As a Catholic father, I have come to meditate quite frequently during the holy sacrifice of the Mass on the unbelievable gift that God the Father, through his Son, Jesus Christ, gave us in holy Communion through the Eucharist.
This Eucharist, the actual body, blood, soul and divinity of Our Savior and the re-enactment and unbloody sacrifice of Jesus Christ offered on our church altars daily is such a mystery and such a gift that I believe few of us totally comprehend and appreciate its significance in our lives and in our world.
The Mass anchors my life as a father, encouraging me to give of myself for my family.
In Gaudium et Spes, from the Second Vatican Council, Blessed John Paul II, then Bishop Karol Wojtyla, contributed, "Man can only discover his true self in a sincere giving of himself." This is Pope John Paul’s most quoted phrase throughout his personal writings, books and messages, a good meditation as his canonization approaches.
To freely choose to sacrifice oneself for one’s wife and children’s betterment, even at the expense of one’s personal career goals and ambitions, is quite contrary to the modern world’s understanding of man and freedom — but in line with the integrity and virtue of St. Joseph, whose feast day we commemorate on March 19.
We are all called to glorify God and to help save souls. This is our divine calling in our work, rest and play, in our fathering, husbanding and professional lives. We are to live for God within our families first and foremost.
Pope John Paul expressed this concept in another way before becoming a cardinal: "The human person realizes himself most adequately in the fulfillment of his obligations." It is through the daily fulfillment of these duties, obligations and responsibilities as husbands and fathers that we follow in Jesus’ footsteps.
It should be obvious to most of us that this Catholic worldview is radically opposed to the world’s concept of manhood, which is why it is important that we model Christian virtue and integrity for our wives, our children and our society, making heroic sacrifices just like St. Joseph did for the Holy Family.
That’s why I encourage my sons to serve at the altar of God. They are learning the importance of faith and being close to God. One gains untold graces and partial indulgences each and every time a boy serves "the most beautiful thing this side of heaven," as Father Frederick Faber famously called it.
As the Catholic father of seven children, five of whom are male, I believe our family is also situated with the signal grace of educating our children at home.
This allows us to make the daily Mass schedule (and vespers and compline, as available on Sundays) the very heart and center of our lives and school days. Our diocesan parish near Greenville, S.C., ordinarily provides Mass in both forms of the Roman rite; therefore, my three boys who are able to serve holy Mass have ample opportunity to do so as acolytes and torch bearers, etc.
In fact, aside from occasional priestly vacations and the summer months, we have had daily traditional Latin Mass for the better part of two years now. My 13-, 10- and 7-year-olds look forward to their noon-time opportunity to serve Jesus Christ. Our family life, education and spiritual formation are nourished at the unending font of grace provided by the traditional Latin Mass, traditional devotions and liturgical calendar. We attempt to build the Kingdom of God in our neck of the woods by sanctifying the time he gives us with family life and Church life.
While we live in an age that has grown antagonistic to manhood, chivalry and virtue, young men who frequently serve at the altar — even daily — begin to imbibe the primary graces that the Mass is: heroic sacrifice, reparation for sins, propitiation, atonement and satisfaction to God Almighty.
This unique spiritual and psychological formation will assist parents, teachers, coaches and grandparents in rebuilding a society that has decomposed as the true understanding of manhood has been destroyed.
St. Joseph, pray for us!
Brian Mershon writes from Greenville, South Carolina.