The Demands of Commitment
Without hesitating, Helen turned from the stove and said, "It's commitment, Father." Bob smiled in agreement, as Helen went on to explain that while they were both very different people, they made a commitment to each other fifty years ago and that had been that.
Other friends, Richard and Pat, have been married for forty years. The day before they celebrated their anniversary with a family gathering in their home tucked away in the country, Pat went to the local supermarket thinking about all of the favorite foods that her grandchildren would enjoy eating the next day. As she was at the check-out counter, the young girl commented about the large quantity of groceries she was purchasing that day. "Tomorrow is my fortieth wedding anniversary," Pat proudly announced. The girl was surprised and said, "You've been married for forty years? This is something unheard of today. My parents have been divorced twice."
Commitment demands maturity, sacrifice, and a lot of love. Commitment means we have the ability to make a definitive decision and never think twice about the path that we have chosen. Commitment means that we will follow through with the consequences of that decision through the difficult moments and the tedium of daily existence.
Jesus said, "Let what you say be simply 'Yes' or 'No'; anything more than this comes from evil (Mt 5: 37). The rich young man decided not to follow Jesus when he was invited to be a disciple, precisely because he was incapable of making a commitment that demanded great personal sacrifice.
Immature men are incapable of making life-long decisions. Moreover, they are incapable of sacrifice, incapable of fidelity, and incapable of love. Only mature men are capable of these things.
Needed: Real Men
"Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loves the church and gave Himself up for her..." (Eph 5: 25). A young parish priest from Syracuse, New York did not shy away from controversy when the Sunday reading at Mass said "Wives, be submissive to your husband, as to the Lord." He hit the controversy on the head when he said, "If your husband loves you just as Jesus loves the Church, you would want to be obedient to him." How can a wife be obedient to her husband who spends precious time drinking with his buddies, wasting precious time with frequent card games, or even indulging in addictive pornography?
Fatherhood demands responsibility. Every father who is a true man will be responsible for all of his actions. Today, most people escape responsibility by blaming their parents or society for the reasons as to why they behave the way they do. Although it is true that certain situations do influence our personal baggage that we carry through life, playing the blame game is self-indulgence and an escape from reality. Every problem has a solution, and St. Paul reminds us that we can overcome any problem with the grace of God. Anyone who has fallen into the trap of blaming everyone else for personal problems should write down the following passage from St. Paul, commit it to memory, and repeat it often throughout the day: "I can do all things in He who strengthens me" (Phil 4: 13).
Our contemporary culture has an urgent need for men who want to be real men; men capable of making definitive decisions and carrying them through no matter what obstacles may come their way. Our society needs men who are generous, self-giving, honest, industrious, sensitive to the needs of others, and well mannered; men who dress appropriately; men who are capable of an intelligent conversation with their wives, their co-workers, and their friends.
Fathers Roll up Their Sleeves
Throughout my life I have been blessed to know four men who have had a profound impact on my life. Each of these men, like every human being, had his own personal faults and limitations. Nevertheless, each of them had a great capacity for making definitive decisions, providing for their families, educating their children, serving their country, and persevering as faithful sons of their Church. All of them struggled with tremendous challenges. Two of them left Sicily at a young age penniless, but rich in ambition and willing to make personal sacrifices. The other two, rising from humble beginnings, became very successful businessmen and prominent members of their community. Not one of these four men ever blamed their parents, society, or even the economy for their difficulties. They did not whine and moan about their problems. They rolled up their sleeves and went to work, returning home exhausted only to get up the next day to do it all over again.
However, despite their struggles and suffering, all four men were profoundly happy and always the life of any party. Because they understood what it meant to truly be a man, they knew what it meant to be a father. Because they understood their identity as men and as fathers, they possessed a profound sense of peace and joy.
These four men all have had a profound influence on my life because they are members of my family. My great-grandfather, my mother's grandfather, came to this country from Sicily. My grandfather, my father's father, left Sicily when he was only seventeen years old, never to return until he was elderly. My maternal grandfather, living during the time of the Great Depression, eventually became the vice-president of a prominent company located in the city where he lived despite having had to drop out of school after the sixth grade. My father, without even knowing how to boil water, started his own restaurant when he was twenty-five. He became a self-taught chef, and years later became the corporate manager of a chain of forty restaurants.
I am eternally grateful to these men because they have taught me what it means to be a man and a father. As a priest, people call me "Father." The four men that I have mentioned have been called "father" by a small group of people called their families. I have been called "Father" by the thousands and thousands of people that I have provided for, nourished and educated for more than sixteen years as a priest. It is the vocation to celibate fatherhood that allows me to stretch my heart and give myself unconditionally with joy and love each day with renewed commitment and dedication.
Father's Day is here once again. This is a time for all fathers to reflect upon their duties as responsible and well-integrated men. Our nation has an urgent need that all fathers, be they heads of families, parishes or dioceses, be true and loving men who will give themselves unconditionally until the day the heavenly Father calls them to their eternal reward.
© Copyright 2004 Catholic Exchange
Fr. James Farfaglia is the pastor of St. Helena of the True Cross of Jesus parish in Corpus Christi, Texas.