Inspired by the recent feast day of Jesus’ baptism; Father Robert Barron’s respective homily; and past articles from The Catholic Gentleman on how fathers can be a prophet, priest, and a king; I decided to write the following blog post.
Members of families usually have tasks or duties expected of them. It might be a mother’s duty to make sure the children’s dressers are stacked with clean clothes. A father might be expected to be the weekend cook for the family or make sure the bills are always paid. A child might be in charge of completing the task of taking out the garbage every week. A grandmother might be expected to set the table on Thanksgiving. You get the idea. Well, there are duties assigned to members of your spiritual family too. When we are baptized, we are born into the body of Christ: Christianity. This is why we call other Christians our “brothers and sisters”. We are siblings under the Father. Like a biological family, we share our Father’s blood and take His name (CHRISTian). Every time we cross ourselves with holy water, we are reaffirming our membership of this Christian family from our baptism. But just what is the sign of the cross with holy water reminding us of?
Like being part of any family, members have duties. When we are baptized, we take on three Christ-like roles: a prophet, a priest, and a king. Jesus was the perfect example of these three roles. And to be a good Christian is to imitate Christ to the best of one’s abilities…I’ll let you finish where I’m going with that train of thought. “This sounds really serious and way too pious for me” you say? It’s really not as difficult as many think and it’s probably more important than most understand. Let’s explore what these three roles mean and look at ways we can fulfill their respective duties with a particular emphasis on parenting.
Be a Prophet
“Wooooah. This sounds pretty heavy? Be a prophet?!” Yes! A prophet is someone to who reveals the truth of the Father to others. They are educators of God. They defend God’s Word and they speak out against heresy. This doesn’t mean we should be knocking on doors with the Bible, but it does mean we shouldn’t ignore blatant opportunities to speak what we know or defend the truth when needed. We live in an age where so many of us think religion is supposed to be deeply “personal” to the point of suppressing to only within one’s mind lest we be labeled a “nut” or something else associated with forms of Protestantism (sorry, I had to). Christianity in indeed personal but it would dwindle without the prophetic quality of evangilization. No, don’t be pushy or forceful but help guide others in their spiritual life with information that they might not be aware of. If your family member is talking about having an abortion of getting sterilized, it’s your duty as a baptized Christian to express what we hold true in a respectful and dignified way.
I’m sure many people reading this have heard that the family is the “domestic church”. It is within this domestic church that our children learn about their souls–about their spiritual side. The Church’s Catechism explains the family’s role in educating children very well:
2223 Parents have the first responsibility for the education of their children. They bear witness to this responsibility first by creating a home where tenderness, forgiveness, respect, fidelity, and disinterested service are the rule. The home is well suited for education in the virtues. This requires an apprenticeship in self-denial, sound judgment, and self-mastery – the preconditions of all true freedom. Parents should teach their children to subordinate the “material and instinctual dimensions to interior and spiritual ones.”
2225 Through the grace of the sacrament of marriage, parents receive the responsibility and privilege of evangelizing their children. Parents should initiate their children at an early age into the mysteries of the faith of which they are the “first heralds” for their children. They should associate them from their tenderest years with the life of the Church.
2226 Education in the faith by the parents should begin in the child’s earliest years. This already happens when family members help one another to grow in faith by the witness of a Christian life in keeping with the Gospel. Family catechesis precedes, accompanies, and enriches other forms of instruction in the faith. Parents have the mission of teaching their children to pray and to discover their vocation as children of God.
Quick ways to educate your family on their spirituality:
- Pray with your children-bedtime, meals, morning, and the Rosary to name a few ways.
- Read and learn about things. You cannot properly teach your family things that you don’t even know yourself. Adult Christians must hold themselves responsible for at least understanding the basics. Chances are, if you’re reading this site, you already take good care in this regard. Perhaps share this post on Facebook or with a friend that could use this information!
- Bless your children
- Receive frequent sacraments. Seek to receive communion more than just once on a Sunday. Seek to always be in a state of grace for communion by going as a family to confession. And celebrate the “one-time” sacraments like a true Catholic: with fun, family, friends, food, music, booze, and everything else that makes a party a party!
- Teach them about the saints. Many saints have stories that are as exciting as any fictional children’s book. Encourage them to see the lives of virtue behind these men and women and find their own patron saints!
