What does that even mean, Catholic fatherhood? Isn’t being a Father pretty much the same no matter where you are faith-wise, don’t all fathers want the same thing for their kids…..Well no, not really.
Let’s start with roughly defining our terms…what is a father.
We’ll go with the 2 basic definitions, there is the obvious one, a man who donated biological material in the act of procreation that helped create a new life. Secondly, it’s a man who is an important figure in the origin and shaping of another person, someone who gives care and protection.
Considering I’m speaking on this from a Catholic perspective, we’ll skip what it means to be a secular father and really dive into the ideas, goals and behaviors of Catholic fatherhood. As we all know there is a correct 4 step order in relation to having children and it goes as follows; Courtship-Engagement-Marriage-Children. The house, car, great job/career aren’t nearly as important in the timeline as the order we previously listed, although they are important in the overall scheme of life and child rearing, they are not NESSESARY for the proper and fruitful rearing of children.
Let’s take the first step in the 4:
Courtship- In a society where dating/courtship has simply become a recreational event, we as Catholics must view it for what it really is; a job interview. While courtship should be extremely enjoyable, the thrill of getting to know another person on a deep and emotional level, ultimately you are in this relationship in order to find a spouse, not to kill time. You and your bf/gf should really dive into the nitty gritty of all topics(obviously not on the first date HAHA), things like, pre-marital sexual relations, contraception during marriage, number of children, religion of the children, will the children even have a faith, who will work, etc. Now most of these are a given if you’re living out an authentically Catholic life, no contraception, no pre-marital sexual relations, children will all be baptized Catholic and raised as such.
Work out how you and your perspective spouse, are going to live out a unified faith. Learn how to pray together and over each other. Create the habit of a shared faith, a faith lived out in your daily life and in your relationship. Although this is a short comment, I cannot overstate how vitally important this is!
Getting these hard issues out of the way pre-engagement will allow for a much more passionate and intimate engagement. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve hear my friends or fellow Catholics tell me how they wish they would’ve covered these hard topics before they became too emotionally invested into the other person. If you’re not completely capable of finding common ground on these and other issues, you have the opportunity to either court someone else and break off the relationship or use the time you’re “in a relationship” with them as a work in progress of a sort, the time will allow further discernment and discussion of these hard issues.
I get asked from time to time, “what is an appropriate time frame for dating before I should ask her to marry me?” or “how long is too long?”. Now this is just my personal opinion, but we’ll go with it because I’ve seen similar times from many other and much smarter Catholic speakers. I would say that a relationship that has yet to make its way to the next level in our 4-step process shouldn’t last longer than 2 years (obviously not accounting for things like military deployments and other out of the normal situations). If you and your bf/gf can’t get the important issues resolved or settled, or you find one or both of you aren’t “ready” for the next step; that’s a pretty clear indication that one or both of you aren’t ready for the demands of married life (and as amazing as married life is, because IT IS, there are some serious and big demands during marriage).
Next is Engagement- OK, so you’ve got it all covered, all the issues have been resolved and you and your fiancé are both on the same page, what’s next? Use the time to obviously fulfil any and all requirements for a Catholic Sacramental union. Honestly there isn’t a whole bunch that is left to be done if you’ve really utilized the courtship as it really is intended to be.
Marriage!!!! Boom, you’ve made it, you found your spouse, they said “I DO”. Now what… Well next is babies!! Obviously, it need not happen the moment you get married, but the entire purpose of dating, engagement and marriage is not so much about being in love and finding someone to spend your life with, although that should be the case; marriage is about babies!
Go make some cute, adorable, chubby cheeked babies. They ARE THE ABSOLUTE GREATEST! The more the better, the sooner the better. You’re not getting any younger and neither is your spouse. At one time I wasn’t thinking this way and my wife kept asking me when we were going to start our family, everything was in place, we were great, our faith was great, we had good jobs, nice-ish cars, great place to live, what was I waiting for. “I’m just not ready yet”, that was what I had always replied with, well my wife being the absolute stud she is, she called me out. After knowing me so well from a lifetime of moments together, she asked me an even better question, “what does ‘ready’ look like?” I had no response, I had never sat down and thought about what “ready” meant, I looked at our life together and all that we had done, that was “ready”. 40 weeks later our daughter was born.
Children- Now you’ve done it! Baby/ies are on the way! What now, what to do, how to do it…SO
The first step in being a good father is to know what you know, and to know what you don’t. Get better at what you know, and get a handle on how to know what you don’t.
What makes fatherhood so special isn’t having a mini-you walking around the earth, it’s about creating life, and shaping that life to love Christ the way you do!
Get your baby baptized and take to heart the commitment you make to Holy Mother Church and to God. “You have asked to have your child baptized. In doing so you are accepting the responsibility of training him in the practice of the faith. It will be your duty to bring him up to keep God’s commandments as Christ taught us, by loving God and our neighbor. Do you clearly understand the commitment you are undertaking?” You obviously reply in the affirmative.
You’ve just made a deal and now you’ve got to live up to it. I am as involved in the religious education and upbringing of my children as they are, as I’m the one giving it to them. My job as husband, and as father is to be the spiritual head of my household, my family. Just as Christ is head of the Church, and Priests are the head of their congregation, so you are the head of your family.
Pray daily with your children, pray daily over your children, pray daily for your children. Just as there are three in a marriage, (you, her, God) there are three in a parental relationship (you, them, God).
Make a personal relationship with God a daily behavior not a weekly inconvenience. Attend mass weekly at least and receive the sacraments as often as possible. Through your example your children will learn how to live their faith out in their daily lives.
I hear many parents tell me that while they hold a version of “faith” in God, they don’t want to “impose” that upon their children, they want them to “freely” pick their own faith.
DO NOT DO THIS! Obviously if we hold a faith and we hold that faith to be True, why would you withhold that from your children? If we have the key to everlasting life, why wouldn’t you expose your children to that every possible moment?
As a father, you should hope, pray and act in the best interests of your children, even when, especially when they don’t want it. There are hard times ahead, there are painful moments, there will be sadness. However, none of these moments compare to the accumulation of blessings and gifts that your children will provide.
Men be masculine! Women be feminine! Raise your boys to be men, raise your daughters to be women, teach them every day by your example and your words. Men teach your sons and expect your sons to be the men you attempted to be and raise your daughters to be the wife you have. Fathers take your sons shooting, hiking, running, exercise with them. Teach them to tie a tie, mow the lawn, fix something that’s broken, and to build something worth having. Take your daughters out on dates, show them how men treat women, although you’re the first man to love her, you won’t be the last, show her a love that is hard to find but worth waiting for. Obviously, men shouldn’t teach their daughters how to paint nails and do hair (that’s your spouse’s job) but you are as equally important in the lives of your daughters as your sons. Fathers teach sons to be a man just as wives teach daughters to be women.
Lastly and most importantly, do all things with and through Christ as he is the ultimate good; no one can come to the Father except through Him.