Have you ever heard it said that a man will never ask directions when there’s a chance for him to remain lost? “Now wait a minute,” we men might say, “lost – we are never actually lost!” Or are we? Lewis Carroll once wrote, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there.” Yogi Berra said it a bit differently, “If you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else.” But it is also true that if you do not know where you are, it is awfully difficult to get to where you want to be.
For the past few weeks my thoughts have returned time and again to my father. God took him home over 40 years ago when I was only a teenager. He was a great man who loved his family, a loving and faithful husband, a devoted father… and I miss him still. Like so many teenage boys and girls, I was “lost” and my father tried his best to help me find my way. I remember him saying one day not long before he died, “Son, if you don’t know where you are, how will you ever find your way to where you want to be? Do you know where you are? Do you know who you are?” He may not have had all the Catholic terminology right – my father was a Baptist – but he sure did understand and teach the concepts. He correctly understood that I knew, deep down inside, where I wanted to go (heaven). But he also correctly knew that I needed a reminder of that hunger for God that was deep within my very being.
The Vocation of the Laity
When we speak of vocations, often the thought of priests and religious brothers and sisters comes to mind. But God also calls lay people to live as married and single persons in the secular setting and this too is a vocation lived out in God’s family which is the Catholic Church. All vocations serve to lead us to heaven, our supernatural end.
Pope Paul VI, said that because the vocation of the laity places them in the midst of a suffering world in need of transformation, that they… that would be each of you… must exercise a special role as evangelists. The lay person, who has received Christ, must then spread His Gospel to those who have not. We can be overwhelmed with the task of evangelization if we do not follow Jesus’ model, so let’s focus on evangelization in the home.
You are a child of God made for Heaven!
One of the primary ways a child learns from his mother and father is by watching them in action! It is as if the child’s eyes are video lenses and the brain is the storage media. Children watch and learn. And they store away what they have learned so that it may be recalled when needed. When a difficult crisis confronts your child later in life, a quick trip into the video library of the mind will quickly produce the memory they stored for this situation… the memory of what you did when faced with a similar crisis. We need to think carefully about what we teach our children every day. What they watch us do when they are young will contribute to how they behave when they are older.
Do we teach them first and foremost that they are children of God, made in His image and likeness? Do we treat them and all others we meet with respect for their God-given human dignity? Do we teach them that they are pilgrims in this land and that their destination is heaven, that “land to which we go”?
Hear, O children, a father’s instruction, be attentive, that you may gain understanding! (Proverbs 4:1 NAB)
God made you out of His infinite goodness and love for a supernatural end. He desires all men to come to a saving knowledge of the truth (1 Tim 2:4). He wants you to spend all eternity in communion with Him in heaven. You are made for heaven, not for this world which will pass away and there is no goal you can attain that is more important than this. There is no greater lesson a father can hand on to his children than this truth.
A wise father understands that his greatest responsibility is to answer God’s call and nurture the hunger for God that his children experience. I wish I had appreciated this more when my children were young. God, in His mysterious ways, and with the example of my wife, helped us raise children who love and serve Him and I praise Him and give Him thanks for that.
I think back to my son’s sports years. I can’t tell you how many Saturday mornings would begin in Dunwoody at a soccer game and end in Buckhead at a baseball game… with my son changing uniforms as we drove between the games. And I think of my daughter and the time we spent at her swim meets and lacrosse games. These were great times serving up wonderful family memories to last a lifetime.
Yet, looking back, I wonder… did I spend an equal or greater amount of time, a deeper excitement and passion, shared with them as they received their sacraments and grew in their knowledge of God? I know I could have done more. It is so easy to fall into the trap of misguided priorities… too much time spent in the office… too much time focusing our children’s attention on things of the world instead of life in the Spirit. But yesterday’s regrets and fears for tomorrow rob us of the moment we live in, so daily we must pray for God’s gracious guidance and the will to live it.
A Challenge to Dads
Knowing of the world’s spiritual poverty, and we must admit sometimes found even in our very families, how can we, especially we fathers, be lax about doing the work of the Father from Whom all Fatherhood flows? I am blessed to know many of the fathers in my parish and they inspire me – they really do. Yet I believe that we must continually ask God if there is more we can do.
We must teach our children to love God with their whole being showing them the way to heaven. We must hand on to our children the faith our fathers handed on to us. Continuing to recall my own father, I remember an old hymn I am sure was one of his favorites, Wayfaring Stranger and a paraphrased verse:
I am just a poor wayfaring stranger traveling through this world of woe. There is no pain, no toil or sickness, in that bright land to which I go. I’m going home to meet my father, he said he’d meet me when I come. I am just a poor wayfaring stranger going home, no more to roam.
Let me close with a reminder directed to Dads… we must fulfill our fatherly duty. We must – for the sake of our children.