May fathers remember that they image God in the measure that they give of themselves; and that they first give of themselves in the generation or procreation of a child, not incidentally to the sexual act, but rationally, desiring and willing the conception of a child.
One of the most pressing questions for me on this Father’s Day concerns the unmet needs of mothers, children and society, and a father’s ability to satisfy those needs. What are their needs, and how can fathers satisfy them? In order to reflect on this question, I need to start at the beginning.
God is not a solitude. He is triune, a family. This is the deepest mystery we can know about God. One of the most beautiful sentences in the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “God himself is an eternal exchange of love, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and he has destined us to share in that exchange” (221). We can get an idea how we share in God’s loving exchange from the Book of Genesis.
In Genesis we read that man is created in the image of God. “God created man in his image, in the divine image he created him, male and female he created them” (Gn 1:27). God inscribed the vocation of love in our bodies by creating us male and female and by calling us to become “one body” (Gn 2:24). God is a plurality and so are we. Thus, we image God most completely in the family.
In his book, First Comes Love, Scott Hahn says God left something of His divine image for man to bring to completion. God wanted Adam and Eve to imitate His triune life of love. For this purpose, “The Lord God then took the man and settled him in the garden of Eden, to cultivate and care for it” (Gn 2:15). Hahn informs us that when God told the man to care for the garden, He meant that Adam should guard the garden and protect all that was in it. The garden can be understood as Adam’s home and Eve was the center of his home.
Adam failed to protect his home and his bride when confronted by the serpent. However, while the first Adam failed, the second Adam succeeded. This is what Jesus did for his bride the Church (Eph 5:25-32). So this imaging is communal, sacrificial and Eucharistic. The only way we can imitate the interior life of the Trinity in the material world is through sacrificial life-giving love. We must be willing to die to self for the sake of another.
In the video above, Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales, the Archbishop of Manila, reminds us that because we have been created in the image of God, we have been made sharers in His work. This includes God’s fatherhood. Consequently, all of us–fathers, mothers, single men and women–share in His fatherhood, but natural fathers are meant to share in that fatherhood in a special, more direct way.
So how do we do share in God’s fatherhood? The Cardinal tells us that we share in God’s fatherhood by defending life and the values that protect life. These values comprise that which is true, right, good, just, compassionate, and loving.
Clearly, there are many aspects of fatherhood, but it seems one of the most primary has to do with guarding and protecting. What’s more, the garden that we are supposed to be guarding is once again under fierce attack.
This attack is not a mistake, nor is it a coincidence. Rather, it is the result of an insidious design. One of the most prominent designers of this attack is modern feminism, which is dominated by radical feminism and its war of hatred against men, marriage and family.
The historian James MacGregor Burns mentions many examples in his 3rd vol. of The American Experiment: The Crosswinds of Freedom. For instance, the feminist Kate Millett said gender is culturally learned behavior and that masculinity and femininity are malleable. The feminist group, Redstockings, said that relationships between men and women are conflict-ridden and can only be resolved by collective political action.
According to Burns, in her book, The Dialectic of Sex, Shulamith Firestone called for a full-fledged feminist revolution by seizing control of reproduction and making childbearing and child-raising the responsibility of society instead of individual women.
On a more extreme note, Burns notes that many radical feminists have called for an end to marriage and the traditional family. Some–I presume lesbians, who received official recognition within the feminist movement at the 2nd Congress to Unite Women in 1970–even demanded an end to heterosexuality.
Phyllis Schlafly, the constitutional lawyer, political activist and author, who helped defeat passage of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) in 1982, gives us a similar picture of feminism in her book, Feminist Fantasies. In one section, she describes some of the goals feminists sought to gain through passage of the ERA. I have listed some of them below:
Feminists wanted Congress to legislate social policy for marriage, property, divorce, children, adoption, abortion, homosexuals, sex crimes, public and private schools, and insurance. They wanted the courts to define the meaning of “sex” and its relation to abortion and homosexuality. They wanted to make abortions legal and free, to make homosexuals a protected group, to legalize marriage for homosexuals, to replace single-sex programs like the Boy Scouts and school athletics with unisex programs, and they wanted to eliminate the exemption women had from the draft and military combat.
