Father’s Day couldn’t be better timed.
It falls this year on the solemnity of Corpus Christi. What better source of strength could a father ask for than the body and blood of Christ?
Corpus Christi also reminds the attentive Catholic dad that he’s called to be a Christ-like example to his children — and give himself to his wife and family, the domestic church, the way Christ sacrificed himself for the Church?
That’s a tall order, but dads don’t have to go it alone. Several apostolates have sprung up to help them be the fathers God the Father calls them to be.
“To be an authentic father, we must feed our families both physically and spiritually,” says Steve Bollman, who founded Paradisus Dei and then developed That Man Is You!, a 26-week program to help men become authentically Catholic providers.
That Man Is You! (thatmanisyou.org) uses an extensive spiritual toolkit that would please any father aiming to build durability and flexibility into his fatherhood. It includes Scripture, Lectio Divina (prayerful reading of the Bible) and the writings of Pope John Paul II, including his theology of the body and Familiaris Consortio (On the Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World).
“We help men to come to a deeper understanding of the Eucharist and the central role it has in their lives,” Bollman says.
One of the seven promises the program calls dads to make is the “covenant on intimacy with Christ in the Eucharist.” Besides receiving Jesus in holy Communion each Sunday, they pledge to receive him at least once more per week or, if that’s not possible, to visit him in the tabernacle.
Bollman acknowledges that many of today’s fathers are already stretched to their limits time-wise, but encourages them to see that more time for Christ can nearly always be cleared. “I let them know that, when I traded energy derivatives, I made it to Mass every day,” he says. “I knew where every Mass was on the west side of Houston.”
Now 20% of the dads stay after the program’s early Wednesday morning meeting at St. Cecelia’s Church, where That Man originated to attend the schoolchildren’s Mass with their kids. Their actions provide an example par excellence.
Bollman says the Eucharist becomes the foundation for men to practice the presence of God that extends out from reception of the Eucharist throughout the day and throughout life. He tells men that, every time he walked into or out of his corporate office — 50 to 60 times a day — he united himself to God.
“With the repetition,” he says, “it becomes second nature.”
So does becoming a better father and husband. Bollman says he knows one man who turned down a multi-million dollar job because it would put undue stress on his family. Others have stopped affairs after making the That Man promises, and nearly all have returned to regular confession.
As dads build their spirituality, they’re applying in practical ways much of the blueprint John Paul gave in Familiaris Consortio.
Practical ways of building spiritual fatherhood for their kids are also a hallmark of the Husbands and Fathers program of Familia, an apostolate that came out of Regnum Christi.
“Of course, all of this is possible through prayer and the sacraments — especially Christ in the Eucharist, who leads up to the fulfillment we desire,” says Todd Sester, who with wife Karen is national director of Familia (familiausa.net).
When men meet for the Husbands and Fathers program, they get lots of the practical advice from John Paul II’s documents, letters and encyclicals, plus Paul VI’s Humanae Vitae (On the Regulation of Birth). There’s Gospel reflection and Catechism study, too.
Faith meets reason in the weekly “Here’s My Plan” for the dads, a way of taking the reading from the documents and applying it in practical ways.
Sester explains, “It’s little helpful hints you can do to help your family to become better — prayer at meals, praying a Rosary with the family.”
Former Twin Cities Familia district director Jeff Kral sees dads getting closer to Mass and all the sacraments, especially reconciliation, and then finding programs for their children as an aid in growing in holiness with like-minded youngsters, like the Conquest Boys Club and, for the girls, Challenge.
“We use the National Catholic Register in the men’s groups and we discuss things happening in the news,” Sester adds. “It’s an awesome tool; a lot of topics come up.”
On the East Coast, Sean Forrest of Movin’ With the Spirit (mwts.org) talks to fathers everywhere, from the Boston Catholic Men’s Conference to individual parishes.
The father of three young children, Forrest also works with teens in his ministry in song, talks and confirmation retreats. From that, he sees the importance of reminding men who they are and what God has called them to in their fatherly vocation.
“It’s more than just putting a roof over your kids’ heads and feeding and clothing them,” Forrest tells fathers. “If you feed and dress them well but do not tell them about Christ, you’ll just be leading well-fed and nicely dressed kids to hell. I remind them God will hold them responsible for the souls of their children; it’s their duty to lead their family to Christ, which means to catechize and evangelize their kids and do everything in their power to keep evil from their kids.”
Men, he says, need to remember the King of kings and Lord of lords dwells inside them and calls them to battle evils and stand up for truth in a world that doesn’t want to hear it.
“What it’s really going to require from men is courage,” Forrest tells fathers.
“And men need to know their faith so they can explain it to their kids. They must be able to explain theology of the body to their families,” and to lay out why sex before marriage, birth control, abortion, same-sex “marriage” and pornography are all wrong. Men, he adds, need to respect women and at any cost defend the honor of a woman. “A man needs to be able to defend the Church’s teaching on that,” says Forrest.
Forrest reminds dads their younger children’s first impression of God is through their earthly father.
As John Paul taught in Familiaris Consortio: “In revealing and in reliving on earth the very fatherhood of God, a man is called upon to ensure the harmonious and united development of all the members of the family: He will perform this task … by means of the witness he gives of an adult Christian life that effectively introduces the children into the living experience of Christ and the Church.”
Being the spiritual father and head of the household can be a strain.
“And the only way you’re going to get that strength,” Forrest says, “is to go to the Eucharist. Sit in adoration, and God is going to give you that power to allow your family to see Christ in you.”
Father’s Day falling on the solemnity of Corpus Christi. What a happy accident that turns out to be.
Joseph Pronechen writes from