Hidden in plain sight, barely noticed among the lot of rising revolutions which have methodically eroded away our culture, is the epidemic of the fatherless child. Just two generations ago this condition was a rarity. While the impact has been largely ignored, this tragedy has grown exponentially. Today, as many as one-third of all American children experience to some degree, life without a father. This number increases dramatically when aspects such as race and socioeconomic status are factored in, with as many as seventy-two percent of African American children born by single mothers.
Whereas this predicament did not spare me, I know first hand how essential it is for fathers to teach and guide their sons as well as model proper virtue. Though I count my mother’s effort in making up for his lose as heroic, she was ill equipped to single handedly mold the mind and heart of a young man occupied in self-destruction. So with adolescence also came the predictable struggles of a troubled youth.
Often we forget, in the busyness of this world, the true vocation of parenthood. In the midst of consumerism we often substitute love with electronics and name brand clothing. But less we forget that the mission that God gave to us when He blessed us with children was to one day hand them back to Him sanctified and virtuous. The vocation of parenthood is no more and no less than the nurturing of holy saints. So when one parent is left alone, is it possible to fulfill the task?
Whatever the cause of these circumstances, whether through the travesty of divorce or the tragedy of death, the mission can not be abandoned. It is simply too important. But even a cursory look at available statistics shows a correlation between fatherless children and numerous other negative indicators such as crime and drugs. These statistics sadly indicate that, in most cases, the outcome of fatherless homes is anything but a virtuous son.
Perhaps the effort to raise a saint in such circumstances is in fact dramatically much more difficult, but it can not be forgotten that when the primary means fail, our God provides other methods. Reflecting upon my own circumstances, which were admittedly mired in self pity, it slowly occurred to me the multitude of blessings which were abundantly manifested throughout my childhood. In reality there was never a day that passed which I was left hungry. But even greater than the material needs, He also provided me with great role models who were capable of demonstrating great virtue.
In this Church which lifts up the example of the saints I was never lacking for a holy reminder of what it meant to follow Christ fully in all the trials of my life. St. Francis De Sales taught me discipline. St. Thomas Aquinas taught me chastity. St. Catherine and St. Teresa taught me prayer. St. John Paul taught me vocation and mission. The list could go on and on.
Now an adult with children of my own, having weathered the difficulty of my own childhood, I work not to provide only for their physical needs but also their spiritual needs. Often I feel unworthy of this vocation. I pray everyday that I am up to the task. In a Church that is overflowing with such wonderful role models I have no excuses not to be.