There was a sudden, radical, and fundamental change that took place in the United States during the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. That change involved the complete and total reversal of state laws that required a showing of good cause before a person could obtain a divorce. After the change in laws, a spouse no longer had to show good cause for a divorce. The simple act of filing a “no-fault” petition with the court was sufficient to justify the divorce itself.
The very act of changing the laws to allow for no-fault divorces pandered to the tendency of men to avoid responsibility and commitments. Women were encouraged and “empowered” to exercise their independence from the men in their lives by sending them on their way when they acted up. Men were given permission to dump their wives when things didn’t go their way or when they decided they would be “happier” with another woman.
When I was growing up in the 1960’s, the company that invented the Bic Pen was wildly successful in marketing its new pens in the United States. The Bic Pen was the first mass-produced pen that was marketed as a “disposable” or “throwaway” pen. I can still remember its slogan: “writes first time, every time.” After the Bic Pen, came the Bic Lighter. Prior to the invention of these items, people used refillable fountain pens and lighters that lasted for years.
As a young boy, whenever I needed a writing instrument, I used a “real” wooden pencil or a fountain pen. My grandfather used a Zippo lighter to light his cigarettes. The Zippo came with a lifetime warranty and was marketed to the public as the one and only “wind proof” lighter. It was made with stainless steel and could easily be refilled with lighter fluid. The tiny “sticks” of flint that were used to provide the spark that lit the wick were also easily replaceable.
It didn’t take long before other throwaway products became available, such as razors, paper “towels,” and diapers. The trend toward disposable products didn’t stop with the items people used in their everyday activities. Unfortunately, the throwaway mentality crossed over into peoples’ personal lives and before long they were conveniently disposing of their unborn children by having abortions and their spouses by filing no-fault divorces.
Most of the time, when a spouse is disposed of through a no-fault divorce, it’s the woman who is left behind with the primary responsibility of raising the children. A divorce legally relieves the father of all responsibility toward his children, except for a minimal amount of financial support. Although some fathers continue to do what they can to maintain a relationship with their children, a large percentage of fathers simply walk away from their responsibilities and move on to a “new life.”
There are two primary factors that helped to ignite and accelerate the no-fault divorce revolution: (1) the sexual revolution of the 1960’s which encouraged individuals to “spread their wings” and take on multiple partners (without any risk of pregnancy because of the pill); and (2) the massive government welfare programs that were put into place after President Lyndon Johnson launched his “Great Society” initiatives. Mothers no longer had any “need” for the fathers of their children, because the government provided welfare in the form of monthly payments, rental assistance, food stamps, tax subsidies, and daycare and education assistance.
When I wrote the articles about what fathers should be doing to raise their sons into responsible Catholic men, I focused on the lessons I learned from my dad, my grandfather, and my uncles. But what can a mother do if her children’s father has abandoned her and her children, or reduced his role in their lives to the bare minimum?
I actually felt guilty and uncomfortable writing about my experiences with the men I grew up with, because I knew there would be individuals reading my articles who were not as fortunate as I was to have men in their lives who possessed the traits and qualities that I talked about.
It is a self-evident truth that in order for a boy to grow up into a mature, well-round Catholic man, he must have one or more good men around him that he respects and looks up to – men who can provide faith-based leadership and direction. If a boy does not have one or more good men in his life to guide him, the void will be filled by other boys or men who will ultimately lead him in the wrong direction.
If you are the mother of a boy who is not currently being influenced by one or more good, decent, honest, hard-working, Catholic men, it’s up to you to seek out a mentor for your son – a man who has the qualities that you would like to see developed in your son. So how is it that a mother can go about finding such a man?
The first logical step is to petition the Holy Family – Jesus, Mary & Joseph – for assistance. You already have a relationship with our Lord because you attend Mass and receive Holy Communion every Sunday. You can develop and deepen that relationship if you make it a personal goal to: (1) start attending Mass during the week; and (2) visit with our Lord on a regular basis in the Adoration Chapel.
The simplest way to seek out the help of the Blessed Virgin Mary is through the daily Rosary – the one prayer that allows you to meditate on the lives of Jesus and Mary over a period of four consecutive days (through the Joyful, Sorrowful, Luminous, and Glorious mysteries). Our Lady was (and still is) the perfect mother. She received a specific assignment from her Son while he was dying on the cross to watch over and guide every one of God’s children. She will find the men your son needs to guide him into adulthood, provided you open up a daily dialog with her and ask for her guidance.
Last but not least, there is no man who is in a better position than St. Joseph to assess the needs of your son and to locate the one fatherly figure your son needs for guidance and leadership. But again, before St. Joseph can act on your behalf, he needs to hear from you on a regular basis. Here’s a prayer I say every day to St. Joseph:
Oh St. Joseph, whose protection is so great, so strong, so prompt before the throne of God, I place in you all my interests and desires. St. Joseph, do assist me by your powerful intercession and obtain for me from your divine son all spiritual blessings through Jesus Christ, our Lord; so that having engaged here below your heavenly power, I may offer my thanksgiving and homage to the most loving of Fathers. St. Joseph, I never weary contemplating you and Jesus asleep in your arms. I dare not approach while he reposes near your heart. Press Him in my name and kiss his fine head for me, and ask him to return the kiss when I draw my dying breath. St. Joseph, patron of departing souls, pray for me. Amen.
When is the last time you memorized a new prayer? Ten years ago? Twenty years ago? Thirty? More than thirty? Are you willing to make the effort to memorize just one new prayer – a prayer that will open up a line of communication with the man who was the earthly father of Jesus Christ?
If you’re willing to take the time to incorporate a few new daily prayers into your schedule that call upon our Lord, our Lady, and St. Joseph for help, you will be led to one or more men who will be given the grace to help you with your son. The man (or men) you are led to may end up being your dad, your brother, a teacher, a coach, a neighbor, a fellow parishioner, a friend, or a stranger who “appears” in your life. The Holy Family will hear and answer your prayers, but you must first have the faith, humility and perseverance necessary to see it through. Your prayers may not be answered within a month or two months. Start out by committing to at least one year of developing your relationship with the Holy Family and you will experience a miraculous breakthrough.
Our children’s lives and souls are not like Bic Pens – disposable commodities that can easily be replaced. It’s not enough for us to dedicate our time, effort, energy, and money to raise our children to adulthood. After years of sacrifice and turmoil, a lot of parents end up with children who have grown up to be severely dysfunctional adults. As Catholics, we desire and expect much more from our children. We want to end our lives knowing that we raised children who will not only lead lives of happiness and holiness, but will someday join us in that one “place” where we will all experience eternal happiness.
The Holy Family is patiently waiting to hear from you.