“To obtain the help of Providence it should be your aim to cooperate, as it were, with the Fatherhood of God and bring up your children as He would wish them brought up, especially by showing good example. Have the courage to lay aside all other ambition and let this be the only object of your care and desire.”
Trustful Surrender to Divine Providence – Fr. Jean Baptiste Saint Coure S.J.
What does it mean to be a father? For nearly ten years I have been pondering on this question in the context of my marriage. How can I be the best possible father? Our society would judge the success of man by the number of 0′s in his paycheck. We take pride in huge homes and memberships to organizations, in recognition by awards, and in rising up the ladder of our chosen business. Yet, I think that too often we are missing the mark. For each of those worldly successes cost us in time with our children and family. Our ambitions have spiritual consequences that may bear bad fruit as our children grow up in a home where their father is absent more than he is present.
In ages past, work and family life were often integrated. The aging two story structures on every main street in every small town in America bear witness to this integration. Often families lived above the business. Father was never farther than a few stairs away. Out back they almost certainly grew a portion of their food and milked a cow for their milk supply. There the family possessed a level of integral happiness that modern disjointed family life can only dream of.
My wife and I have made multiple choices to permit both of us to have as much time with our children as possible. This has at times brought immense difficulties into our lives, but at the same time brought immense blessings. Seldom do I miss a meal with my children. Every day I am here to lead prayers, admonish disobedience, and guide with fatherly love. The cost of this presence has been that I have had very little worldly success. My first attempt at farming ended in unmitigated disaster. However, the purpose of the New Catholic Land Movement was and is not to help fathers and families find worldly farming success. Rather it was to help families discover what and who they were meant to be in the context of the land.
It is this realization that has led me to write again and take up the sword of the pen in defense of rural family life. I measured the success or failure of the NCLM too closely with my own personal success and failure. This led me to very nearly give up the NCLM altogether. For a time I thought of deleting this blog and moving on with life. Yet, bit by bit I have woken back up to the original fire that started this whole idea in me. In worldly measures the NCLM has profited me nothing. It has led me on journey that has at times left me poor and humiliated. Yet, no Christian movement of any kind can flourish if it does not first find the Cross.
So here I am nearly ten years into this journey. My original ideas have been honed by the hard tools of experience and failure. Yet, over the past two years away from this blog and full time farming, I have been given the opportunity to learn and re-evaluate the purpose of the NCLM. I have rediscovered it in the long slow hours of doubt and, at times, despair. The purpose is simply to restore fatherhood to its proper place in the context of the family. I have found that the rural life is the best place to do this. In the meantime, I have also spent many hours reflecting on my worldly failures as a farmer. In return I have become a much better farmer.
So it is I am back. Perhaps I am back from the dead, in a sense. Yet, again I echo the words of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI: “The Rural Family must regain its place at the heart of the social order!” I will do my part to help this happen.