Tag Archives: Fathers

A father’s heart next to Christ’s

In a priest’s talk on fatherhood a few years ago, he’d said, “What a father is, his children will become. He will live in their memory, and his legacy will endure in their lives.” Indeed.

For the first time, I connected a father’s love for his children with that of Christ for His flock.

I think often of my father, who at 85 went to eternal life six summers ago. The longer he’s gone, the more we realize how he fortified us for the struggles of life. We still implore him.

Dad was the first to prepare a place for us, our home. It was a daily refuge like no other. “… I go and prepare a place for you … and will take you to myself” (John 14:3).

Respect for Mom was mandatory, or we’d answer imminently to Dad. “… it is a disgrace for children not to respect their mother” (Sir 3:11).

He disciplined us consistently, regardless of others’ opinions. “My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline … for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights” (Prov 3: 11-12).

He personified a tireless work ethic and generosity. An engineer managing heavy construction projects, he drove to the site at 4 a.m., leaving us a fresh coffee, a quick omelet, and our school lunches packed. “The blessings of your father are mighty beyond the blessings of the eternal mountains” (Gen 49:26).

As his only daughter, there was no escaping Dad’s old-world modesty standard. It wasn’t always well-received, like the afternoon I didn’t see him at a traffic light, as I cycled by in my favorite short-shorts. A raucous horn-blast almost sent me over the handlebars, followed by his command to get home and change. “A daughter keeps her father secretly wakeful, and worry over her robs him of sleep” (Sir 42:9).

He inspired us with everyday closeness to God. Dad would leave the job site at 6 a.m. for daily Mass, then return to work for a long day. He kept his Roman Missal and Pocket Summa in the car, and rosary in his pocket. “And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love Him with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live” (Deut 30:6).

The sweetest recollections were of bringing him our failures and humiliations. That’s when we took great solace in Dad as our port in the world’s storms. He consoled, forgave and reaffirmed us. “… while he was yet at a distance, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him” (Luke 15:20).

Caring for him in old age was a small return for his gifts of a lifetime. “… help your father in his old age, and do not grieve him as long as he lives” (Sir 3:12).

His sacrifices were many, like encouraging my discordant piano practicing, and my brother’s jarring drum solos. He didn’t leave home or lose himself in hobbies. Dad’s favorite pastime was us.

CHRISTINE VALENTINE-OWSIK  is Legatus magazine’s Editor.

Leaders engage causes. What about fatherlessness?

Quick, think of a few companies you admire. If you are in business, include your own. Now, what social, civic or charitable causes do they support? Diversity? Environment? Cancer? Climate? Animals? Diabetes? Fairness? Veterans? Equality?

Bill McCusker

Similarly, what are key ministries at your parish or prominent issues in your Catholic newspaper? Hunger? Immigration? Youth? Homelessness? Evangelization? Clothing, diapers, jobs, furniture and other examples of compassionate outreach?

Thankfully, many businesses, churches and other organizations have the time, talent and treasure to devote to numerous causes. Many individuals generously support their own pet charities, independent of those supported by the organization to which they belong. However, I believe there is one cause which businesses, churches and individuals unfortunately overlook. It is directly related to children living in poverty, dropping out of school, getting arrested, going to jail, getting pregnant, committing suicide and other tragic outcomes. It is spreading, leaving hopelessness and despair in its wake. It is the epidemic of fatherlessness.

Very simply, too many kids are being raised without fathers. Yes, there are situations requiring mothers to raise children by themselves. Sadly, however, kids without dads are becoming more of the norm than the exception. The results are as disastrous as they are well-researched and documented.

Consider:

  • In the United States, 17.4 million children lived in father-absent homes in 2014, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.That is roughly the combined total populations of New Mexico, Arkansas, West Virginia, Mississippi, Nevada, Nebraska and Kansas.
  • Children living in female-headed homes with no spouse present have a poverty rate of 47.6 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. That is more than four times the rate for children living in married-couple families.
  • “Children who grow up without a father are five times more likely to live in poverty and commit crime; nine times more likely to drop out of schools and 20 times more likely to end up in prison,” then-Senator Barack Obama pointed out in a June 2008 speech.

Business leaders should take note. Why?

Let’s see. In building the long-term value of the enterprise, business people spot needs, manage risks, develop solutions and prevent problems from metastasizing. But what happens when children leave school early, develop no skills, and join gangs? Logic suggests they will not become the employees, customers and clients that businesses will need tomorrow. Should this not concern business people?

And a growing percentage of the workforce — single moms raising poor, undisciplined, inadequately supervised, and lonely kids at home — will be more distracted, stressed and unproductive on the job. Should not businesses be troubled, if for no other reason than their own vitality depends on adequate employee engagement?

What about churches and non-business organizations? To me, leaders of all stripes should be alarmed by what is at risk: the survival of our ideals of equality, fairness, public safety and civility. Indeed, should not all responsible and caring people, otherwise committed to charity, ethical practices and social responsibility, heed a root cause of what is fraying the fabric of our society?

I applaud businesses, churches and other groups for their charitable efforts to build a better world. In choosing what efforts to support, however, I suggest they considerfatherlessness, a driver of many of today’s most pressing problems. But despite its devastating impact, fatherlessness isn’t on many organizations’ short list of favorite causes. It isn’t trendy. It probably doesn’t comport with the politically correct tenets to which many business leaders cling. Nor, sadly, does it tend to register among the efforts that Catholic organizations and their leaders support.

Frankly, it would take courage to commit to reverse the erosion of fatherhood and restore fathers to the vital roles they have historically played in the lives of their children. But successful leaders, be they CEOs, bishops, pastors or parishioners, typically don’t succeed by being afraid to take on big challenges.

BILL MCCUSKER is a business developer with KPMG in Philadelphia. He has worked for 35 years in senior marketing and business development roles with large global firms. Bill is also the founder and CEO of Fathers & Families, Inc. and the author of Fatherhood: In Pieces. He lives in New Jersey with his wife and two daughters.