A Question Going Out the Door

Posted by Webster
No recent post has received more comments than one titled “Because Catholic Men Are Just That.” It raised many questions, which received a number of good answers. If you haven’t done so, check it out.

As I head for the hills of Vermont, a new question occurs to me, a question for women as well as for men:

Are Catholic men and women comfortable with their respective roles as they have evolved within the Catholic family during the post–Vatican Council II years? And in particular, how have the respective roles of father and mother changed?

I know there is a broad spectrum of personal and parish experiences within the capital-C Church, so there should be a broad range of responses. But let me put the question personally—

The classic pre-VCII television sitcom was “Father Knows Best” (1954–1960). Probably, this series could never have been made after Vatican II. From 1969 to 1976, its star, Robert Young, had a new persona, “Marcus Welby, MD.”

In my family (with six children born 1951–1964) my father did know best, although by 1970 my mother had learned pretty well! In fact, she had gone back to finish college, then earned a graduate degree, preparing for a second career. We were all very proud of her, still are.

What has happened to the Catholic family since Vatican II? Why is it that I shudder to think of the laughter that would rain down on me if I laid down the law in my household with a simple statement, “But you know, father knows best!” In greater Boston, I am surrounded by Catholics, as I wrote here, but I am also surrounded by men who have given up the throne—and women who know it.

I am going to make one stab at part of an answer, then turn over the microphone. I’m going to say, it’s not really the throne, it’s the prie-dieu. That is, we men haven’t given up power, we’ve given up our faith.

In Katie’s family (seven children, born 1948–1959), her father said the Rosary aloud in the home every night. I have never done that, and I know I could, even if it meant everyone else moving to the TV room. But I could stake my fatherhood on my Catholic faith, as I know my good friend Patrick has. He says the Rosary every night in his room, but doesn’t stop if anyone walks in on him.

Planting that flag in my home might show best how much I know. No matter what the response.

Your thoughts?

  • Anonymous

    Every prayer is worth the try.Go for it, and praise God our Father and His Spirit for your role, place, function, etc., as father.Remind any askance-lookers that you share the title of "father" with God, and you pray in plea and hope to make Him proud of that fact. God our Father, the very One Who always knows best: keep in touch, fathers.Warren Jewell

  • James

    In my household when I try to trumpet a proclamation it is generally followed by howls of laughter. Our family life is more of a cooperative venture rather than a patriarchy or matriarchy. Of course this is simplified by having an only child. Myself, I'm the oldest of eight (1951 to 1961) and while our family was patriarchal, if my parents ever attempted to get us all to say the rosary at once we wouldn't of made it through one decade. As it was we went to mass in shifts. We didn't pray together raising our son ( a parochial school grad) but we did worship together, always attended mass and visited churches when on vacations and had many lively theological conversations especially regarding the importance and power of prayer. Personally I like to follow Christ's directive to go to your room and close your door and pray to the Father in private. A paraphrase I know but it strikes a chord in me. I do admire Katie's Dad for centering his family's home life around the rosary and would like to point out that Fr. Peyton and the Family Rosary Crusade was in full swing at the time. The rosary is a blessing and a powerful gift to us from Our Lady.

  • Anonymous

    Hello WebsterI would like to wish you and your family a Merry Christmas.For you info, I discovered (not too long before my neighbour pass away) that he would recite the rosary at around 8.30 to around 9pm by himself and aloud. I could heard his voice from my parent place which was separated by a road and compound of our house. What a voice; loud, clear and consistent. This post reminded me of that man.MosesKuala LumpurMalaysia

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01819831282677092730 Frank

    Moses, Merry Christmas to you and yours and selamat datang!That is very interesting especially given the setting in Malaysia. I lived in K.L. for 15 months in December 1985-April 1987 and was a Marine Guard at the U.S. Embassy there. It never occurred to me to even try to go to church while I was there, but then again, I wasn't a Catholic yet. And now Google shows me that there are three Catholic Churches in the Archdiocese of Kuala Lumpur) in the capital of a predominately Muslim country, where Chinese Buddhists and Hindu religions are the 2nd and third most prominent.If I ever get a chance to visit K.L. again on vacation, I know I can go to Mass now. And now I'm craving satay!

  • Anonymous

    As a child (1948), I loathed "father Knows Best," as the household was dominated by pushy, bratty, utterly selfish children. In one episode the brother is darkly suspicious, because his college-age sister has just read a book (her first?) about siblings being kind to each other … so for the first time in their lives she's nice to him! In another the father takes his 12 year old daughter to the ONLY dance of the year, leaving his wife home! A 3rd has the parents returning hastily from a vacation alone, as they cannot speak to each other — strangers in effect.

  • Anonymous

    P.S.: I think this reflects a very modern middle-class attitude. In many working-class families with Depression Era/WW II parents, no one was boss/"patriarch," work & responsibilities were pretty evenly divided. Mothers often worked hard, underpaid, factory & domestic jobs. I grew up around men (including Irish immigrants!) who could cook, iron, clean, & never thought about it.

  • Webster Bull

    With respect for the two anonymous comments just above, my post was not meant to be an endorsement of "Father Knows Best," nor was it meant to establish a norm for how fathers and mothers behave. It was an attempt to ask a question, which I still think begs an answer. Maybe women have these things all figured out, but I know men don't.

  • Anonymous

    In response to your question from a female perspective, I think much of what has happened post Vatican II is a result of the devaluation of the woman's role in the family. We live in a society that craves to feel valued and I think so many people undervalue and misunderstand the traditional role of wife and mother, as well as misunderstanding the great gifts we are given as male and female. As a younger woman growing up in today's society (I'm 27), I know for so long I felt that as I settled down into a family that I wanted to be the breadwinner, to be 'head' of the family. To me, this was the place of pride, of value, and of contribution. It wasn't until I truly understood Ephesians 5 and studied Theology of the Body that I began to unravel what it really meant to be a woman and to realize that while my role might not be to be head of the household, but rather support and nurture that household, that there was a power in that that society had never taught me. An understanding of these teachings and what it is to be woman directed me to find my wonderful fiancee who loves me as Christ loves the Church, and allowed me to embrace the traditional roles I will play one day as wife and mother.

  • Webster Bull

    Anonymous (27), Thanks so much for this generous comment. It is inspiring to me as the father of two women in their twenties, one of whom is in RCIA now.

  • Anonymous

    Hello FrankWhat a world! You were stationed in KL?Yes, there are three main parish churchs within the city center, namely St John Cathedral (dedicated to the evangelist), St Anthony Church, and Holy Rosay Church. Normally, visitors will go to the Cathedral because it is more conveniently located.By the way, what is the role of a Marine within the armed forces, if you don't mind? I mean why was it called Marine? I have ideas about the infantry, the navy and the air force but not too sure about the Marine as practised by the US (and I think that of the British).Regards,MosesKuala Lumpur, Malaysia

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01819831282677092730 Frank

    Moses: I was one of the Marine Guards at the US Embassy in KL long, long ago.Here is a link you can cut and paste to put in your browser for a quick explanation of the US Marine Corps and it's role in the Armed Forces:ttp://www.marines.cc/content/view/5/6/1/1/

  • Anonymous

    Now I see, you are an all-rounder guy ;-) Thanks.Moses


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