Philip Kosloski graduated from the University of Saint Thomas in Minnesota with a Bachelor’s in Philosophy and Catholic Studies and completed his Master of Arts degree in Theology with the Augustine Institute. He is a writer and author of In the Footsteps of a Saint: John Paul II’s Visit to Wisconsin. He blogs at philipkosloski.com and writes to help all Catholics master the art of prayer by conquering the practical obstacles that prevent a fruitful relationship with Christ.
In our culture, fathers are becoming less and less a part of our children’s lives and the absence of fathers has contributed greatly to the downfall of Christian culture in America. Currently, 40 percent of American children do not grow up with their biological father. That number is on the rise as more and more couples choose the lifestyle of cohabitation and decide not to get married at all. Since the men in those relationships are not bound by any marriage vows, they feel less responsibility to stick around, especially if the marriage or childrearing starts to get difficult. What are the results of fatherless homes? Let’s take a look at the statistics:
- 85% of criminals come from fatherless homes
- 90% of homeless come from fatherless homes
- 73% of drug addicts come from fatherless homes
- 63% of youth suicides come from fatherless homes
- 80% of rapists come from fatherless homes
- 72% of adolescent murderers grew up without fathers
Why is this the case? Let’s take a little lesson from nature. Several decades ago there was a problem with overpopulation on an African game preserve—too many elephants. Limited by the technology available at the time, the solution arrived at was to move the juvenile elephants to new preserves. Everyone watched, gravely concerned, but the babies thrived. However, unintended consequences emerged. At the new locations, someone was killing off rhinos which are an endangered species. It turned out the killers were young male elephants. At first the rangers couldn’t believe it; this behavior was never before seen in elephants. “Some of the park rangers settled on a theory. What had been missing from the relocated herd was the presence of the large dominant bulls. In natural circumstances, the adult bulls provide modeling behaviors for younger elephants, keeping them in line.” They decided to test the theory and transport into these locations some large mature bull elephants. It worked like a charm. Within weeks the young males immediately stopped their destructive behavior, killing and violence. What they needed was a male role model.
Now this absence of fathers does not only apply to the demise of domestic life. In fact, what we are also experiencing in our culture is the absence of fathers in the spiritual life of the home, even when the father is present in the family. We almost never hear of fathers or grandfathers passing on the faith to their children. Typically, “church” or “religion” is viewed as something reserved for women. Here is a perfect example:
Here in Central Wisconsin, there is a community that has strong Catholic roots. Their roots are also entirely Polish, being one of the oldest Polish settlements in America. However, even though the Polish immigrants had strong Catholic faith, the faith of the Polish fathers was not that great. In fact, they decided they would let their women go to church on Sundays, but they would do something more enjoyable.
There just happened to be a tavern directly across from the church and so while their wives ushered in their children to Mass, they would go across the road and have some whiskey with their fellow men. As the population grew with more pioneers from Poland, the crowd of men grew larger and larger. The men were lonely out on the frontier and they saw the tavern as their place to share fraternity with their fellow countrymen. The crowd of men grew so large that the noise interrupted church services! Each pastor for many years tried to bring in the men and stop them from deserting their families on Sundays. In the end, Father Joseph Dabrowski became pastor and pleaded the tavern owners to shut down on Sunday mornings. It wasn’t very successful and so Father Dabrowski decided to move the church building away from the tavern, so that the men would not be tempted.
Sadly, this reality of thinking religion is reserved for “women and children” persists today and Catholic men fail to see why they should attend Mass with their family or be the leader of prayer.
These Polish men failed to see that their primary responsibility as head of the household was to fight the spiritual battle for the lives of their family. As Saint Paul says in Ephesians 6:12, “For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens.” It is our duty as fathers to fight that battle and to be a firm foundation for our family. If we don’t do it, our society will continue to crumble around us.
The statistic that really brings this home is the fact that 97% of children where the father does not go to Mass (even if the mother does) will never attend Mass regularly once they leave home. Men are the spiritual bedrock of the family and if the father does not take it seriously, neither will his children.
So let us rally together as men who will take charge and be a spiritual father. The world is counting on us. Men need to be strong spiritual bastions in the family, or else the faith will not be effectively passed on to the next generation.