“Blessed Thomas More is more important at this moment than at any moment since his death, even perhaps the great moment of his dying…he represented at once a type, a turning point and an ultimate destiny. If there had not happened to be that particular man at that particular moment, the whole of history would have been different.”
These words of G.K. Chesterton highlight the importance of individual choices and actions that each of us makes every day. What we do today echoes in eternity. St. Thomas More is a particular man, who understood his identity as father and he allowed this to govern how he lived his life. Today’s culture emphasizes the compartmentalization of one’s private life from one’s public life, often making it difficult for men to act with integrity when these two forums come into conflict. Fatherhood is the way to integrate who one is with what one does in both private and public life.
In the particular moment that Thomas More lived, there were wars across the world that did not make much sense. It was difficult to discern whether political leaders were acting for the common good or their own benefit. Faith was in danger of becoming a matter of convenience or personal preference. Institutional and administrative success appeared to trump authentic teaching, and a personal encounter with Christ was in danger of becoming disconnected from objective truth. There was a misunderstanding about marriage.
Political authorities were attempting to change the meaning of marriage to suit the pressures of the day. The particular moment in which Thomas More lived is not so different from our own.
There is a foundational key that St. Thomas More teaches us about fatherhood that can help men be that particular man in this particular moment. Fostering a filial relationship to God the Father through Jesus Christ is essential to fatherhood today. Every man’s primary identity is that of son. It is precisely receiving son-ship as a gift from God that allows a man to fully find himself and make a sincere gift of himself in fatherhood. This filial identity is the foundation for fully mature manhood: fatherhood.
There is a busyness in life today that makes it difficult for many fathers to find moments of quiet, let alone solitude. A lack of quiet is sometimes the cost of responsibly following through on commitments, other times it is the result of the inability to say “no” to secondary demands on one’s time. It can also be the avoidance of silence by maintaining a hectic pace of life.
Men need to pray. It is necessary for a father to get time, even just a little, to be alone and silent with God their Father every day. If a man cannot or does not make some serious effort to turn to the Father as his son something is amiss.
Now is the time for heroic fatherhood. At a certain point Thomas was arrested and could no longer be the father he wanted to be. He could no longer give his children what he hoped, but he did not let that make him impotent. Fatherhood raises to a new level when, having done everything possible to provide for the family in this life, a father sets all his efforts to preparing his family for eternal life. Preparing souls for eternity, putting them into contact with God the Father of all, is heroic fatherhood.
The writer is a priest at St. Rose of Lima Parish in Portland. After completing studies in philosophy at Mount Angel Seminary and a theology degree at the Angelicum University, he completed a license degree at the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family Studies. He grew up in Lebanon, Ore., the oldest of four and is a godfather of 13.