Friday, June 15, 2007

Fatherhood, Time, and Sacrifice

A few days ago, one of my co-workers recommended I read Catholics and Contraception.

I said something to the effect of, "It sounds interesting," but in my mind I thought, "When would I have time?"

I love to read -- not entirely unlike Burgess Meredith's character in one of the most famous episodes of The Twilight Zone.

But since Jocelyn and I started having kids, I have precious little time to read.

(On my own, that is. Of course, I now have ample opportunity to share the wondrous literary creations of Dr. Seuss, Richard Scarry, Tomie de Paola, et al., with our little ones.)

By necessity, then, I have less time for myself, since I have to give more of it to them.

Each year when Father's Day rolls around, I feel a need to reflect upon my own fatherhood, which, like every other good thing, is a a gift from God the Father.

Fatherhood could be described as the sum total of a man's responsibilities toward his children. Thus, the standard I most often use to assess how well I'm doing as a dad is, "How am I spending my time? Am I living for myself, or for my family?"

Around Christmastime 1999, during my senior year of college, I had dinner with a young priest I had met through some mutual friends. He broached the subject of the priesthood with me (and I'm very glad he did, as I tend to think priests could do that sort of thing more often when talking with young men), saying something to the effect of, "You'd make a good priest."

I replied that I had given some thought to the priesthood, but I had recently started dating Jocelyn, and I felt that it was my vocation to marry.

The priest, in turn, said something very wise: Whatever vocation you choose, he said, you should feel that you're giving up something.

He then went on to say that when he meets prospective seminarians who say they would never want to be married or have children, that's a cause for concern. How much would they really be giving up by becoming a priest?

This priest's counsel really gets at the nature of vocation. We ought not choose to live our lives the way we ourselves would want to live them, but rather we should choose to live our lives in accord with the way God wants us to live them -- which always, always involves sacrifice on our part.

Some of the prophets -- Moses, Jeremiah, and Jonah in particular -- were rather reluctant at first. They hemmed and hawed when God told them what He wanted them to do. Wisely, however, they reconsidered.

Consider also these words from Our Lord:

Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, "How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!" The disciples were amazed at his words. So Jesus again said to them in reply, "Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to pass through (the) eye of (a) needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God." They were exceedingly astonished and said among themselves, "Then who can be saved?" Jesus looked at them and said, "For human beings it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God."

Peter began to say to him, "We have given up everything and followed you." Jesus said, "Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the gospel who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age: houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come. (Mark 10:23-30)

I'm the type of guy who loves to spend time by himself -- whether it be spent reading, running, biking, or whatever. A big part of me would love to be able to have more time to do these sorts of things, but given life's current circumstances, it's simply not there. Apparently, God has other plans.

Being a husband and a dad, having large amounts of time to myself -- that I would otherwise have enjoyed -- is a major part of what I have chosen to given up.

The more time I spend with our kids, however, the more I realize it's a good thing thing I have given that up.

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