by Kenneth Henderson
We hear about the vocations crisis and how we need good priest to come into the Church, but there is another "Vocations Crisis" that is probably doing even more harm to our Church than the lack of priests; the “Other” Vocations Crisis is the crisis of Husbands and Fathers.
Of course this crisis is nothing new; it has been going on for a long time, ever since Adam failed to protect Eve from the temptations of the devil in fact. He froze in the face of danger and thereby exhibited a flaw that all men would deal with for many years to come…passivity. But there have been times in history when husbands and fathers where more in tune with what it means to be a True Man, to be a True Husband, True Father…a True Knight for the Kingdom of God. Arguably, the 20th Century saw the greatest increase in this crisis in all of history.
God created man for a purpose; to be the head of his family, to lead his family to God and protect his family from the dangers of the world, the flesh and the devil. This purpose requires that men strive to live lives of heroic honor, virtue and purity, in an impure world. However, the 20th century could also be labeled the most impure society in all of history.
Modern Men started to loose their sense of purpose early on in the beginning of the 20th century with the feminist movement wanting to equalize the roles of men and women. Later with the introduction of contraception and the “free love” movement that followed in the 60s more and more men became enslaved to a sense of false manhood, a manhood based primarily on financial success and sexual prowess. Isn’t it ironic that in an attempt to equalize the roles, the feminist movement played a major role in the most intense period ever for the objectification of women? Women are valued less now for true womanhood than ever. With the onslaught of pornography, more and more women are falling victim to the mindset that to find love is to be sexually desirable. But I digress and this is a topic for yet another time.
Men are just as much to blame if not more so for this “vocations” crisis. We have abdicated our roles due, yet again, to passivity; the very same flaw that our first parent Adam displayed. We live in a time when false men are fighting false battles, because they have no idea what it means to be a true man; many display swaggering machismo to compensate for a loss of their true sense of purpose.
Man and woman are not to only ones to blame here. Remember that the serpent was also present in the garden, just as he is present today, and with a renewed intensity. The devil has one goal in mind; to destroy humanity. He is also a great strategist and he knows that to defeat any foe, you must take out its leader. Man was created by God to be the “head” of the family, while woman was created to be the “heart.” When the head is cut off from the body, the body dies. Our society is filled with many dead bodies.
The evil one knows the easiest way to render a man helpless, to cut him off from the body; by attacking him with lust and enslaving man to the sins of the flesh. This is why our society is the most sexually immoral society ever. With the easy accessibility of porn on the internet, Satan has been able to enslave more men to sex than ever before. St. Thomas Aquinas said that when man gives into the sins of the flesh, his intellect becomes darkened. So much so that even simple truths can not be understood. Many men are living lives in the darkness. This is why men have been abandoning their families in record numbers, if not by outright abandonment, then by passivity, leaving their families like a body without a head. As The Irish philosopher Edmund Burke observed, all that is needed for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. Sadly this problem is passed on to the next generation because sons will often follow in the footsteps of their fathers. Only when a man comes to recognize his weakness and call upon the grace of God can he begin to break this generational curse.
More men in the middle ages knew their true purpose in the family than many men do today. They practiced the "Code of Chivalry" in which they knew that the key to true manhood was to place women above themselves; to serve and honor women and protect them, especially their wives. They also knew that it took a knight to raise a knight. They knew that the only way to ensure that their sons would be worthy to lead their own families was to strive to be a role model for a life of virtue. They also knew that they where instrumental in determining the fate of their daughters and strove to be the model of the man that their daughters would one day marry. Now while not all men of that period lived this ideal, many did and many also knew the supreme importance of spiritual headship. They understood the importance of being the primary instructor of the faith for their children. This can be seen exemplified in the life of St. Thomas Moore, who placed the welfare and salvation of his wife and children as most important job of his life, even above that of Lord High Chancellor of England...second most powerful man in all of England.
Adapted from a talk given by Kenneth Henderson at the 3rd Annual Hudson Valley Catholic Conference on July 21st, 2007