- Celebrate feast days! Have each member pick out a saint that they would like to celebrate on their respective day! Devoted to JPII? Make a polish dinner on October 22nd, type up a formal prayer asking for the Saint’s intersession to recite before eating. Make it a formal event with candles, music, and nice dishes! As Christians, we are all a FAMILY! Families celebrate each other and love each other!
- LISTEN. I’m looking at the fathers here again. Be quick to listen to loved ones and thoughtful to respond. Take time and really hone in on your listening skills.
- Love your spouse as yourself. Not only is this important for a strong marriage, this is important for children to see so they are able to have healthy relationships in the future and know what to look for when seeking a mate.
Be a Priest
We are not talking about becoming an ordained priest in the Catholic Church, we are talking about embracing priestly duties. Priests before Jesus, Jesus’ own high priesthood, and those through present day work on connecting people to God. The primary ways priests connect people to their Father is through prayer, sacrifice, and witness.
When was the last time you prayed for someone else? Seriously. Take a quick moment to ask yourself this. Do you pray for your children? Spouse? Parents? Friends? Coworkers? Our prayers are important. Like the incense at Mass, our prayers rise up to our Father’s throne from the saints in the arms of the angels (Rev 8:4). We must attempt to intercede for one another just as we ask Mary and the saints to intercede for us. This is something we can all work on–I know there’s more people I can pray for. I specifically pray for everyone in my family, that they stay strong using their respective talents, and that they all are set on fire by the Holy Spirit to lead joyful and loving lives. Most of the time our prayers will not change God’s will. That’s okay. When our prayers are not changing God’s will (even though sometimes it won’t be immediately apparent to us), that means He is changing our will. Praying for people around us forces us to think about them, their situations, their gifts, their hardships. Prayer will at the very least make us better people towards others by fostering a deeper understanding of others.
We must pray when it’s hard to pray too. It’s hard to pray for our enemies, the people who seek to do us harm. To this, I’d point out Pope Francis’ beautiful example of praying in the face of evil.
We pray, in this Mass, for the victims of this cruelty — so many of them — and we pray also for the perpetrators of such cruelty, that the Lord might change their heart.
-Pope Francis during first Mass after Paris Terrorist Attack
It is of paramount importance that married couples pray for their spouses daily–the same goes for parents praying for their children. There are three saints I have a deep devotion to when it comes to family life; the Blessed Mother, St. Joesph, and St. John Paul II. Mothers should look to Mary’s selfless example when it came to motherhood and they can pray to her for her intercession of strength. Fathers should find a deep devotion in St. Joesph, Jesus’ adoptive father. Joesph was prayerful, courageous, strong, protective, loving and he provided for his family. Joesph never longed for the spotlight, but rather focused on making sure his family was guided in the right direction from the peripheral. He was a listener too. All people who love their family can find joyful devotion in St JPII. He’s commonly regarded as the patron saint of families. His deep commitment to the importance of Christian families fueled some of the most profound Christian writings we’ve ever seen. His connection of the human family with the divine family is eye-opening and inspirational. His explanation of God being an example of a “perfect family” serves as a model to all our Earthly families through Fatherhood (parenthood), sonship (children), and the Holy Spirit (love).
The act of praying also encourages our spouses to pray. Parents set an example for children when parents visibly pray too. Saint John Paul II said one of his most powerful memories was getting up in the middle of the night and seeing his dad deep in prayer. This story moved me and makes me strive to be the best example I can be to my children. This brings us to the priest’s next duty…
One of the most cancerous reputations to the Catholic Church in recent decades is the sentiment that the clergy and laity are inauthentic hypocrites–that they don’t practice what they don’t preach. True, some aren’t. We must live visible lives of joy and love. We must be the example of authenticity that people of our generation are craving. If our cradle Catholic neighbor that hasn’t been to church in decades sees us going to Mass every Sunday but never waving or smiling, never picking up trash in the road, or just not being a good neighbor in general, we are not only not fulfilling our calling to be priestly but we are doing the Church harm.
Always preach the Gospel. When necessary, use words.
When children see their parents say hurtful things to one another without openly apologizing afterwards, the children’s faith suffers (among other things). We need to show the power of forgiveness in our homes. We need to be quick to forgive and humbly ask for the forgiveness of our family members. Fathers and mothers need to also apologize to their children when they do wrong in front of them. Children need to see that God is the father of the entire household, not just of the children. If the children are led in bedtime and meal prayers every day but never see their parents in deep adult prayer, they will think there’s two realities. It’s important children see their parents ‘hit their knees’. Parents answer to God too. A lot of parents need to shed their bashfulness and “man-up” in this regard. I certainly know there’s a lot of room for my wife and I to improve when it comes to this.
