The Pride of Parenthood | Redeeming Fatherhood
By: John Sohl
June 26, 2021
“I am convinced that by reflection upon the way that Mary’s spouse shared in the divine mystery, the Church—on the road towards the future with all of humanity—will be enabled to discover ever anew her own identity within this redemptive plan, which is founded on the mystery of the Incarnation.” (Redemptoris Custos, 1)
On June 26, 2015—I witnessed history. His Story was being written in the heart of our confusing and chaotic culture. Regardless of what secular historians will write about that day, we know the ultimate Reality of all things was allowing the culture to reject the Author of Life in favor of an infinite search that will never prove fruitful. Social media of course celebrated this as a victory for prosperity and peace. Ultimately, only bodily despair and an interior war over the human soul was fully declared.
In my own little world of youth ministry back in 2015, I was busy preparing for my beloved St. Luke Parish’s 50th anniversary celebrations complete with a “Light of Faith” summer shindig and youth rally. I had just met with our business manager the night before to go over our electrical and logistical needs. I had hoped our praise and worship band would be able to be stationed right next to the old wooden cross that was still in the courtyard of the old church sanctuary. St. Luke Church burned down in 1997, leaving almost nothing but ashes, the old wooden cross that hung above the door, and the Eucharist still preserved from the fiery inferno.
The next morning, when I arrived in the same spot I had been standing the evening before, I was shocked to discover that the old wooden cross had cracked at the base and fallen from years of termite damage that was revealed by the winds and storms of the night before. The day was June 26, 2015, and as societal events unfolded later that afternoon, I knew deeply what this termite damage was revealing about our culture, including the Church itself. After fixing the cross and moving it permanently inside the Church for safe-keeping, I sensed this damage even more.
Yet, I also knew that the Truth of the Gospel in all its beautiful vibrancy and life-giving goodness could not be hidden away or ignored forever. The Church’s moral teachings on the body, sexuality, ethics, marriage, and family life might have been suppressed, ignored, and rejected, and that might mean that the Church’s influence in society has now been taken out of the public square—but it does not mean prosperity, peace, or equality will reign on any real level.
If anything, through the decisions and behaviors of our highest government leaders, including some within the hierarchy of the Church, only a deeper trauma of abuse and lust will dominate and dictate the future of many souls. The month of June may rather become our “Humility Month” as the emptiness of this desert of lies will inevitably humble our society and bring us to our knees. Just as a man addicted to pornography and trapped in the harem of his self-worship must fall to his knees and accept the truth of his empty and abusive behavior, so too will these twisted cultural beliefs of today be tested by the hard reality of biological and existential genetics. Our progeny will come to recognize the faults of the previous generations, for we are collectively rendering our capacity to generate according to Genesis null and void, degenerate.
Pregnancy is not destroying society or burdening women. It is rather the only reality that sustains society and liberates the very definition of femininity and womanhood. We can certainly attempt to change the meaning of words, but we cannot change the reality of what those words mean. I believe the Holy Family understood this ultimate reality of nature quite well, as evidenced by their embrace of the Incarnation.
“This is precisely the mystery in which Joseph of Nazareth “shared” like no other human being except Mary…He shared in it with her; he was involved in the same salvific event; he was the guardian of the same love, through the power of which the eternal Father “destined us to be his sons through Jesus Christ” (Eph 1:5).” (JPII, RC, 1)
We become sons or daughters when we have both a mother and a father, for no human being has ever come into existence without the raw components of both man and woman combined. That is, persons need both a biological man who has lived a human male life and a biological female who has lived a human female life. Excluding the cases of divine intervention, existence is not otherwise possible.
“The divine messenger introduces Joseph to the mystery of Mary’s motherhood. While remaining a virgin, she who by law is his “spouse” has become a mother through the power of the Holy Spirit…” (RC, 3) Saint Joseph and Mother Mary are the only couple who experienced the supernatural manifestation of human and divine life finding union without the raw seed of the man.
