National Catholic Register

Books

A Father’s Manual

Book review of Man to Man, Dad to Dad: Catholic Faith and Fatherhood.

BY Nick Manetto

June 16-29, 2013 Issue | Posted 6/15/13 at 8:27 AM

 

MAN TO MAN, DAD TO DAD

Catholic Faith and Fatherhood

Edited by Brian Caulfield

Pauline Books & Media, 2013

144 pages, $12.95

To order: store.pauline.org

 

Few topics can be more demanding and challenging — and thus more worthy of a faithful, well-informed and usable guidebook — than fatherhood.

Enter Brian Caulfield’s Man to Man, Dad to Dad: Catholic Faith and Fatherhood, a highly readable compendium of about a dozen short essays by real-life Catholic dads in today’s trenches of fatherhood, just in time for last-minute Father’s Day shopping.

From the ever-elusive work-life balance and discipline of children to lessons on sexuality, morality and pornography, various authors offer practical and easy-to-read advice in a little more than 100 pages.

With chapters running six to eight pages apiece, authors make their points in the time it would take to read the sports section.

In a chapter about the patron saint of fathers, St. Joseph, Rick Sarkisian writes about achieving true freedom by turning our lives over to God. This entails accepting ourselves as we are, as well as accepting and even embracing suffering and committing to live in the present moment.

“If we are constantly reliving the events of our past, we bump up against the harsh reality that we are powerless to change anything. Likewise, if we are fond of dreaming ahead, we realize that we have no control over what will come. Real peace and fulfillment are found here and now, as we seek God in the present moment. I believe Joseph demonstrated this attention to the present moment, and we are called to demonstrate this ‘now-ness’ in our marriages and families,” Sarkisian writes.

As Caulfield notes in his conclusion, this book differs from the typical self-help tome by offering less of a roadmap to the finish line but, rather, a path to the starting point.

It offers advice from Catholic fathers facing the same joys and challenges many of us also navigate on a daily basis.

Authors include Catholic journalists and writers, theologians, professors and therapists, but perhaps the most important shared credential of each is his role as dad, including more than one author with a number of children in the double digits.

Rather than a distant look back from those who raised their kids during bygone eras, all of these dads are navigating fatherhood in today’s hustle-bustle world filled with conflicting to outright hostile messages, technological overload, economic uncertainty and a host of other trials.

Each author weaves in anecdotes from his own life experiences, making for chapters that read like candid personal reflections.

While references to the faith and Bible are included throughout the book, this is no heavily footnoted read and would be valuable for all dads, from those just starting off to veterans in need of a pick-me-up — including those on the periphery of the Church, those who have wandered away and even those on the outside seeking some sound counsel on fatherhood.

Perhaps most importantly, each author makes clear that being a successful father is not something any man can achieve on his own. Rather, from balancing work to raising strong Catholic kids to combating omnipresent sin, we succeed only by placing our vocation in God’s hands and embracing prayer and other daily habits to condition us for this work.

“Men, we are called to a great mission. Moving from boyhood to manhood to fatherhood to sainthood is the work of a lifetime, and it requires God’s love,” Damon Owens writes in a discourse on the theology of the body. “As fathers at service to our families, we are called to ‘die daily’ in the small things: go to bed and get up on time each day; anticipate the needs of others; listen and hold your tongue; yield in matters of personal preference; praise, encourage, affirm; speak the truth; keep high expectations and be quick to forgive; pray for grace for ourselves and for others.”

Man to Man, Dad to Dad is a valuable instruction manual not because its authors say things never said before, but, rather, because they focus on simple and basic fundamentals essential to Catholic fatherhood and offer practical guidance targeted to today’s Catholic dads as we strive to emulate the father of all fathers, St. Joseph.

As Father’s Day nears, I highly recommend this book for the dads in your lives, perhaps with a couple of hours to read it and a gift card to his favorite coffee shop.

Nick Manetto writes from Herndon, Virginia.