Wednesday, October 02, 2002

Fathers as priests
Long ago (1961) Clayton Barbeau wrote a wonderful book called The Head of the Family: A Christian Perspective. In it he points to one of the responsibilities of the father of a family that is not often talked about in ths solutions-based culture of ours: father as priest. One of the primary responsibilities of a father is to intercede for his family--his wife and children. I'd guess (and I have no anecdotal evidence to back it up since I'm so inconsistant about it), that if the father were to pray earnestly and regularly for the specific needs of his children, for their vocations and for their protection, there'd be less struggle about "issues" in the family. Why? Because we'd be relying more on the activity of the Triune God in the family and less on our own ability to figure out clever solutions or, worse, our own exercise of raw power. Since family is rooted in marriage and since marriage is a sacrament for Christians, there is an abundant river of graces available just for the asking.

I'm sure something similar could be said of mothers, but I also have a not-too-well-thought-out-or-defensible-at-this-point hunch that the father's priestly activity is unique. Can you tell I studied German in college?

By the way, I keep wanting to talk about the father's priestly "role" or "function," but both of those words are too extrinsic, as if the priestly responsibility were kind of coat that could be taken on or off just like a role or a function. The word the Church uses in this case is munus, which implies that the "role" flows from the very nature of the thing in question, and which has no English equivalent. For a great discussion of the significance of the word munus, see Janet Smith's Humanae Vitae: A Generation Later (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1991), pp. 136-148.

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