Men: Be Courageous

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Buckle-up. This might be a bumpy ride.

In my last post, I explored the topic of keeping your kids Catholic in a world gone mad. For the six people that “liked” it on the Facebook social plug-in, I say, “thank you.” Despite its relative anonymity, we had an interesting conversation unfold in the combox. For starters, I relented on a minor point: it is not a “facile” task to raise your kids Catholic. In fact, it is very difficult.

That said, I had asked what we could learn from someone who had already sojourned the difficult transition from infancy to pre-pubescence to puberty to the-in-between and finally to adulthood. She went by the handle “Perinatal Loss Nurse”, and by the end of the conversation we all felt a collective “loss”. Of course, I am boldly speaking for the “we”, but what emerged was a very difficult but common story of a mother who really did everything she could, and yet somehow her kids decided to walk away from the faith.

My heart breaks.

Then I asked, “Anyone want to comment about the role of fathers or the lack thereof?”

What followed was what I was looking for. Really, I knew it was lurking. Now, I hope I don’t offend “Perinatal Loss Nurse” or her husband. She seemed open to sharing, so I will share with you what she said:

“I bought my husband Steve Woods’ book on Catholic fathering (a great book) as a gift but he didnt open it til after the implosion. When he finally did, the first 3 or so chapters describe fatherhood in terms of being a good husband. Reading that book must have felt like getting stabbed with knives, he could only read a few pages at a time, at one point he said “when did you buy this?” ..it was years earlier…too bad he didnt read it.”

(What I’m about to say is not a direct commentary on Perinatal Loss Nurse or her husband. I don’t know enough of the details. Rather, her comment is simply a seque to what is next.)

In a long-forgotten post of mine, which ruffled a few feathers, I talked about the utter flaccidity of the modern male in his pursuit of a bride. Well, I’m here today to tell you that it doesn’t get much better once he drags her back to his cave. It all started a long time ago, and I am even willing to grant that many of the reasons a male today finds himself in such a neutered position are caused by forces external to him. I’m not here to give you a long history lesson, but I will recap for you the history of manhood in a brief picture show of pop-culture’s take on “being dad”:

Late 80's
Early 90's

 

mid to late 90's

A few of these shows spill over into the 2000’s, but I think you get the drift of what has been happening to the idea of “dad” over the last 30 years. If you were going to use a few adjectives or verbs to describe the dad of the last three decades, you would use: idiot, farting, inept, pleasure seeking, out-of-shape and irreligious. A New York Times columnist rightly identifies the not-so-over-the-top stereotype as “The Doofus Dad“.

I’m with him.

Where the heck did Steve Douglas of My Three Sons go? What happened to decisive leadership, paternal mentorship, and a stern yet loving hand of correction? Tragically, the forces of secular feminism in our culture have embraced the impotent man, no longer able to impregnate his family with the vital male (shriek, gasp) leadership for which it longs. Instead, we now get shaved-chest dad, HBO-subscribing dad, cut-the-lawn-on-Sunday dad, or check-out-that-lady’s-chest dad. And sadly, this idea of manhood and fatherhood has too long permeated American culture whereby now it has become acceptable even justifiable for men to act like brute animals; or worst yet little children. If that wasn’t enough, the secular feminists joined in the chuckle, dancing on the pole of careerism, thereby ensuring the family took a permanent back-seat in our society.

Child: “Mommy? Daddy? Where are you?”

Silence.

So what do we do?

Me and my daughter at her First Communion classes.

I can tell you. This is easy. Unlike raising kids, taking responsibility for your own life is easy. Okay, maybe easier. The point is that as men, we have to step up to the plate. Do it. Stop acting so weak, so powerless, and so immune to the world that is going on around you. Monthly fishing trips, ESPN, CoorsLight, and late hours at the office won’t surround you in the hospital when you are on your death bed. Hopefully, your family will. Life is not about the sum-total of all the stuff you can collect, but about the sum-total of all the souls you lead to heaven. That job starts in your home.

