“See these people? Their children abandon them. They have no family. YOU are the ones who take care of them. So take care of your family first.”
These words still echo in my head.
I was humbled to spend a month of mission at Saint Mother Teresa’s house for the dying in Kolkata, India, a free hospice for the poor. While there, I saw people on the at the edge of their existence. I learned MANY things serving there, but those words shared by one Missionary of Charity especially penetrate my experiences as the crux.
Our culture places international aid and altruism on a pedestal of admiration. But these words told me I could be eradicating the same poverty of Kolkata right in my own home in America — by loving my family. The house for the dying would cease to exist if people could do one thing: love the people closest to them.
But we all know the people closest to us are the hardest to love.
Many of us, particularly in America, have deep wounds from family. A family is supposed to be the main channel through which our inherent identity and worth are divinely gifted to us. However, we often turn away from them, ignore them and hurt them. A broken family is considered normal in our society, and we cover the pain by saying no family is perfect. Judging those broken relationships is never the answer, but tolerance for our brokenness isn’t fixing anything.
You know what I think CAN fix the problem? Fatherhood.
The most perfect relationship we have is with a loving Father: God. Men, we must aspire toward “our father.” By this I mean that we need to both pursue the perfect Father AND cultivate the fatherhood ingrained in us. They may sound different, but they are ultimately the same journey.
The role of the father is to do whatever it takes, even lay down his life, to make each of his family members into the best versions of themselves. But men have stopped thinking, “What can I do for my family” and think instead, “What can I do for me?”
Unfortunately, fatherhood—and masculinity itself—is under attack. To separate us from knowing God in His fatherhood, the devil tears down the earthly manifestation of fatherhood. As he boils fatherly virtue out of men, he inculcates a spirit of passivity. We men were made for action, for giving our skills and selves to others, but the value of self-sacrifice for the good of the other is being usurped by the desire for self-indulgence. We are bombarded with images of dopey, boring, lazy men that have been sensationalized to rally us behind them. I challenge you to show me an example of heroic sacrifice in the latest Justin Bieber video or Kanye West lyric. We are losing sight of pursuing “our father,” and there is a dire cost.
Fathers, husbands, brothers, and sons: by not aspiring toward “our father” — our personal roles as fathers as well as the Father Himself — we are failing the women entrusted to us. Of course, fathers aren’t the sole problems in families, but I think we are becoming a cancer in familial health. I have encountered so many women who are broken by their negative relationships with men. Many are very close to me. Many are broken BECAUSE of me. We are feeding our sisters lies about who they are, what they are worth and who they should aspire to be. We are breaking down our mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters. We’re sending them running deeper into themselves, when we should be cheering them on in the race toward Love.
We are sacrificing our families on our altar of self-indulgence when we should be sacrificing FOR them.
I gained MANY insights in Kolkata, but the only thing I brought back for myself was a statue of the Holy Family to remind me that, if I forget everything else, I will remember this: Your family comes first. If they are the hardest to love, praise God; your love will be stronger.
On my last day in India, I knelt before the tabernacle and made a vow of commitment to the virtue of Fatherhood. I know if I develop the character of a good father, God WILL enable me to affirm TRUE identity in my bride and my children.
Men, I encourage you to do the same. Commit to the virtues of a true father.
- Practice sacrifice – If you can sacrifice in small ways, it becomes easier to do it in larger ones.
- Do the difficult thing – Chase your discomfort. Make decisions that are hard, but RIGHT.
- Find fraternity – Good brothers are vital to challenge and support each other in virtue.
- Honor Women – Show women you recognize and admire their intrinsic worth, especially when you have nothing to gain for it.
- Pray – Ask for unity with the Father that you may be provided for in your own fatherhood.
Let’s stop weighing our families down and start lifting them up to Heaven. Let’s refuse to indulge. Let’s refuse to tolerate our brokenness. Brothers, for the sake of our families, let’s aspire toward finding our true Father.
Holy Family, pray for us.
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