Men, we need to revive the honor of fatherhood in western society. Without the essential element of fatherhood society is lost. Today’s post is a follow-up to a past post on fatherhood titled, “The West Has Daddy Issues!” and is going to be a part of a series of other periodic posts in the future on the topic of fatherhood. For statistics on the disaster caused by absent fathers refer to our previous post mentioned above.
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. (Acts 1:8)
These are the last words of Jesus to His disciples the moment before He ascends into heaven. From Christ’s final words we hear His final instructions for us and how we are to live our lives as Christians and fathers.
“You will be my witnesses … to the ends of the earth.”
This, in its simplicity, is no small task. Christ’s words gives us direction on how to live our lives and the foundation on which, as fathers, we should raise our children. To be a Christian witness to the ends of the earth will require of our children a certain strength of character that comes from the virtues of prudence, justice, temperance and courage. Hold on to your chair, in today’s Culture of Lust and Materialism you will need all of your resolve. It will require strength, confidence, humilmity and a for you to be the servant leader in your family.
In a recent homily at Mass our parochial vicar expounded on Matthew 23:1-12. One particular verse hung in the air throughout the mass and for days after as I meditated on its meaning.
The greatest among you must be your servant. (Matthew 23:11)
The combination of Matthew 23:11 and Acts 1:8 provides us with profound insight as to our role fathers.
As Christian fathers and servant leaders to our families, we must raise our children so that they can be a Christian witness to the world. The two verses are not mutually exclusive of each other and should work hand in hand.
Through a gift of grace, from the start of our marriage, my wife and I set goals that would lay out the road map for how we were to raise our children and help them develop strong faith, strength of character, a willingness to work and the necessary fortitude to live life joyfully with all its struggles. Only by the same grace of God were we able to know these characteristics would help our children in a world which is more challenging today than it was 29 years ago. As you embark on the path be prepared to be criticized for being “too tough” on your children or holding your children up to unreasonable standards.
I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me. (Philippians 4:13)
Would we change some things we did? Small things, perhaps and of course we made mistakes along the way. However, the greatest moments of affirmation have come from our adult children thanking us not only for sacrificing for them, but for helping them become internally strong in faith and fortitude.
We take no credit for this. The credit goes to God for only with Him can any good be accomplished.
As a father, I can tell you effort is the key. You will make mistakes. Keep on trying and persevere through the tough times. The words of St. Teresa of Calcutta holds true for us in our work as fathers.
“God does not require us to succeed, He only requires that you try.”
I can remember my wife telling my oldest at one point, “We had no idea how to be parents. You were our guinea pig.” Sometimes, I believe that did not change for any of our six children. Each child is different with unique talents and struggles.
I command you: be strong and steadfast! Do not fear nor be dismayed, for the LORD, your God, is with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:9)
As we embarked on achieving our goals for our children, we realized our ideals required actions. Goals without actions are only lofty dreams. The actions fell into categories that more often than not intersected with each other: Faith, Family Life, Character Building, Education, and Diverse experiences.
This post focuses on Faith, Family Life and Character Building. Future posts will address education and diverse experiences.
Faith is the mutual responsibility of husband and wife in which, as a father, requires leadership and teamwork. One our first responsibility as the faith leader of the family is to work in partnership with our wives to bring the family team together toward the common goal of salvation. This is a nuanced combination of leading from the front and being the servant leader in your family.
Complacency is a family destroyer and faith killer.
To bolster the effort to educate our children in the faith we carefully chose Catholic schools to educate our children, which taught Catholicism in all its fullness. This great financial and personal sacrifice was worth every penny. Although, we came to realize placing our children in Catholic school alone was not enough. We had to take responsibility for teaching our children how to pray, formally and informally and how to apply their faith in everyday life. This all started from the point they could form words and thoughts. The basics of praying as a family at dinner time, on the road as we traveled and a family rosary became a part of our life. Opportunities to teach faith based life lessons were listened for and applied each day.
Dad Tip 1: When blessing the family meal, pray spontaneously for your family and offer thanks for the many blessings and gifts you have been given in this life.
Dad Tip 2: Praying the rosary is a powerful family unifier. Allow your children to lead a decade of the rosary and each family member for their intentions at the beginning of the rosary.
