and answers logically, to think ahead and foresee consequences, to assess people’s character and values, and to know malarkey when they see it.
• A father provides an attractive example of responsible masculinity. He acts as a model for his sons’ growth into manhood. And he conveys to his daughters (most often unconsciously) the traits they should look for in judging the character of men their age, especially suitors for marriage. In countless subtle ways, Dad forms a pattern for manly character in each of his sons and, indirectly, for the kind of man each daughter will someday marry. (This may explain why great fathers so often get along well with their sons-in-law.)
If you talk to elderly Catholics, and ask about their regrets, they have one reoccurring theme. Their #1 regret is that they did not do enough to evangelize their kids. There is a lesson here! Your role as a catholic father and protector includes making disciples of your kids. You must teach them how to live in this world without becoming of this world. Your fatherly example of faithful parenting will provide those you protect with the knowledge of the pathway to eternal life. Something our creator God did for all of us in sending his only Son to us to free us from sin. Emmanuel, God with us, until the end of time. Now that is good catholic parenting!
This article draws in large part from the work of James B. Stenson, educational consultant: ParentLeadership.com.
Fatherhood is under attack. It is under attack from forces outside of man (our society and culture) but also from forces within him (our lack of reference for what God has made).
My experience has me coming of age in the 1960’s (Pre – Vatican II) and the tremendous societal changes of that time. Experience has taught me that our society has since lost our moral compass. I have come to realize that a good society hinges upon good Fatherhood. A strong Father, along with a strong Mother, results in a strong family, which forms a strong foundation for our society and our culture.
I was taught then that “Good Fatherhood comes from knowing and experiencing God as Father, as we journey towards manly holiness as Catholic Gentlemen.” I was taught this not through my religious education, but rather through the pious example of the Knights of Columbus Council members that sponsored my parish CYO baseball league throughout my junior and senior high school years.
They expressed the theory that where Fatherhood goes, so goes the nation. Through their hours of coaching baseball, we learned the virtues of patriotism, fair play, fraternal camaraderie, and the joy that comes from God’s goodness through sport. The mentoring we received throughout those years from those Catholic Gentlemen lives with me still.
What I have come to realize is that If I’m not the Father, biological or spiritual, that God is calling me to be, then I have to humbly and honestly acknowledge that I am the problem, not society. I have to first address what I can do to improve my approach to Fatherhood. Only then can we lead the next generation of Catholic men into aiding in God’s plan for salvation.
In future articles, I hope to address our members with how we can regain our catholic focused approach to Fatherhood, for our good and the good of our society.
In this His third Commandment, God has asked we consecrate one day a week for Him, and abstain from servile works. Under the old law, the day set aside was Saturday, in memory of the creation of the world. In the new law, the day set aside is Sunday, in memory of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles on Pentecost Sunday.
The Catholic Church has consistently taught that Sunday belongs to the Lord, and the Lord’s Day should be centered on the Lord and the family. Every Sunday, Christ’s faithful come together in church to hear the Word of God and partake in the Eucharist, calling to mind the Passion and Resurrection and thanking God who “in His great mercy gave us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” (1 Pet. 1:3)
According to Eusebius of Alexandria, a fifth-century ecclesiastical writer, Sunday is the beginning of Creation, Resurrection, and a new week. This three-pronged beginning symbolizes The Holy Trinity. God has granted His people six days to work and one to pray and rest.
In 1891, in his encyclical Rerum Novarum, Pope Leo XIII states, “The rest from labor is not to be understood as mere giving way to idleness; much less must it be an occasion for spending money and for vicious indulgence, as many would have it be; but it should be rest from labor, hallowed by religion. Rest (combined with religious observances) disposes a man to forget for a while the business of his everyday life.”
Over one hundred and twenty-five years later, modern life intrudes on our attempts to keep Holy the Lord’s Day. As Knights, perhaps we should give some thought to rearranging our lives to more completely participate in the spirit of the keeping of this commandment. Could we not make a more concerted effort to put down our phones, take a break from social media and spend quality time with our families and our God?
Much of the content written here is adapted from a Sunday, July 8th, 2018, article from “The Catholic Thing” entitled “Salva Italia: Keeping the Lord”s Day Holy” by Ines A. Murzaku.