After all, “Joseph’s fatherhood…comes to pass through marriage to Mary, that is, through the family…Scripture recognizes that Jesus is not born of Joseph’s seed…Nonetheless, he is not deprived of his fatherly authority from the moment that he is told to name the child. Finally, even the Virgin Mary, well aware that she has not conceived Christ as a result of conjugal relations with Joseph, still calls him Christ’s father.” (RC, 7)
They both recognize the necessary and beautiful roles of motherhood and fatherhood in their very being, and in embracing it, they exude a healthy pride in God. This pride is one that rightfully boasts in Him through humble recognition of His grace based on lived experiences that have been saturated with receptivity, wonder, and gratitude. This pride in God’s providence is not to be confused with attempting to prop up humanity’s perception with arrogance, independence, or some autonomous equality with God and a bare minimum worldview to merely co-exist.
You see, that worldly, materialistic pride only leads to an eternal vacuum of collective isolation, for as the old proverb goes, “Pride cometh before the fall…” and is to be rightly counted as the root of all evil fueling the seven deadly sins. Perhaps a reading of Fr. Bergamo’s “Humility of Heart” would do us well in this understanding. “In Paradise, there is no Saint who was not humble.” (Ch 1, Humility of Heart) The Catechism of the Catholic Church clarifies this further: “Pride is undo self-esteem or self-love, which seeks attention and honor and sets oneself in competition with God” (CCC, 1866)
Instead, true holy pride is to boast in the body of God’s Son, Jesus, for His body gives beauty and meaning to our own amazing bodies that have come from God as well as the gift of fertility that He gives us within them. From this gift, “given for us”, He brings forth the cutest, most precious, vulnerable babies and transforms those of us privileged with begetting them into parents–parents proud of God’s gratuitous generosity seen in the giftedness of one’s children. Fruitfulness through a self-gift stronger than death is the only form of holy humble “pride” in God fit for the Holy Spirit’s seven gifts leading to the beatitude of eternal life.
Don’t you remember being a kid on stage in your school play or pageant longing to see your parent’s gaze of pride upon you? Perhaps there was also a little embarrassment or awkwardness present there, but for many kids without attentive parents, this neglect is their deepest ache. If you’ve ever seen the musical The Greatest Showman based on the life of PT Barnum, watch the final scene to understand what I mean. The look of joy in the eyes of his daughters will pierce your heart, for it is this gaze upon the face of each person that God the Father maintains.
He is calling us to embrace this openness to life-giving love, for it is a gaze of pride which looks beyond the prism of “diverse and sometimes divergent desires” to see that primordial light of redemption, love, and acceptance which banishes all the shameful and lifeless lifestyles that try to claim our identities. (Bill Donaghy, Over the Rainbow)
The Cross brings true Equality, for it is not two parallel lines that can never intersect or bear fruit, but it is rather the sign of addition, where the man and woman come together in such a fundamental giving and receiving that nine months later, they have to give their son or daughter a name, who is equal to them in both dignity and purpose. Men would especially do well to embrace the call to Fatherhood, for it is the ultimate fulfillment of their masculinity.
“The deep spiritual closeness arising from marital union and the interpersonal contact between man and woman have their definitive origin in the Spirit, the Giver of Life… Joseph, in obedience to the Spirit, found in the Spirit the source of love, the conjugal love which he experienced as a man. And this love proved to be greater than this “just man” could ever have expected within the limits of his human heart…Through his complete self-sacrifice, Joseph expressed his generous love for the Mother of God, and gave her a husband’s “gift of self.” (RC, 19-20)
Marital love cupped with responsibility and openness to life is the only true gift of self to which John Paul II can possibly be referring, and that kind of spousal parental love is something we should be proud to celebrate and endorse! After all, the 3rd Sunday of June is widely recognized as Father’s Day, so whether you honored your father or not last week, it’s not too late to do so [at least an offering of your prayers for him].
Join Family Renewal Project’s continued efforts to celebrate the joy and mystery of happy, healthy, holy, normal families! Please pray for our mission to “restore the family and renew the culture by educating and forming men and women to understand, embrace, and live authentic love and responsibility.” At the end of this month in fact, on June 30, FRP is bringing together some courageous men to discern together how best to build up an authentic masculinity in our Archdiocese and inspire a true holy pride of parenthood toward God the Father’s redeeming providence.
In future years, may the month of June be the time where the Sacred, Immaculate, and Most Chaste Hearts of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph enlighten and inspire us. Amen.