Monday, March 19, 2007

Saint Joseph and Fatherhood

I've heard it said that the crisis in the Church today, the crisis in vocations, and the crisis in the family, can all be traced back to a crisis in fatherhood; a cultural confusion regarding just what it means to be a man.

Interesting. Think of the failure of Adam in the beginning, to guard and protect Eve from the serpent. He chose silence rather than to cry out to God for help against the foe. He gave in and grasped at the forbidden fruit, rather than to suffer the bullet, to stand in the gap and offer his life for his bride. Men ever since find it easier to lust than to love, to take rather than receive the gift of the Bride. To cling to life rather than lay it down for others.

In the present state of affairs, in a society that thinks the only "sin" is intolerance and the greatest virtue is "niceness", the drive, the passion, and the initiation of the gift of self that is inscribed in the very soul of a man is looked down upon.

Our culture contracepts it. It robs men of their spiritual patrimony, and relegates the drive to a merely biological level. And so we say "boys will be boys" but they are not. Men are turned into animals. Lust is to stoop to the level of the beasts. Love, real love, is to rise to the heights of holiness. But this radical gift of self is seen as so... "radical." Nobody loves like that anymore, do they? It's so extreme. So selfless! What's in it for THEM? So women are tempted to settle, and with no damsels in distress, the knight's armor gathers dust, and rust, and men forget their higher call.

The confusion about the spiritual dimension of a man to become a gift for others has caused an identity crisis in the Church. It has, in a very real sense, emasculated the mission of the gospel. When we take away the masculinity of Jesus, the passion of this God-Man who turned over tables in His Father's House, cleansing it of compromise, then we are left with the Jesus who is nice. The anemic, soft-skinned nice guy who just luvs, luvs, luvs and never mentions the cross. But this is not the Christ in the gospels. The carpenter's son who alone had the gall to call the religious leaders of his day a "brood of vipers." The One Who laid down his life for us devils, just where the old Adam failed.

Today, we the bride still dialogue with that serpent. And we say to the Christs of today, those fathers in the line of apostolic authority, "Don't impose your beliefs on me!" And so some priests and bishops don't even open their mouths to challenge us. They stand silent in the garden of the world as we reach again and again for that forbidden fruit. I believe we must let fathers be fathers, and not sterilize the life-giving gift of the gospel. If we stop the fathers from giving up their lives for us, from giving us the whole gift of the gospel, then how will the new life of grace ever grow within us?

St. Joseph, pray for us! At a word you leapt out in faith, guarding and protecting the Woman and the Child within her womb. You loved Mary, putting her first, and before you knew the truth, you were willing to take the "shame" of her unmarried pregnancy onto yourself. Now you are in God; spinning and swirling in the heart of the Great Dance, and we need to learn your steps of self-giving. Pray for us, St. Joseph... pray for all fathers now. Make our lives fruitful again!
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