Feminists never did get the ERA passed, but it appears they are on the verge of achieving all of their goals just the same. These goals strike at the very heart of our imaging of God. Consequently, they blur our understanding of ourselves and deform our relationships. This is not hard for us to see.
Instead of viewing the differences between men and women as complementarities which can foster unity and love, feminists view these differences as inequalities, sources of perpetual conflict and oppression. While there is an element of truth to some of these claims, they are grossly distorted. Phyllis Schlafly wrote that women in the United States were the most fortunate class of people who ever lived.
At the other extreme, we have women acting like tough cops and men acting like emasculated buffoons in the movies and on television. However, these extremes are rarely believable because the women often look comical and the men look pathetic. One of the most extreme examples that I am aware of is the vulgar, hate-filled production, The Vagina Monologues, which “equates men with ‘the enemy’ and heterosexual love with violence.”
In a certain sense, such efforts are nothing new. We read about something similar in The Prince, a 16th-century book written by an Italian, Niccolo Machiavelli. He said some princes were known to nurse disputes between differing groups under their rule in order to distract the people, so they would not unite against the prince. He also said that when a prince acquired a new state, he should disarm the men of that state, and they “should be rendered soft and effeminate.”
Furthermore, since we are also sharers in God’s work and fatherhood when we image God, feminism’s perverse attack against men, marriage and family is also an attack on God’s fatherhood and authority. It reminds me of Satan’s rebellion against God: I will not serve! The first rebellion resulted in Satan and his followers being thrown out of heaven. The second rebellion resulted in Adam and Eve being thrown out of the garden of Eden. So too, the feminist rebellion will have negative consequences.
John Paul II cautions us against the masculinization of women in his Apostolic Letter, On the Dignity and Vocation of Women: “Women must not appropriate to themselves male characteristics contrary to their own feminine originality.” If they do, it will not fulfill women, he says. Instead, it will deform that which constitutes their essential richness, and they will lose it altogether.
I believe we see this loss and more in collectivism, which is fundamental to modern feminism. Collectivism is billed as some sort of abstract higher ethic that will liberate women and promote the greater good of humanity. But this idea is false, and it pits the individual person against the collective. Karl Marx wrote: “Persons of and by themselves have no value. An individual has a value only inasmuch as he is the representative of an economic category, ‘the revolutionary class’; outside of that, man has no value.”
The Catechism of the Catholic Church says, “. . . the good of each individual is necessarily related to the common good, which in turn can be defined only in reference to the human person” (1905). Persons are ends in themselves, not objects or units. “The neighbor is not a ‘unit’ in the human collective; he is ‘someone’ who by his known origins deserves particular attention and respect” (2212).
The common good must be built upon this foundation. So collectivism is not a higher ethic. It is a distortion and an evil. We see many examples of this evil in the news today. The state has literally usurped parental authority. It deforms the self-image of our children and kills their innocence, yet it only takes an anonymous accusation for parents to be charged with child abuse and taken away in handcuffs.
The state may love an abstract version of humanity, but it will never love your wife and your children like you can. Thus, it would seem that the most pressing unmet needs of wives and children are clear. How fathers are to satisfy those needs is also clear: They are to guard their homes and protect their families. And they do this by defending life and the values that protect life–truth, goodness, justice, compassion, and love.
Let us ask Saint Joseph, the guardian of the Redeemer, Mary and the Church, to intercede for all fathers on this Father’s Day: May fathers remember that they image God in the measure that they give of themselves; and that they first give of themselves in the generation or procreation of a child, not incidentally to the sexual act, but rationally, desiring and willing the conception of a child. May fathers also reject the feminization of society and thankfully embrace the masculinity, strength and authority given to them as a gift from God, so they can guard their homes, protect their loved ones, and defend life and its values.
Michael Terheyden was born into a Catholic family, but that is not why he is a Catholic. He is a Catholic because he believes that truth is real, that it is beautiful and good, and that the fullness of truth is in the Catholic Church. However, he knows that God’s grace operating throughout his life is the main reason he is a Catholic. He is greatly blessed to share his faith and his life with his beautiful wife, Dorothy. They have four grown children and three grandchildren.