Invest in them.

Pray with them. Live a holy life in front of them. Ask for forgiveness. Know your faith. Go to Confession. Teach the faith to your children. Read books about parenting, and ask questions about being a dad…and about being a good husband. Be a good husband. Worker harder than you ever thought was possible. Ask for help: from the Lord, Our Lady, and St. Joseph.

In a phrase, be courageous.

Brent Stubbs

Brent Stubbs

is a father of five (+ 1 in heaven), husband of one, convert, and a generally interested person. He has a BA in Theology, studied graduate philosophy, has an MBA, is a writer (or so he tells himself) and prefers his coffee black. His website is Almost Not Catholic. His Twitter handle is @2bcatholic. His favorite color is blue.

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11 thoughts on “Men: Be Courageous”

  1. Avatar

    Reading this reminds me of my own childhood as the youngest of 8 in a seemingly solid Catholic family. I was catechized well, Baltimore style for my first 6 years, actually remember the original Latin Mass from the first time around, and was an altar server–or–dare I say it–altar BOY–for 4 years and God was ever on my mind and real to me.

    Yet I left. What I did not mention is that my mother literally did a “Martin Luther” on us all (sharing her time between a liberal Lutheran congregation and the local Assemblies of God) and my dad did–well nothing. At first he used to argue theology occasionally with her, but that soon stopped, and he (a convert when they married) simply quit going to Mass altogether. While I was in college a family crisis brought him back to confession and Mass, and around 10 years later her too, and when she passed away they were united in the Faith once again. But by that time the 6 youngest of us were no longer Catholic, nor my oldest brother, now deceased. 3 of us have returned–2 of us after decades away–and of the other 3, one is an evangelical Christian, one Jewish/New Age, and the other an agnostic. My oldest brother died as a very nominal Baptist, and only 1 of the 8 remained devoutly Catholic during all of this.

    Point? If my dad had simply stepped up to the plate, and done what he vowed to do when he became Catholic and married my mom, which was to raise his children in the Faith even if she resisted it, or if he had set me aside and encouraged me to continue being an altar boy instead of, at her suggestion, “why don’t you just quit?” If he had done any of those things, even in my divided family, I think it very likely would have kept me Catholic. And perhaps even a priest.

    My dad will be 90 this week and cried with me when I was confirmed in 2006. I love and appreciate him, and that was indeed our closest moment on this earth. It is just too bad that it was 35 years late, and that I am no longer qualified for what may have been my original calling due to events during those many years away.

    Real point? I become deeply envious just now seeing a picture of you being a true model of a Catholic Christian father to your little girl. No one knows how much difference that can make. People can usually take for granted the support of their moms–but those who get it from their dads are blessed indeed. And I do think it is the missing key ingredient in so many cases. Brent if you had been my dad it would have meant two things–one, it would make you incredibly old by now HEHE, and two, I might have not strayed, or if I had, not so far and for so long. God bless you for sharing this needed post.

  2. Avatar

    This is good article. I would just like to say that blaming everything on secular feminists misses the point. It’s just another excuse. My parents split when I was pretty young. My Dad was everything, but an actual man. It was my Mum who had to step in and take charge, because nobody else was going to. I think the reason why women have taken over is because men sit by and do nothing. Just look at the recent graduation rates in the U.S. Women have more degrees than men now, and are more likely to go to graduate school than men.

    We know what this means. They start earning more and basically become the head of the family. This is not a bad thing, if men were equally driven. It’s creating an imbalance where you have successful women and trophy husbands.

  3. Avatar

    I remember hearing about a study that investigated the correlation between parental faith practices and how their adult children practice or don’t practice some kind of faith. In a nut shell–parents who have no faith or no faith practices (i.e. attending church, regular prayer) have children who grow up to have no faith practices. If the mother has some sort of faith, children are more likely to as well. If the father, with or without the mother, practices some faith the children are much more likely to grow up practicing their faith as well. Of course, highest was when both the mother and father practiced their faith. It stuck with me because it was the father who was much more likely to impact their children’s faith life into adulthood. Wish I could remember more about this, but it was a long time ago.