Dad Tip 3: Pray the St. Michael prayer aloud with the family at the start of a car ride.
Dad Tip 4: Attending Mass on Sundays and holy days is not optional. This included finding a church while on vacation.
Dad Tip 5: Take responsibility for bedtime prayers.
Family life, as a family with strong southern roots, centered around eating together each night and creating opportunities for family gatherings. Strong bonds are built through the breaking of bread. Meal time was often a boisterous time with stories of the day’s activities being shared or with the good natured joking and teasing that goes on when we gathered around the table. Dinner was not a time of public reprimand, although many life lessons were taught over a shared meal with a captive audience. We rarely let an opportunity for a “life lesson” pass without teaching morality and faith. As a bonus, we find it is now the thing that keeps our adult children coming home after they have gone out into the world.
Dad Tip 6: Ask open-ended questions about each child’s day and activities.
Dad Tip 7: Public praise teaches life lessons.
Dad Tip 8: Everyone gets a chance to share and talk.
Dad Tip 9: Spend mandatory family time together away from the table. Movie time, prayer time, outdoor activities, sightseeing and more are great times for bonding as a family unit.
Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more. (Luke 12:48)
Character – one of the attributes or features that make up and distinguish an individual
As a people who proclaim their faith, all eyes will be on you and your family. This in of itself will present its own challenges. Society will rejoice in your failures and denigrate your successes. Fear not, for all things are possible with God. Luke 12:48 has, over the past 30 years, become a theme interwoven in life as we have guided our family.
The effort to build character has centered on faith first, as mentioned above, integrity and the dignity of hard work.
Integrity – firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values : incorruptibility
Integrity as a character trait does not develop in one single activity or action. It is developed through a lifetime of actions. It, in my opinion, is one of the highest compliments one person can give another. Men, be aware that your children watch your actions and weigh them against your words. The two must line up. Hold yourself accountable and you hold your children accountable. If you make a mistake, own up to it, apologize and amend your actions.
I know, my God, that you put hearts to the test and that you take pleasure in integrity. With a whole heart I have willingly given all these things, and now with joy I have seen your people here present also giving to you generously. (1 Chronicles 29:17)
Dad Tip 10: Honesty is not optional.
Dad Tip 11: Integrity is seen in how we treat others. Remember the golden rule.
Dad Tip 12: Be generous, especially with the people that serve us in our needs.
The dignity of hard work today has been lost on many of our children. So many are coddled that when they enter the workplace, they lack the fortitude to embrace their work and do a job well. Our example, as providers, will teach our children much about the dignity of hard work. Not in so much as how much money we provide, but in our willingness to lay down our lives for our families and work each day without complaint.
God places [Man] in the garden. There he lives “to till it and keep it.” Work is not yet a burden, but rather the collaboration of man and woman with God in perfecting the visible creation.
Our example of collaboration is not enough, we must teach our children from an early age that, no matter the field, work is dignified. Doing yard work, raking leaves, cutting grass, cleaning their room, helping in the kitchen and when a teenager age a part time job.
The father of a just person will exult greatly; whoever begets a wise son will rejoice in him. (Proverbs 23:24)
Teaching the dignity of hard work is also be indicated in how we treat the laborers that serve us each day. Theses “laborers” often go about their work with little or no recognition and thanks. My wife’s grandmother recognized this and in the days the garbage truck would roll through her neighborhood would great the workers with ice cold water and snacks. She did this with no request for thanks. It is an example that stuck with my wife long after her grandmother had passed away.
Dad Tip 13: School work and education are primary. This is their first “job.”
Dad Tip 14: A summer job during high school is not an option.
Dad Tip 15: Everyone has chores around the house.
Dad Tip 16: Breaking a sweat is good.
Dad Tip 17: No complaining allowed.
Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)
All of these things taught without love are for naught. God is the source and summit of love. As our children’s earthly example of love, we are an imperfect mirror of God’s love for us. Our love for our children and how we form them as Christians should guide them to God the Father. This love should inspire them as they offer their gifts and talents to Him in their labors as adults.
God is good.
JMJ, pray for us,