Letter to Men for Father’s Day

My dear brothers in Christ,

On this day when we celebrate fathers and express our deep heart-felt appreciation for the ways we have been blessed in our fatherhood, and blessed through our own fathers, I wanted to take this opportunity to speak to all men, who, in various ways, are called to participate in God’s own paternity, and thereby help to father the hearts of all those entrusted to our care.

These are difficult and trying times for men. As I was growing up there were several competing answers to that all-important question that lay deep in every boy’s heart: “What is a man?” Like most boys, I learned by example, by imitating the men and older boys around me, which included many of the stars and heroes that paraded across the TV screen each day. Being distant from Jesus Christ–who is the only true measure of every man–I and my peers were very gullible to some of the popular counterfeit images of masculinity that caught our attention and competed for our allegiance. While one can always find something good in every man, in this fallen world one also finds plenty of brokenness. But when one is young, impressionable and unwise, how does one discern what to embrace and what to reject? There is such a need today for Jesus Christ to heal us and lay new foundations in our masculine hearts.

Rebecca Hagelin, in an article she wrote in June of 2009, on “the media’s attack on fatherhood,” expresses part of the problem very well:

Turn on the television and watch just about any channel for one evening and a particularly disgusting pattern begins to emerge: the “dad” is often portrayed as wimpy, ignorant and a pushover. Everyone is smarter and more mature than dad.

The unmistakable message behind such carefully crafted ads and images is that dads are disposable–they don’t really contribute much to the family other than being the brunt of jokes.

Sadly, “dad” seems to be the only person in modern society who it is acceptable to belittle. As a wife and mother of two young men who are being raised in an increasingly anti-male culture, I’d like to say a few words to America’s dads: “We need you.” Loving fathers are critical to the development of children.

Dads are not an “optional” family accessory to be tossed in the corner like a pair of dirty socks or trampled on like a door mat. We should try to correct the attitudes of women who treat them that way and of any man who has bought the lie and has started assuming the “loser” role. We need to let our boys know that one of the greatest contributions they can make as adults is to be strong, loving fathers who are committed to their families. To good husbands and dads everywhere, thank you for what you contribute to your families and to society. And to wives and mothers, let’s make sure we affirm the men in our lives and teach our children to respect them too. A good man is a priceless blessing from God. Let’s remember to treat them like the treasures they are.

Along side the portrayal of fathers as fumbling idiots, gullible pushovers and effeminate weaklings–which attempt to immasculate men and beat them down–there is another prevailing image of manhood which tries to present itself as an alternative, usually going by the name of “machoism.” While there are several versions of this image floating around, put frankly, they are for the most part, different ways of becoming an arrogant, selfish, unfeeling ego-maniac.

As a man who has been, like so many, wounded in this cultural battle–I also know, together with you, that there is another image of manhood and fatherhood, a true image that the world does not always understand and even sometimes rejects, but which corresponds to the deepest yearning of our hearts: and that image is found in Jesus Christ. In Christ there is real hope of the complete recovery of our true vocation and identity as men, and it is Christ who holds out His hand to each of us to lead and disciple us in the ways of true christian manhood.

Though painful at first, I was so glad when God washed away my “house of sand,” all those false images of a man. But I became even more happy when the new, strong foundation of true masculinity in Christ began to solidify deep in my spirit. As Jesus said to Lazarus when raising him from the tomb: “Come forth!” Jesus was saying to me, like the words of a popular song, “Rise up O’ man of God, be done with lesser things–give now your heart, your mind, your strength, to serve the King of kings.”

Thanks to Christ and the armor of Christ, we can be winners in the battle, assured of victory and heavenly glory. And our weapons are not those of the world, but of the Spirit. We become strong leaders and fulfill our rightful role and vocation as men when we become like our Servant King: great lovers of God and great lovers of our families and one another. Our joy and greatness lies, not in proudly living for ourselves, but in conforming our lives more and more to the generous, self-giving, sacrificial love of Christ Crucified. Our leadership is not about power to dominate and control, but the greatest power of humble, servant love–to lead and draw all hearts to Christ. Each of us knows that our life is not worth living unless there is something we love greater than ourselves, something that is worth dying for–this why we honor and admire soldiers. Let us together rise up men of God and give our lives for the greatest good of all: the spreading of the Kingdom of God that leads to eternal Life. Let’s die for this, let’s die for Christ, let’s die loving our families and neighbors into Life Everlasting.

I’d like to end with a prayer to St. Joseph which I often pray. We would do well to take this godly man as our heavenly patron, the one who was not only privileged to live so close to Christ, but the one who also helped to educate and raise Christ into a man.

“O my beloved St. Joseph, adopt me as your child, take care of my salvation, watch over me day and night, preserve me from the occasion of sin, obtain for me purity of soul and body. Through your intercession with Jesus grant me a spirit of sacrifice, a burning love for Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, and a sweet tender love for Mary, my mother. St. Joseph, be with me living, be with me dying, and lead me safely to the kingdom of God. Amen.”

God love you,

Fr. Steven

Leave a Reply