In preparation for Fathers Day, I will be posting what Fr. Sean Kopczynski gave about Fatherhood at his mission on Our Lady of Lourdes. All of you who have a father, have a husband or know someone who is a father and wants to be a good one; print this up and give it to him.
Here, then, is a summary of the social duties of a husband and father according to reliable moral handbooks and catechisms, but principally from the writings of St. Peter Julian Eymard (cf., Eucharistic Handbook). Note that some things covered here for the head of the family (e.g., matters of education and correction of children) are also shared by the heart of the family, the wife and mother.
Duties towards his family.– The first duty of the head of the family is to attend to the sanctification of his dependents. Nature imposes it on him; God wills it; his salvation depends on it. This duty presents itself to him under a triple aspect, corresponding to his three titles of husband, father, and of provider (be it employer or employee).
The man’s duties as a husband. – He should honor his wife, and love her, and help her to sanctify herself. A husband should honor his wife as Jesus Christ honors His Church, and that especially in the presence of his children, that they also may learn to love and respect their mother, and women in general. He also has the duty of honoring her in the presence of strangers and acquaintances, for how else will they show her due honor?
A husband should love his wife as his own body, as himself. Just as man seeks that which will make his body and life flourish, so too he ought to strive after that which will enable his wife to flourish in joy and peace. The sweetness of his love should temper the force of the authority, which God gave him when He made him the head of the wife, as Jesus Christ is the Head of the Church.
His love should be tender and pure, with God as its motive and end; vigilant and devoted, giving with kindness to his spouse all that she needs to live and to keep her position, supporting her in infirmities and defects with a tender charity, and sharing her joys and sorrows with compassion.
He himself must serve as a means of sanctification for her, and ought to make it a priority to pray with her. It is especially by his good example, and the sweetness of his virtue and charity, that a husband will win the esteem and affection of his wife and sustain her in the right path.
St. John Chrysostom says: “Observe that Paul has exhorted husbands and wives to reciprocity…To love therefore, is the husband’s part, to yield pertains to the other side. If, then, each one contributes his own part, all stand firm. From being loved, the wife too becomes loving; and from her being submissive, the husband learns to yield.”
Since man is not composed only of a body, but also of soul and spirit, the husband should work at establishing a union with his wife that is not just physical, but also emotional and spiritual. Men must remember that women need emotional support and friendship from their husband. The spousal bond is meant to unite a man and a woman at every level, including the emotional and spiritual, which ought not be neglected.
The godly husband does not use the marriage act for purposes of lust or sensuality (cf. Tobias 6:16-17 vulgate), but rather keeps within those limits which are reasonable and serious without purposely impeding procreation. A reasonable and serious request for the marriage duty is made with a definite, sober will, not too frequent and without the presence of any obstacles of bodily health. Such a request obliges the other party, injustice, to render the debt, as St. Paul says: “Let every man give his wife what is her due, and every woman do the same by her husband” (1 Cor. 7:3). At the same time, however, it should be remembered that the same Apostle also admonishes the husband: They that have wives, let them be as though they had them not (1 Cor. 7:29), and that St. Jerome says: The love which a wise man cherishes towards his wife is the result of judgment, not the impulse of passion; he governs the impetuosity of desire, and is not hurried into indulgence. There is nothing more shameful than that a husband should love his wife as an adulteress.
As every blessing is to be obtained from God by holy prayer, the faithful couple ought sometimes abstain from the marriage debt, in order to devote themselves to prayer. This religious continence is particularly recommended during the solemn fast of Lent.
A man’s duties as a father. – The duties of a father towards children are great; their object is to make of them good and manly Christians, useful citizens, and saints for heaven. These duties are threefold: to raise children in the fear of God, to correct them, and to settle them decently in the world.
Education. – The body is made for the soul, and the soul for God, Who enlightens it with the truths of faith and beautifies it with holiness. The mother begins this religious education: the father completes and consolidates it. The grace of authority and of strength lends extra power to his words. The example of the mother persuades the children; that of the father wins them over. Hence the saying of the Holy Ghost: like father, like son.
A father should then before all else endeavor to give his children a Christian education as a solid and indispensable foundation for an honest station in life and for a successful future. He should give a very special attention to the morality of the schools, of the houses of education, to which he intends confiding the innocence and weakness of his children. Innocence of life and purity of faith outweigh all the wealth of the world: they are preferable to all the dignities and sciences, especially when these are corrupt and faithless.
The educating of children by their parents needs to extend to matters of chastity. Some moralists believe that educating the young in matters touching on chastity (6th and 9th Commandments) should be indirect. They hold that it is dangerous to speak of these matters to the young, that silence itself is to them a lesson of modesty, that the practice of piety and mortification, along with parental watchfulness, will keep them pure, and that sufficient knowledge will come at the proper time as God will provide.
Others reject this theory as opposed to the tradition of the Church as well as to experience. The defenders of direct education point to the evil of silence: the bad habits contracted and grown strong before their sinfulness is understood, or the scruples and misery into which ignorance will plunge young people entering the time of puberty, the false and corrupt ideas which immoral companions, physicians, and educators will unavoidably indoctrinate the minds of the innocent, the overpowering and corrupting influence of today’s mass media, the loss of confidence in parents who have refused to impart important knowledge and advice, and the ruin of innocent lives by seducers which a timely word of warning would have prevented. Hence, there is an invincible ignorance which cannot be removed without direct education, and this ignorance is more harmful, at least to well-reared children, than any evil that may be caused by the education itself. Yet this education should only be conducted by the parents.
Training for purity of body should be directed both to the will and the intellect, for knowledge without character is powerless against temptation. Children should be trained from the beginning morally. This includes keeping them as much as possible from sources of contamination; teaching them to have implicit confidence in parents; and accustoming them to bring their questions and difficulties to the parents. Fathers must also train their children to be manly by practicing continual mortification and restraint and to struggle against evil tendencies until the habit of self-control becomes second nature.’