  4. Avatar
    Perinatal Loss Nurse

    I wrote a response this morning and my computer ate it…maybe it wasnt meant to be especailly now that I read the other responses.

    Mr Evans, I am also envious when I see a child being raised by a dependable father with a faith – I totally get what you are saying.

    My husband has long lashed out at radical secular feminism exactly the way Savvy described but I am not a radical secular feminist (OK, yea Im a little radical but in a good way)so I never understood how that applied to our family. I yearned for real leadership as in “know more than me, do better than me, set the bar high and let me improve just trying to jump at it” but we seemed to acquiesce to the mediocre way too often.

    We once signed up for a Bible study through the Catholic Church and when we got there, he saw through the window that it was ALL old women there, he refused to enter and we went home. WHERE WERE THE MEN? They really failed us…when my husband started to slip, there was noone there to catch him and hold him accountable in a manly way.

    I’m really struck in our society not just by the doofus dad images like you showed but also in what society says should make a man happy. Open a Men’s magazine and the images say that if you are successful you will have great outdoor adventures (with other cool men, not little kids), own slick things (especially expensive watches), have sex with hot women (you are not married to who havent had your babies) and if you are way cool you might also play in a band. There is no room in this for sick babies, sometimes needy wives, goofy tedius tasks and Mass.

    When men feel unhappy, the world is very fast to explain what the quick and easy fix would be. When we imploded, he was convinced that I was what stood between him and happiness (and the kids would be “fine” since people get divorced every day). I fought the whole thing tooth and nail because I knew that his momentary “happiness” would lead to years of abject misery for everyone.

    I have been involved in an online support for couples who experienced midlife meltdown and of them, about 2% return to their families before the damage done becomes irreversable. If we were members of a church that allowed quickie divorce and remarriage, it would have surely happened. Even when he had no lingering fondness for me in any form, he knew that the path he was considering would prevent valid reception of Eucharist and that started his journey back.

    I still think that Steve Wood has it right in his book, if you strive to be a really good husband, the dad stuff flows like a natural spring and everyone benefits. Maybe part of being a good husband is helping other men be good husbands, good leaders, good examples.

    My husband has worked his way out of the pit with the strength of the Sacraments. Life still has its struggles but when our adult children needed us badly in the last few years, we were able to help them as a solid set of parents, not broken individuals with divided loyalties and in that God triumphed.

  5. Avatar

    I’m surprised not to have read in the article or the comments the classic phrase of good fatherhood and husbandhood: The best thing a man can do to be a good father to his children is to be the best husband he can to their mother.

  6. Avatar

    I am not quite sure how to respond to this post. I do feel it is very important for the parents to live out their faith and disciple their kids. We were not Catholics when we were raising our children, but we were evangelical Christians. We spent time everyday praying with them and teaching them. Two of the children never left the faith. One did leave the faith. He is the one that always had to test everything. However, after a few years God opened his eyes to the darkness in his life. One of the things God used was the contrast of non-Christian families with our family and the families at our particular church. It really showed him the dramatic difference. God also used other things. Basically , I feel, we can be really faithful in bringing our kids up in the faith, but it is God who has to open their eyes. God does use means and He does use a Dad’s and Mom’s faithfulness and example for sure. But I have seen kids loose the faith. My son’s best friend left the faith when his Mom died. College has a big challenge for believers. Basically in the college years kids have to make the faith their own. We have since become Catholics and the son that had left the faith for a while is the one that is considering the priesthood; he lives in a home who has as its focus the discernment of vocation. I basically have seen the unbelievable power of prayer and the need for it with our kids.