Being a lazy Christian doesn’t result in more lazy Christians. It results with more pagans.
Priests make sacrifices. The Mass is taking part in the ultimate loving sacrifice, but it doesn’t end there. We should strive to sacrifice in all our actions. True love is self-sacrifice (I know, I say this a lot on this blog,sorry). To be a priest to your family, you must sacrifice yourself for the love of your children and spouse (men in particular should focus on this). If your children see you doing what you want to do more than doing what they need, their entire view of how life works will become warped. It is through self-sacrificing love that our children understand what true love is. Sure, they might hate us through their teenage years making it seem like all influence has been lost, but eventually they will look back and realize what you did for them. They will do the same for their children and keep a cycle of strong Christian parenthood going (contrary to the cycle of broken and disordered families that is prevalent now).
Take up your cross of parenthood and carry it joyfully. Embrace the fact that you will be doing less things for yourself because you know that’s the ultimate form of love and you are taking part in the sacred task of raising children.
Be a King
“Okay, being a prophet was pushing it, but a KING?! King’s are evil dictators”. Yeah, yeah. Americans have a real distaste for anything royal–with good cause–but we’re not talking about political Kings here. We’re talking about Jesus, the King of Kings. A king is a leader. A Christian king leads his people towards a life of virtue, God, and, ultimately, heaven. We are called to be humble kings like Jesus. I am going to take a passage from Sam Guzman’s post on fatherly kingship because of how beautifully he sums it up:
There are many examples of Christ’s kingship in Scripture, but one passage is preeminent in illustrating exactly what Christ-like authority looks like. Here it is:
And now, rising from supper, he laid his garments aside, took a towel, and put it about him; and then he poured water into the basin, and began to wash the feet of his disciples, wiping them with the towel that girded him.
In another Gospel, we find out that right before this, the disciples were once again quarrelling about who was to be the greatest in the kingdom of God. It’s the Passover. It is Christ’s final hour of fellowship with is disciples before he is to be brutally murdered—and all his closest friends can do is argue about who is to be the greatest, the most powerful.
So what does Jesus do? He doesn’t rebuke them, he simply shatters their notions of what authority looks like. He strips of his clothes—his royal robes, if you will—and puts on the garment of a humble servant. He begins to perform the most despised of tasks given to the lowliest servants. He begins to wash their feet.
It is no exaggeration to say that his disciples are dumbfounded. What on earth was Jesus doing? Wasn’t he about to usher in a glorious earthly kingdom (that’s what his disciples thought)? They didn’t have to wonder long. Jesus explains:
Do you understand what it is I have done to you? You hail me as the Master, and the Lord; and you are right, it is what I am. Why then, if I have washed your feet, I who am the Master and the Lord, you in your turn ought to wash each other’s feet; I have been setting you an example, which will teach you in your turn to do what I have done for you. […]
Men, this is Christ-like kingship. It is not chest thumping domination. It is not forcing others to submit to your needs and wants. It is the exact opposite—it is washing your family’s feet.
Put another way, kingship means embracing the lowliest and most thankless tasks. It means changing diapers, taking out the trash, listening to your wife and understanding her feelings and concerns. It means patiently teaching your children virtue through example and loving discipline. It means washing the dishes and rocking a screaming baby. It means leading by example, never asking of your family something you are not willing to do or have not done already. In short, it means laying down your life for those entrusted by God to your care.
Baptism is a lot bigger of deal than many Christians understand. When you look at it as entering a family headed by God Himself, it takes on new meaning for a lot of people. Now that you’re armed with the information contained in this post, I pray that we all are able to go forth in life preaching the Gospel to those around us through words and actions. There is nothing more important than bringing these lessons from our spiritual family and practicing them within our Earthly families. I pray to the Virgin that my petitions are heard: that not only all Christians heed this calling seriously but that I too am able to participate to the fullest of my abilities as a Christian.
Note: I started this post not realizing just how good the series was that The Catholic Gentleman had on this topic. Some tips are inspired directly from his posts and I suggest everyone who found my post interesting to look at his series.