Let us know the truth and adhere to it

Two weeks ago, hundreds of thousands of Americans converged in Washington, D.C., for the annual March for Life. The march is an opportunity to witness to the right to life and to pray for an end to abortion. Many attendees were Catholic, and of them, most were young people.

If you didn’t go to Washington, D.C., you may not know much about the March for Life. Cable news networks barely mentioned it in their coverage. National newspapers, including the New York Times ran short, poorly researched stories. Though reliable estimates put the crowd at more than 650,000 people, some media outlets reported “tens of thousands” had arrived in Washington. Many in the media do not want to promote the largest annual protest against the culture of death industry and the peaceful youth who endorse a culture of life.

I saw the march for myself and so I know the crowd was large, youthful and incredibly positive.  Many from our own archdiocese attended. The day was an unforgettable celebration of life that will make a difference for our nation. But with only the secular media’s reports, the march would seem to be a small, angry protest of hateful people “behind the times.”

Last week, the Holy Father reminded Christians that “faith is knowing the truth and adhering to it.”  But without seeing it for yourself, it can be very difficult to know what is true these days. To know the truth and adhere to it, we need reliable teachers and witnesses, those who can truthfully convey the state of our world and our role in it.

We cannot live a life of faith without reliable teachers to point us to truth.

Next Monday, Feb. 4 at 7 p.m. in Bonfils Hall of the John Paul II Center, the Archdiocese of Denver will welcome Mary Eberstadt to lecture on the “Myths of the Sexual Revolution.” Eberstadt is a researcher at Stanford University and a successful journalist and author. Her book “Adam and Eve after the Pill,” conveys compellingly and clearly the danger contraception poses to each one of us, to our community and to our world. I pray that all of you will be present to hear Eberstadt speak.

Next month, on March 1 and 2, the archdiocese will hold its annual Living the Catholic Faith Conference. The conference features speakers from across the country who will speak the truth about our Church, our families and our role as Christians in the public square. The Living the Catholic Faith Conference is for everyone—it is an opportunity to spend time in prayer and fellowship, and to be formed in truth. If you have never attended the conference before, I encourage you to register and attend in this Year of Faith.

When Jesus went before Pilate at the end of his life, Pilate famously asked “What is truth?” Pilate could not recognize truth, could not understand it and so he could not receive Jesus Christ, standing before him. All of us are asked, like Pilate, to decide what role Christ will play in our lives. I pray we will know who the truth is—it is the Person, Jesus Christ—and that we will come into personal relationship with him, for he is the truth who will set us free.

COMING UP: On Fathers and Christian Masculinity

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The Year of St. Joseph points us to Jesus’ adoptive father, Joseph, as the essential model for fathers. Joseph not only manifests genuine masculinity, he also images God’s own fatherhood, as Pope Francis makes clear in his apostolic letter, Patris Corde: “In his relationship to Jesus, Joseph was the earthly shadow of the heavenly Father: he watched over him and protected him, never leaving him to go his own way.” Jesus, though the Son of God, obeyed Joseph, learned from him, and worked with him, acknowledging Joseph as a true expression of God’s own fatherhood.  

God does not just use fatherhood as an image of himself, because he himself is Father, even within his own triune life. Earthly fatherhood comes forth from him and should manifest his life and love. St. Paul speaks of honoring the “Father, from whom all fatherhood in heaven and on earth is named” (Eph 3:15). God wants everyone to be able to see his own fatherly love and called certain men to share in his own paternal gift of bringing forth life and caring for others. Every father is called to be liked Joseph, “an earthly shadow of the heavenly Father” for his own family. 

Our culture, however, often denigrates masculinity, sometimes viewing even its proper expressions as toxic. We too often see maleness in its fallenness — dominating and selfish — rather than showing self-sacrificial service. In fact, later in Ephesians, Paul speaks of the true vocation of the husband and father: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Eph 5:25). He also speaks of the role of fatherhood: “Do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph 6:4). Paul shows us the goal of fatherhood — sacrificing himself for the flourishing of the family by putting the good of his wife and children before his own desires.   

No matter what the contrary voices of our culture say, we need strong men and fathers. God created man and woman in complementarity, and they need each other to thrive, helping the other in relation to their own strengths and weaknesses. Children need the strong presence of a father to discipline and teach, as Paul reminds us. Study after study has shown that fathers have the largest impact on the faith of their children. Christian Smith explains in his sociological study, Young Catholic America, that “the faith of Catholic fathers is powerfully determinative of the future faith of their children (125). The same can be said for general wellbeing and success. When fathers are absent or refuse to exercise their role, a moral and spiritual vacuum appears. A strong majority of felons, for instance, grew up without fathers in the home.  

St. Joseph helps us to understand the strength of Christian fatherhood. First, like any good husband, Joseph listened — not just to his wife but also to God. Woken up frequently by angels, he demonstrated obedience and trust, quickly leaving everything behind to follow God’s instructions and to protect his family. We also know Joseph for his work as a carpenter and builder, content to live simply and to work hard. Importantly, he also taught Jesus how to work, showing that fathers model and teach by drawing their children into their life and work. And we can also learn from Joseph’s humility, serving the Incarnate God and his Mother without even a single recorded word in the Gospels.  

This humility points us to the essence of Christian fatherhood. Although living with two perfect people, Joseph was still called to lead. He quietly and humbly did what was needed for his family and taught his own maker how to share in his work. Fathers do not lead in order to be in charge or to get their own way. They lead because God asks them to care for and protect their families. Fathers and mothers share in the great and beautiful partnership of family life, although fathers cannot simply sit back and let mom take the lead in the spiritual life, as they are often tempted to do. Like Joseph, fathers should act firmly and lovingly to put God and the family before self, obeying God and leading the family in the right direction. They are called to model faith, work, and sacrifice to their children. 

On Father’s Day we can affirm that masculinity and fatherhood are not just good — they are essential to understanding God and his plan for human flourishing. If our culture turns around, it will be because, in large part, Christian men stand up and fight. As Christians, we cannot give in to the culture’s attempt to denigrate masculinity and fatherhood or to pit men and women against each other. We can use this celebration to affirm the essential role that our fathers play, leading their families like St. Joseph.