“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. What we do today echoes in eternity. St. Thomas More is a particular man, who understood his identity as a father and allowed this to govern 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 come into conflict. Fatherhood is the way to integrate who one is with what one does in both private and public life.
In the moment that Thomas More lived, there were wars that didn’t make sense. It was difficult to discern whether political leaders were for the common good or themselves. 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. Political authorities were attempting to change the meaning of marriage to suit the pressures of the day. The 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. 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.
Life today makes it difficult for 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.
Men need to pray. It is necessary for a father to get time to be alone and silent with God every day.
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. He grew up in Lebanon, Ore., the oldest of four and is a godfather of 13.