The greatest gift a father can give to his children is his example.
This is the view of American evangelist, Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers, as he delivered a talk entitled ‘Called to be Holy in Family Life’ at last weekend’s Catholic Men’s Conference, ‘Man to Man’. Rev Burke-Sivers, the conference’s feature speaker, spoke to men on worship, marriage and the family at the conference jointly organised by the Association of Catholic Men’s Groups and the Missionaries of the Divine Potter, at Green Meadows, Santa Cruz.
Observing that many men are failing their families, he said serving, protecting and defending cannot be done if one has a job that allows no time with family. Using the example of the Holy Family in the context of societal expectations of ancient Jerusalem, he explained that as Joseph was to Mary and Jesus, no-one can take the place of a father in the family, and time with family must be prioritised.
He said that the Holy Family can serve as a model for families today because they experienced all the problems modern families go through, although in a different context, yet they trusted in God and as a result, God was with them.
Discussing the ancient Jewish marriage process of betrothal and preparation, Rev Burke-Sivers said Joseph listened to God when he was directed to “step up and serve and protect” Mary. He added, “God could have taken care of Mary but he wanted the child to grow up with both parents, an earthly example of God as father in the home…He has allowed us to borrow his sacred name of father while we are on earth.”
Rev Burke-Sivers cautioned the 200 men gathered to “be careful” with how they experience their fatherhood on earth. He referred to the period after Joseph was called to leave Bethlehem with his family because Herod was trying to kill Jesus. They were homeless and literally had to trust God every day to survive.
He likened their experience to that of families in modern times, recounting his own period of decision-making and a year of discernment before leaving a very lucrative career to follow the call of God. Called to also emulate the endurance of the Holy Family, he said, “They endured more in their family than we would ever have to endure in our lives”.
Rev Burke-Sivers advocated that men, as head of the home and in a marriage, follow the model of Christ and the disciples who were urged to be the chief servant in order to be the greatest. “The husband’s mission is to die for her…to love her by dying to self, giving your life. His mission is to get her to heaven.”
He said wives have to allow husbands to serve them because “the model Christ gave is chief servant”. Rev Burke-Sivers reminded that it was the lowest-ranking servant of a house who washed the feet [of guests] and Jesus did this for his disciples.
“Headship, leadership or authority is rooted in service”, and he recommended that men keep their minds on godliness through constant prayer to prevent negative ideas of leadership and viewing women as objects. He cautioned against pornography, adultery and neglect. On the issue of financial decisions, Burke-Sivers said “God is in charge of finances”.
Attendees were urged to work as a team with their spouses and get their children more engaged in the Mass. “The greatest gift is our example, living the faith at home. It must make a transition from the head to the heart,” he said, adding “anyone can be a daddy but it takes a real man to be a father”.
Men came to the conference from Our Lady of Guadalupe Men’s Group from Paramin, Chaguanas RC Men’s Group, La Romaine, Petit Valley, San Fernando and many more areas.
Herdis Lee Chee from San Juan, said the conference was very “different” from any he had attended and wished many more young men to be present next year. Through some of the lectures, he now has “a greater understanding of the whole Mass”.
This was the 18th Catholic Men’s Conference hosted by the Association of Catholic Men’s groups, but organiser Fr Dwight Merrick said this time they partnered with the Missionaries of the Divine Potter because they too wanted to do something for men. – EH