I had a professor in college who came in to class after watching the first Jason Bourne movie. “My life is so boring when compared to Jason Bourne…” He was a dad of five small children, he lived in an uneventful quiet neighborhood, and he taught us Literature and Math. To him that was a boring life, or at least an uneventful one. At the time, as a college student, I agreed. I was never going to settle for what I saw as a boring family life. Though now, as a young man discerning the vocation to married life, I see things from a slightly different angle. Now that I am looking at that vocation, I long to see it lived out in the fathers and men I come in contact with.

Fathers seem to have two principle calls, to fight/defend and to build/heal/fix. Just look at any boy and what do they love doing? They pick up any stick and it instantly becomes a sword or a gun. On the other hand they constantly build and create, making forts, tree houses, or even just lego spaceships.  This calling is directed by fathers and points to sons, which is why the generational connection between men is so powerful.

I recently had a friend of mine, a father of three small children, apologize because he couldn’t go hang out with us single guys on a regular basis. Another boring life? I didn’t correct him at the time but now I wish I had. Perhaps the life of a regular ol’ dad doesn’t seem as exciting as getting amnesia and waking up speaking Russian and dodging bullets. But I see an adventure in each real vocation, and especially in the vocation of fatherhood, which is the one I feel called to.  I am not a father yet, but the witness of fathers I know confirms the truth: it is a heroic, sacrificial, and noble vocation.

Of course becoming a father limits your ‘freedom,’ meaning time free for yourself. That loss, however, is a very real gain.  “He who finds his life will lose it…” (Matt. 10:39). I ran in to another young father I know and his 5 year old son at the adoration chapel last night. The little boy went up close to the altar where the Blessed Sacrament was exposed and I could hear him whispering the Our Father and his own little prayers.  That father can’t consider himself and even his holiness in isolation, but situates it within his fatherhood.  And his son was proof that life in the fullest was being passed on.

Another friend of mine recently changed professions from being a police officer to a foreman in construction. He felt that he was giving up the fight, in a sense, since he is no longer “out there taking down the bad guys.” I would argue that he went from one of the principle vocations of man to the other. Is one better than the other? I don’t think so, both are necessary and fulfilling, but different. A Father has to protect and defend his family but he also has to build them, raise them up, and sometimes heal them.

Some people may say that isn’t very exciting either, little kids kneeling down in adoration will not win any Oscars or action film awards. But there is something exciting here. This child is being directed towards God, towards holiness, and that is the greatest adventure of anyone’s life. And that is the adventure the father not only has front row seats to but is one of the main protagonists. I have spoken with a philosopher friend many times about the damage popular piety can do to our image of saints. Judging from most children’s saint books we expect saints to have a Snow White type of life where, whenever they step outside, birds fly around them and burst into song. Cute, sure, but definitely not exciting and certainly not the adventure that most men long for. Sainthood is many things, but it isn’t cute.  What could be more of an adventure than leading a child to encounter the God of the universe who spins the world on his finger?

If you think raising children to be saints is easy ask any parent with teenagers and they will soundly redress all your arguments. I think it is important for men who are fathers to live their vocation well, but also in so doing give an example to others of what it means to live the vocation of fatherhood. For many young men seeking marriage need a solid example to imitate, and far too many young boys need a solid father, even if he isn’t their own, to show them what it means to be a man, and what it means to be a saint.

  • I’ve always had this nagging internal struggle with NOT living up to the heroic. I remember when 9/11 happened, that deep sense of patriotism and defense of my family spread outward to defense of my country. Like many men I know, we want to identify with the men who landed in Normandy and stormed the beaches; we want to have the integrity and strength of Maximus; we long for the strength to overcome personal weakness and rise to the challenge of tyranny like William Wallace or Benjamin Martin. In most of those cases, the enemy is clear, the battle lines drawn out, the objective is certain. Sure, we can be stalwart and courageous, but in this post-modern relativistic world, the battle lines have become foggy. The real heroic challenge is to bring our fatherhood to perfection: to become the priest/prophet/king of our homes and to rescue our families from this anti-christian, humanist movement that’s choking Christ out of the public sphere. It will be an every day struggle and even when we and if we achieve our reward in heaven, we will need to continue to pray for those who are lost.

  • Tom Grassia

    Couldn’t you have found a picture of a man, since you’re talking about fatherhood and all?

  • Bob Ewald

    Great article. I am older than most/all of you perhaps and my daughters are out and into their careers. But this gives me some additional perspective. I too noticed the “boring” aspect of life when I became a father but I jumped in with both feet. I never looked back and never had a day when I wondered – “what would my wife and I be doing now if we had no children?” But I did have days when I saw single men or childless husbands and remembered that there was a different world spinning out there. Then one day I drove my oldest to a soccer showcase tournament for college recruiters. She was about 14 or 15. As we drove down I-95, she started talking about things that she had observed in life, about a variety of them. And it hit me. She actually had been listening to what my wife and I had tried to instill in her all of these years and she was going up to ultimately be my friend. After that, I never cared about the other world spinning out there. God had entrusted me with my daughters, I was giving it my best shot, and it seemed to be catching on.