It’s tough being a dad today. You need only look at different aspects of our culture to see how fathers have been marginalized. Entertainment: Dads are often absent from family units in television shows and movies, and when they are present, they are often used as the punch line for jokes about ineptitude and cluelessness. Law: Declaring that marriage is not necessarily between one man and one woman marginalizes both genders, yet at the same time judges in family courts and those overseeing parental laws often look down on fathers because of negative stereotypes. Science: In the field of fertility assistance — where scientists seem to think if it can be done it should be done, no matter moral consequences — there is often an attitude in which feminist-minded wannabe mothers talk about how men are not needed anymore to have children.
All of this can be quite depressing, especially when many men are actually looking for support to be good fathers. However, we men may be our own worst enemies, often keeping emotions bottled up and figuring we can do it all on our own.
But there is a way forward, according to Brian Caulfield, editor of “Man to Man, Dad to Dad: Catholic Faith and Fatherhood.” That way forward is following a path that is a response to “a call from God the Father.” Caulfield posits, “We can be quietly but insistently countercultural in the way we live and relate to others, particularly in our duties as husband and father.”
So, we may hear the call, but then what? “Man to Man: Dad to Dad” brings together a dozen men to offer Catholic fathers advice and inspiration through a recounting of their personal experiences as dads.
Catholic men who have already been seeking the support we’re talking about here will recognize some of the writers in the book — Mike Aquilina, Ray Guarendi, Gerald Korson, Patrick Madrid, Rick Sarkisian, Cardinal Timothy Dolan (provider of the foreword).
Books like these have both pros and cons. On the positive side, there is a very good chance you’ll be exposed to at least a tip or two that you may not have thought of before. On the negative side, such collections tend to be uneven in quality, if for no other reason than differences in writing styles and the tone of the contributors.
Some of the highlights here include an important meditation on St. Joseph, by Sarkisian, and an insightful essay titled “Superdad: More than An Action Figure,” by speaker and theology teacher Bill Donaghy.
Men/dads would do well to pray to and follow the example of Joseph, the most holy of men, who put his wife and son before all other things. How much of Jesus’ greatness as a man can be attributed to Joseph’s leadership? More than we can probably imagine, and Sarkisian reflects on how Joseph’s example is relevant to modern times.
And Donaghy looks past the superficiality of entertainment’s approach to superheroes and their so-called superpowers. The real superpower in the world is the virtues that dads can teach their children.
So don’t give up, dads. Look to God and don’t be hesitant in seeking support from other like-minded men.
Beginning with this book is a good start.
York Young is managing editor at Our Sunday Visitor.