7/31/2014 9:35:00 AM Fatherhood requires selflessness modeled on Christ's
SALEM — In my nine years of being a father, some of the most meaningful and thought-provoking books I have read about fatherhood were written for priests.
Take, for instance, Bishop Massimo Camisasca’s, Father: Will There Still Be Priests in the Church’s Future?, in which he says “to become a father means to no longer think of one’s time and possessions as one’s own. We thus leave behind a comfortable notion of life and, imitating Christ, become capable of giving ourselves and what we have received.”
My fatherhood has to embrace the same calling, that is, a certain imitation of Christ: the giving over of my time and my possessions for the common good of our home and trying to live with joy the total gift of self that being a husband and a father demands.
In preparing couples for marriage, I have often shared that one of the most challenging things in marriage and fatherhood is the depth of the gift of self. Nothing completely prepares you for the intricacies of your vocation. I must enter into the drama, embrace it and accept it in order to experience the joy that Christ offers me in every moment and through every circumstance. His companionship in my fatherhood sustains me on this path.
Christ’s proposal to follow him, to be his witness as a father challenges us all to the core of our being. In the Gospel we hear “he who loses his life for my sake will find it” (Mt. 10:39), and “He must increase, but I must decrease” (Jn. 3:30). St. Paul says, “it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me (Gal. 2.20)”. These words from Sacred Scripture have come alive to me as a father.
They resonate, challenge and provoke me, calling me to take seriously the nature of my vocation as a father. The beauty of this proposal reawakens in me the desire to love as he loves, a love that is without limits and total. Fatherhood, to be lived to its fullness, requires a yes on my part, a yes which is ongoing, daily, and at times moment to moment.
The core struggle of the disciple and father is internal, not external. I sometimes find it difficult to remain patient and to freely give myself. The amount of energy required to be a father is at times overwhelming. I find it necessary to pray for the grace to be a presence in my children’s lives, knowing that my own efforts are inadequate and sheer will power is not enough. I must “go all in” and completely depend upon Christ. I must become a beggar at every moment so I may live fatherhood as a presence. The tendency to be selfish, which is promoted by the dominate mentality of the culture, is something that assails us all to some degree or another. Marriage and family in their authenticity challenge this mentality and call spouses out of themselves to be at the service of one another.
The end result of this gift of self, though, is true happiness and joy! I become no longer fixated upon myself but upon the other, which is what Christ proposes to us as the remedy for self-absorption. Ultimately, it is Christ who sustains my fatherhood, who helps me to live it and embrace it in all of its intensity and drama. Living fatherhood in this way requires that we undergo a process of maturation which our initial encounter with Christ has set in motion. The truth of fatherhood is an invitation to freedom. May Christ lead us, guide us and show us the meaning of our fatherhood through our dependence upon him.
The writer, who lives in Salem with his wife and their four children, is a teacher at Central Catholic High School. He is a graduate of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies in Marriage and Family.