  7. Avatar

    As a Boomer who was raised and educated as a Catholic, but who became an atheist while attending a Catholic university back in the seventies, all I can say is, parents–“Don’t beat yourselves up about it.”

    I was on track to leaving the Catholic Church before I started Catholic high school. Yes, I had begun to question Catholic doctrine around the age of twelve. I received an excellent education in Catholic high school. There was nothing overly Vatican IIish or otherwise hinky about it. I simply learned how to think, and I couldn’t reconcile my experience of the world with Catholic doctrine. Similarly, other religions failed to explain my experience of the world. However atheism met, and continues to meet, that challenge.

    My parents had a wonderful marriage, and I know how much I owe them for my ability to sustain a wonderful marriage over decades. I believe that that was the most important lesson I ever learned from my parents about self-sacrifice and loyalty. But it didn’t depend on anything supernatural. They modeled a promise-keeping and loving relationship and I celebrate that as a completely worthy goal.

    Please, don’t worry about would’a-could’a-should’a possibilities. You did what you could as imperfect humans. The decisions of your children are their decisions.

  8. Avatar

    Cowalker,

    Sorry you didn’t learn to be a thinking believer. Obviously, thinking does not lead to atheism (you might have a child who enters a combox one day who says he started thinking for himself and now believes in God), but your comment is a good reminder that one cannot neglect the mental aspect of the faith. We should all be in tune with what are children need. Of course, they can always choose, per will, whatever they wish. I am glad you respect your parents’ marriage. However, I doubt they would agree that the success they enjoyed was without God’s help.

    Nevertheless, thanks for reading this article.

    Peace,

    Brent

  9. Avatar

    This is really great. I have a women’s book club with some friends from church and we get to talking about this “doofus dad” thing quite a bit, and I think, to be frank, we’re all pretty pissed about it. We have strong, faithful, loving husbands and it makes myself and my friends really angry to see men portrayed in such a way.

    Also, you forgot the leader of the pack on Doofus Dad, Archie Bunker. He was the rallying cry of a generation of radical feminists. What woman would ever want to be Edith? Sigh. We are so behind the ball in responding to this nonsense.

    Thanks for a great post. Will be showing to my hubby!

  10. Avatar

    I’m not sure I like the Steve Douglas example really. I don’t think the 50s were the epitome of model manhood because that was the era where feminism was seeded, and I think some of the early signs of today’s materialistic, work-centric, entertainment-seeking manhood can be seen. In my opinion, if you want to find an example of a real man who was what a father and husband should be, read Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books of her childhood and study Pa. Now there was a man. He worked not only *for* his family but often side-by-side with them and valued their help. He taught them the value of work but also the joy of play and how the two ought to be prioritized. He didn’t demean his wife but saw her as his partner; they worked side by side, they made decisions together, he always seemed to give grave consideration her input and concerns, but in the end he took all final responsibility for decisions on his own shoulders, balancing what the family needed (not just what he wanted), and she trusted him to do that. He always put himself on the front line in any type of danger or need to defend his family in word or deed. He was the last one up at night, securing the house to keep his loved ones safe. (How many of you husbands are the last ones up and lock the house? I would love that small but significant gesture from my husband. It says, I will defend and take care of you.) But he also made sure his wife knew how to use a gun. He sacrificed himself many, many times in many different ways. He never shrank from offering his children stern correction without being harsh, but he always followed it up by reassuring them of his love and comforting them tenderly. He encouraged them and listened to them. He was a lover of music, instilling the same in his family, and entertained them instead of waiting to be entertained. He knew the value of learning. He upheld his faith in himself and in his children. He valued his wife above all else and showed it – Laura noted that. He was strong, tender, self-sacrificing, faithful. We need more PAs!!! God bless that MAN.

    Also, the word virile comes from the same root as the word virtue. So to be a virile man means to be a man who practices virtue. There’s no greater struggle than self-mastery. That’s a man I can respect.

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