Catholic men need to “man up”.
As men we have been ordained to be spiritual leaders. Whether our vocational call is to the priesthood, or marriage and family life, all Catholic men are called to be the shepherd of their flock.
Men, are you the spiritual leaders of your house? Can your wife rely upon you to be the “priest” of your domestic church (ecclesia domestica)?
How Important is it for Men to Lead?
There is the oft-cited Swiss study from the 1990’s which directly speaks to this question of men leading their families. While the study is not specific to only Catholics, it still presents a compelling argument.
When dads attend Church regularly, 74 percent of their children will attend Church as adults (33 percent regularly and 41 occasionally). Only 26 percent will fall away from their faith.
If dads are irregular attendees, even if mom goes every week, only 3 percent of their children will be regular attendees in adulthood (with 59 percent occasional) and 38 percent will no longer attend at all.
Lastly, if dad does not practice his faith at all, even if mom takes the children regularly to church, only 2 percent will become regular weekly attendees, with 37 percent irregularly attending and a staggering 61 percent completely abandoning their faith!
A Father’s Duty to His Children
St. Paul teaches us in his Letter to the Ephesians:
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up with the training and instruction of the Lord. (Eph 6:4)
The Catechism of the Catholic Church clearly addresses this responsibility as well:
Parents have the first responsibility for the education of their children. (CCC 2223)
Through the grace of the sacrament of marriage, parents receive the responsibility and privilege of evangelizing their children…they should associate them from their tenderest years with the life of the Church.
A wholesome family life can foster interior dispositions that are a genuine preparation for a living faith and remain a support for it throughout one’s life. (CCC 2225)
A Father’s Life of Prayer
Men can look to our Lord’s foster-father St. Joseph as a role model. We read in scripture that good St. Joseph always sought what was best for our Blessed Mother and for our Lord. He was a true leader, protector and provider. He was also a man of prayer.
“…an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.” (Mt. 1:20)
St. Joseph would not have been predisposed to receive such a message from Gabriel the archangel had he not been in a state of grace. Additionally, one wonders if the “dream” in which the angel appeared to St. Joseph may not have simply been deep prayer, a time in which Joseph would have been open to receiving the message he needed to hear.
We also know from the gospels that St. Joseph led his family in their liturgical life:
When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord. (Lk 2:22)
Now every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover. (Lk 2:41)
While St. Joseph appears ever so briefly in Sacred Scriptures, there is no doubting that he was a man of prayer who answered the call to be the spiritual head of his family…a family which was made up of the Blessed Virgin and the Son of God no less!
Real Men Go to Mass!
There is no disputing that we as fathers must lead our families. We must lead our families to heaven by leading our families in our faith. The first step is to lead our families to Mass every Sunday!
I once heard a deacon state during a homily, “If you don’t like coming to Mass for one hour a week, you’re going to hate heaven…it’s for eternity!” He then paused for a moment and followed up with, “Of course, if you hate coming to Mass you may not have to worry about spending eternity in heaven.” Ouch! The truth can hurt.
Missing Mass without a valid reason (such as illness or caring for an ill loved one) is a mortal sin. Mortal sin separates you from God. If you die in a state of mortal sin, you go to Hell.
As husbands and fathers, we need to assume the responsibility for those in our care. Our example will either help those in our charge to grow in their faith or it will hurt them.
Fathers, here are a few things we should do as the spiritual heads of our families:
Go to Mass every Sunday and every Holy Day of Obligation. Make it your responsibility to get everyone up and out of the house on time. Do not delegate or shirk this God-given duty.
Take your family to Confession regularly. This may be once a month or it may be weekly. You must determine frequency. Many holy priests and respected lay persons in the past have suggested the spiritual benefit of frequent Confession.
Lead your family in daily prayer. Morning prayers, evening prayers, grace before meals and most of all, the family rosary. Fr. Peyton used to say, “The family that prays together stays together!” Take this to heart. Our Blessed Mother at Fatima asked us to pray the rosary for peace. Let this prayer of peace begin in our own homes.
Lastly, be men of virtue. Derived from the Latin word for manliness (virtus), virtue is simply moral excellence or goodness. Demonstrate such traits as humility, charity, patience and kindness toward your children so that they can see Christ in you and thereby seek a life in Him.
As always, your comments and feedback are welcomed.