Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Sons, Rise!

For my boys. 


JUDGE:  Jude Joseph Lovell, you stand before the court accused of vanity, male pride, excessive joyfulness, and disturbing the peace.  How do you plead?  
ACCUSED: Guilty as charged.  
JUDGE: Let the record show that the defendant has entered a plea of “guilty.”  Counselor, have you any corroborating evidence?  
COUNSEL: If it please the court, we submit the defendant’s written statement to his sons as Exhibit A.  
[end of excerpt]


Listen, my sons!  I summon you both to my side and offer hearty congratulations.  For you are now brothers, and that means something.  I will try to write down my thoughts about what.  In this area I can call on a wealth of experience.  

But first, let us not fail to frame the larger context of the occasion which has prompted me to issue this summons.  We have had a seismic event in our family.  A more sui generis mind might refer to it as an “existential shift.”  Your mother and I welcomed a fourth child only two weeks ago:  specifically you, my second son, bearing the name of Cavan Jude.  

This means that things have changed – everywhere.  The world at large has acquired a new and totally unique individual, the like of whom there will never be again.  As for the Lovell family, we go from a formidable household of five to a six-person juggernaut.  I can report to others that the next generation is on the rise in my household, with two future women and, now, two future men.  Nowadays people consider a family of our size to be a “crowd.”  Some openly question whether your mom and I have made a responsible choice to bring a fourth child into the world.  

Even leaving aside the offensive nature of such a question, which these people feel free to make with impunity, I decline to accept this line of thought.  There are many reasons; I will give three.  

First, I believe each of you have been called into existence by God, and that in accepting the responsibility of bringing you here and caring for you as best we can, we are trying to answer this call.  “What God has brought together,” states the gospel of Matthew, “let man not separate.”  He has called you into this gathering, our family.  Our response is to gladly open the door.  

Second, I always wanted to be a father, my entire life, and I cannot remember any moment, even as a youth, when I did not feel this way.  It flies in the face of all reason to hope for something one’s entire life, only to waffle on whether you really want it when it is at last coming your way.  Rather, my parents taught me that when I receive a gift I should say “thank you” and accept it.  So thank you God, Bringer of Life.  Amen, I accept this fourth gift.  

Third, while one of my personal struggles with fatherhood so far has been making the hard decisions to provide adequately for a growing family’s material needs, I can always return to the indisputable knowledge that I am one of six children myself.  I need hardly search far for role models, since I was born to a mother and father who raised six reasonably successful and good-hearted adults.  I’m not saying the family I come from is perfect, far from it.  But we had love in our house, and my parents lived up to their calling as such.  I am grateful to them, simply because by virtue of their example, I know it can be done.  

So, we shall dwell no longer on the size of our family: it is a wonder, and there’s no reason to think otherwise.  Someday, boys, you may be the heads of your own families, and I hope they are similarly wondrous for you.  But one of the amazing things about this family to me is the way it has continued to grow and change.  For a long while I considered myself a father to girls.  I believed my calling was to provide the special love and encouragement that a girl needs from her father, and from him alone.  

Yet in His generosity, the Lord had more in store for me.  First, He granted me one son; and now, incredibly, He has given me another.  So I can now utter two favorite phrases: I can speak of “my girls” and also of “my boys.”  I know I am incredibly fortunate to say those words.  If you take nothing else away from reading this someday, I hope you will understand how happy and lucky I feel to let them flow from my pencil and my lips.  

Still, since my topic is the two of you, my sons; and my inspiration is the two week-old Cavan Jude, as well as the burgeoning brotherhood that has come into fruition between this little baby and Patrick, my older son – it is now time to dispense five pieces of advice.  I’m not always the most confident man: but here I must summon the self-assurance to invoke the book of Proverbs:  “My son(s), attend to my words; incline thine ear(s) to my sayings.”  

  1. Be bold.  Please: when you make decisions about your life, execute them and do not look back.  Second-guessing is not productive; take it from me.  You have what it takes to weather the consequences should you make an unfortunate choice.  You can adapt and fight another day.  But you should not harbor regret because you did not feel up to making a difficult choice and seeing it through.  Stand and declare your name to the world.  One of my personal heroes, Pope John Paul II, was known for carrying this message around the globe: “Be not afraid.”  It is wise counsel.  Which brings us to…
  2. Be brave.  When challenges arise before you, face them down.  It is the only honorable way to handle them, and you will be stronger men for having done so.  Even in your darkest moments, you cannot run away from problems.  Remember that Jesus Christ faced a terrible death, but He had the courage to say, “Thy will be done.”  Sons, you must do the same thing when strife comes to you, and it will.  
  3. Be faithful.  Believe in the Lord, accept His ever-present love, and be as steadfast as you can in adhering to His Word.  When you commit yourself to another person, be they a spouse or a child or anyone, stay truthful to them.  You must honor your promises and stand up for your loved ones through all of life’s trials and triumphs.  My father has done that for me.  I will do it for you.  And I expect that you will do it for those you love.  
  4. Be generous.  This life is not about oneself.  It is about everybody else.  Give generously of all that you have – time, possessions, friendship, money, love.  The cliché states that it is better to give than to receive.  That is 100% true.  Take delight in others’ good fortune: there is no reason not to celebrate another human being’s happy occasions.  When you can be happy for others, you also will be happy.  You will be known as a person of joy, and joy is a reflection of the presence of God.  There is no higher aspiration.  
  5. Be brothers.  My sons, as I have said, I am one of six children.  I have three brothers and two sisters.  They are all heroes to me.  Be brothers, to your sisters and to each other.  That means simply that you should love one another all the time and without condition.  Also, while I have no intention of excluding my girls from anything, I do welcome you boys into brotherhood.  My three brothers are the best men I have ever known.  I know for certain that if I ever run into a mortal crisis, three grown men will stand up immediately.  They will be there for me without any hesitation whatsoever.  That is a great feeling – and you can have it too.  Be that kind of man for your brother.  It will add tremendous joy and richness to your lives.  

Sons, rise!!  The world is yours!  Take it!  But do not keep it.  Absorb it; process it; learn from it; make something better of it.  Then, give the fruits of your labor to your fellow man and fellow woman, and return all the glory back to its Author.