It has been some time since I sat down and dedicated my mind to this blog. Life is full having seven children, working in business, and attempting to live a full liturgical life. Just this weekend I was blessed to take my boys out for a day of work at the Carmel of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph in Elyburg, PA. The drive to and from as well as the time spent in solitude (with a chainsaw) allowed me some much needed time to reflect. I only share it here with the hopes that in some way it helps you as well as encouraging me to live this life to the full.
What I had been thinking about while lopping an enormous bush/tree was how much we need to relearn what it means to be human, to be men and women, to be saints. Many of us were not raised in homes where true masculine, spiritual leadership was the norm. Unfortunately, many of us live in a culture that is opposed to this God-honoring leadership. It is rarely taught, preached, or modeled. We may know good men. We may know good priests. And yet, we may still be longing for that model of manhood we would wish to imitate.
I could say that the message is simple, just imitate Christ. However, in our fallen nature we tend to skew the true image of Christ and make Him more like us than like God. For instance, what would Our Lord do in His home when it came to a decision to be made? Would He, trusting that His Mother was "full of grace" allow Her to make the decision; would He confer with Her to get Her opinion; or would He make the decision and then inform Her of it? These are questions that we can ask ourselves if we are really trying to be the spiritual leaders in our homes. If you are asking these questions, at least you are thinking about it. This pursuit is part of the process of us becoming the men God intends us to be. We must pray, seek, and fast.
I could also say that a simple answer is for the man to make every decision and that all must pass through him. The challenge here is one of immense conversion on the part of both man and wife. Many homes have the wife and mother as the spiritual leader and so to turn this table would take a boatload of grace. It is one thing to desire this, it is another to do it. The challenge here is that the man must take full responsibility for his decisions and the wife must humbly accept his leadership. In many ways this is what is modeled by the Church in what St. Paul speaks about in Corinthians. I think of this little nun who is called "Mother" at the Carmelite Monastery and the great responsibility she has with her spiritual family. The convent is not ruled by democracy, but is up to her spiritual and temporal leadership to grow and be fruitful. What is it about nuns that we are able to accept them being submissive to rule, while us in the world run from it.
This simple answer also is a challenge and an ideal. Is it ever fully lived? Is it ever fully realized? Let me ask another question: are we ever fully holy? While this simple answer may turn complex in us asking ourselves silly questions about if the husband needs to decide what the wife is going to eat for her midday snack, we must in some ways embrace this simplicity for it is truly a holy challenge. It requires self-sacrifice, courage, wisdom, and prudence, all of which when practiced can only help us reach our goal of holiness and heaven. Think about this for a moment...if the husband must bear the responsibility of every decision (as he truly does, whether he accepts it or not), this should produce in him an awe of this responsibility and thus lead him to seek wisdom in prayer. He may see just how much is laid upon his shoulders and thus, in prayer and fasting, seek God's will.
On the flip side, if he sluffs off this responsibility and falsely delegates it to his spouse, he may miss just how important his role and life are. He may forget how much God expects of him and think God will not hold him to account since it was his "wife's decision". For those of us in business, we know that everything that is delegated is ultimately the responsibility of the person on top of the "food chain". While I may delegate a task, it is my responsibility to see that it is done on time and done correctly. When we stand before God's throne He will not say, "Oh Chris, don't worry about that time, that was your wife's fault...I know you were busy at work and couldn't be bothered with such a frivolous decision about the spiritual life of you children!"
So, this simple answer requires a simple question. What could the harm be to attempt to learn, live, love, and grow into this ideal? You may have a laundry list, but before you allow those to make you run away, ask yourself a question: If my wife and I are going to attempt to live this ideal, and we are going to do it in prayer, sacrifice, fasting, and conversion and beg God's forgiveness and Grace all along the way - how can we go wrong?