This article was previously published in Sword & Spade magazine.
by Tom Frazier
Responding to questions about a marriage
with the inability to have children.
How does a childless married man find his vocation in today’s fatherless world?
First of all, being a father is not essential to finding my vocation; because following God led me to the vocation of a childless marriage due to physical infertility. I see my vocation as the privilege of working out my salvation in whatever form that takes, children or no children.
Secondly, as a husband, I am the spiritual director of my family, and I take ownership of that. As a husband, I am the father of the home. Since my wife and I are one flesh in the eyes of God through marriage, I am making it my business to take her to heaven with me.
Even though I am biologically childless, that does not define or limit me. The world sees me that way and some people might even feel sorry for me.
Some may whisper and say I am forced to live with a gaping void in my life. For some, childlessness is a heavy cross, but in all honesty I have never had that thought. The youngest son and fifth child of six well-formed and nurtured Catholic kids, I never had a father or mother “wound.” We were middle class, loyal to each other, and my parents were devout Catholics who took
“…I get to be fatherly by being a Catholic mentor.”
their faith seriously. In short, it is a grace to me that I am able to trust God in His will for me, and that has simply not included biological children.
In a nutshell, I drifted away from my faith in college while dabbling with sex, drugs, and alcohol. I danced around these three but they never became my ruling passion. I became lukewarm and fell into the relativistic trap that I wasn’t hurting anybody. As I moved away from God, He allowed me to stew in my own juices until I became dry, apathetic, and bored with myself.
I never stopped attending Sunday Mass, but I did stop going to confession regularly. I missed Mass on many Holy days, used profanity, and did not monitor what I was watching and reading. I drifted along this way for many years without second thoughts, but…somehow my heart knew a drastic change had to occur or else I was going to end up like most of my friends (an unattractive possibility).
I had a serious talk with God in my car one Sunday afternoon on my way home from a weekend of decadence. I had reached the end of my rope and was discouraged that I would never find my way back to inner peace and happiness. God honored my prayer as I asked Him to give me the desire to change and become His guy.
Over time, I persisted in that simple prayer, and very slowly things began to change. The most substantive change to my daily life was praying my Rosary.
Just a few months after making a personal spiritual retreat I was introduced to Fraternus, a Catholic mentoring organization for boys, and I quickly became enmeshed. I knew I was right where God wanted me to be. I had always felt indebted to the many men, some fathers and some fatherless, who taught and shaped me in Boy Scouts. Those memories and that potential came alive in me, and suddenly I wanted to pass on what I had been given. I am in my ninth year with this mentoring organization and have found a fresh new freedom that continues to be nourished. In no uncertain way I get to be fatherly by being a Catholic mentor.
My new freedom that comes from devotion and mentoring is freedom from the bondage of apathy, a dead interior life, and living aimlessly. I have been given a great gift, and, as a father, I have a means to pass it on. The way a biological father considers his example, in my role as a mentor I catch myself not doing or saying certain things because I would not want to see any of our boys doing or saying those things either.
Mentoring is Reciprocal
I now go to Mass during the week and make visits to the Blessed Sacrament because I want to, and it began when one older Fraternus boy told me he “thirsted” to spend quiet time before the tabernacle. That statement impacted me.
Several of the younger boys ask me each week at our Fraternus meeting if I will take them to the adoration chapel for a Rosary. In charge of my own person I may have the freedom to “do whatever I want,” but I know God has given me His graces and my time here on Earth and at Fraternus to give it away in love doing just those things.
The most recent eye-popping moment for me came when one of the older boys told our small group that his girlfriend asked him, “…what are we doing to bring each other closer to Christ?” I went home that night and asked my wife that very question. That boy opened my eyes to the very thing I should have been asking him.
I believe this is true and real fatherhood. I mentor the boys in a fatherly way, but God is also mentoring me through them and the Fraternus mission at large. The reason it “works” is because it is fraternal and paternal. This is what men are and what they need.
Finding my vocation has been a matter of making myself available to the work God would have me do, but I had to put myself in a position to do it. There are times I have to put myself out there when I’m not sure I know what to do. This is the key to my personal growth through Fraternus: giving myself permission to fail while doing God’s work. In the words of Winston Churchill, “… success is not final and failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts.” That sounds so serious, so noble, even corny. Yet remembering that makes my ride home from Fraternus every week special. As a man without biological children, I love being a father.