Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Domestic Church: The Critical Importance of the Father


In interludes of home information, I would like to blog about issues of importance and interest for faithful families who try to model themselves as the "domestic Church." So this will be the first in a series of topics to discuss issues relating to family life as the domestic Church, which will always be accessible in "Search by Topic" in the sidebar, under "Family as the Domestic Church."

In our culture of political correctness, it isn't very politically correct to simply note that men and women are different. Not just physically different (which, though obvious, is still hard for some people to get over), but intellectually and behaviorally different. Men and women are equal in human dignity, but are not the same. Though one is not better than the other, there are real differences between the sexes which allow each to compliment the other (as God created us). One of the largest inherent areas of difference between the sexes, in general, is in parenting. That topic of the differences between men and women and the way they parent, and the necessity of both styles of parenting in forming children, is too large to go into here. But there is one aspect of this topic that is often overlooked and isn't given the "press" that is desperately needed; that is, the critical role of the father in forming children in the Faith.

To say that the father is critical in his role of passing on the Faith to his children is to say that the father literally makes or breaks the faith life and faith education of the children of a family. Multiple studies have been done on church attendance of children (once adults) depending on the attendance level of their mother and father, all with the same conclusion: as the father goes, so go the children. A very good article on one such study can be found here. Here's the data, where for all cases the mother attends church regularly:

The drop in regular church attendance of the children (once adults) if the father does not attend regularly is dramatic (despite in all cases the mother attending church regularly). From the article I link to above:
Curiously, both adult women as well as men will conclude subconsciously that Dad’s absence indicates that going to church is not really a "grown-up" activity. In terms of commitment, a mother’s role may be to encourage and confirm, but it is not primary to her adult offspring’s decision. Mothers’ choices have dramatically less effect upon children than their fathers’, and without him she has little effect on the primary lifestyle choices her offspring make in their religious observances.
Even more interesting, here's the data on regular church attendance of children who's father attends regularly:

There's almost the opposite affect of the mother's attendance and the children's (where the father attends regularly in each case). The children's loyalty to their father increases in response to their mother's decreasing church attendance. There's many more statistics in the article I link to above. All of this is not to belittle the role of the mother in the children's faith lives, only to point out the different roles that are clearly inherent to the father and mother in passing on the faith, and the differences in which children react to the actions of their father and mother in regard to faith.

What does this mean for the family wishing to live as the "domestic Church"? The father must be engaged and active in his faith, or there's very little chance the children will grow to live the Faith themselves. Earthly fathers best model the "fatherly" love of our Heavenly Father, and thus our Heavenly Father has given earthly fathers a special role, by design, in passing on the Faith to every generation. This means that, despite all societal pressure otherwise, Christians need to once again embrace the fact that the father must be the "spiritual head of the family." Wives need to encourage their husbands in this role, and fathers need to be willing to embrace this role and live it fully. Fathers need to lead family prayer, pray at family gatherings, read scripture with their children, explain the mass, take their kids to adoration and confession.

St. Joseph, earthly father of our Lord, pray for all fathers to be faithful to their calling and to live the Christian life to its fullest, so that their children may see their example and in turn come to know, love, and serve Jesus Christ.

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