Please forgive my frequent quotations from Michael Dirda's book, but it is one of those short volume of accumulated wisdom that probably means differently every time you approach it. And tonight these passages really spoke to me:
from Book by Book
An unfulfilled vocation drains the color from a man's entire existence. --Honoré de Balzac
We succeed in enterprise which demand the positive qualities we possess, but we excel in those which can also make use of our defects.--Alexis de Tocqueville
The maturity of man--that means, to have reacquired the seriousness that one had as a child at play.--Friedrich Nietzsche
The point is: You generally can't wait for inspiration, so just get on with the work. Disciplined, regular effort will elicit inspiration no matter what your field.--Michael Dirda
These are all related by being about vocation, and vocation is what each person is called to. Balzac tells us that there is no life without a vocation lived to its fullest. That means if you're a religious, live the life of a religious, but if you are a father (to take the theme of the day) be a father--be a man and show your children what it means to be a man and teach your sons how to become men. Otherwise, they are stranded--lost in Never-Never Land only to be inflicted some day on some poor unsuspecting woman whose father taught her to love what it means to be a man. In other words, no bellyaching--or at least no bellyaching about the responsibilities of being a father. Cowboy up and do what is right and what is required.
And being a father makes use of defects as well as strengths. How many of us have never made any mistakes with our children? But we can turn to them and say, "I was wrong, please forgive me." Say it now. And say it when it is needed. And say it as often as it is needed. Real respect doesn't come from your children thinking you are perfect, it comes from them seeing that you know you aren't, and yet you're trying the very best you can.
And real fatherhood, like all vocations, requires complete involvement--the involvement of a child completely rapt in the fantasy world that accompanies play--oblivious to the call for dinner or to anything outside the pirate ship they have constructed from sticks or the game they are playing at the moment.
And finally, real excellence, real inspiration comes from doing this day in and day out, with the focus not on ourselves but on the service we can render to our families. It means taking the back seat often, when we want to be driving. It means cub scout meetings, baseball practices and dance recitals when we want to watch 24 or Lost. It means putting aside pleasures that you don't want your own children to observe or to do themselves. It means a sacrifice that cannot be called that because the reward gives infinitely more than the sacrifice takes away. When lived the way it should be in God's pure light and true, it is a means of sanctifying grace, of sainthood and of example.
I don't live it yet--but I know that I can through Christ who strengthens me.