Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A Question Going Out the Door

Posted by Webster
No recent post has received more comments than one titled “Because Catholic Men Are Just That.” It raised many questions, which received a number of good answers. If you haven’t done so, check it out.

As I head for the hills of Vermont, a new question occurs to me, a question for women as well as for men:

Are Catholic men and women comfortable with their respective roles as they have evolved within the Catholic family during the post–Vatican Council II years? And in particular, how have the respective roles of father and mother changed?

I know there is a broad spectrum of personal and parish experiences within the capital-C Church, so there should be a broad range of responses. But let me put the question personally—

The classic pre-VCII television sitcom was “Father Knows Best” (1954–1960). Probably, this series could never have been made after Vatican II. From 1969 to 1976, its star, Robert Young, had a new persona, “Marcus Welby, MD.”

In my family (with six children born 1951–1964) my father did know best, although by 1970 my mother had learned pretty well! In fact, she had gone back to finish college, then earned a graduate degree, preparing for a second career. We were all very proud of her, still are.

What has happened to the Catholic family since Vatican II? Why is it that I shudder to think of the laughter that would rain down on me if I laid down the law in my household with a simple statement, “But you know, father knows best!” In greater Boston, I am surrounded by Catholics, as I wrote here, but I am also surrounded by men who have given up the throne—and women who know it.

I am going to make one stab at part of an answer, then turn over the microphone. I’m going to say, it’s not really the throne, it’s the prie-dieu. That is, we men haven’t given up power, we’ve given up our faith.

In Katie’s family (seven children, born 1948–1959), her father said the Rosary aloud in the home every night. I have never done that, and I know I could, even if it meant everyone else moving to the TV room. But I could stake my fatherhood on my Catholic faith, as I know my good friend Patrick has. He says the Rosary every night in his room, but doesn't stop if anyone walks in on him.

Planting that flag in my home might show best how much I know. No matter what the response.

Your thoughts?