The café was lit softly. Soft music blended nicely with the steam rising from the coffee I cradled in my hands. Across from me sat a rather new acquaintance. A man, Mr. MacNamie by name, passionately Catholic like myself, but a generation older. He was not an imposing man: short statured, short hair, glasses, small head with wide smile. Our conversation ebbed and flowed and grounded itself in the topic of raising girls.
Mr. MacNamie had had seven daughters. Having two of my own, I eagerly pounced on the opportunity to gather some grandfatherly wisdom about raising girls.
He told the story of two of his daughters. The first, when she came of age to date, fell in love with an German boy of good rearing, faith-filled and whom returned her love whole-heartedly. Mr. MacNamie approached the German boy regarding the courting of their daughter. They sat down in his office together and he told him the following:
My job, as a father, is to protect my daughter’s purity. I will not let you date my daughter if I any way feel you are here to prey on her. You are to control your passions, your thoughts and treat this daughter of mine as a precious treasure.
The first thing that hit me was this understanding that he possessed regarding his role as a father, namely, that his number one role was not to be a friend, to feed, to educate or to entertain, but rather his essential role was, as the father, to protect his daughter’s purity. He was the gate a potential companion had to walk through and more often than not (due to unsuitable men), the gate was closed.
The story continued. His daughter and the German boy grew closer together and finally did decide to marry. Things went very well and on the wedding day, Mr. MacNamie pulled his new son-in-law aside and told him sternly:
I now pass my responsibility onto you. You are now the protector of my daughter’s purity. I will walk her up the aisle and give her to you. In doing so, you become her protector. This protection includes a love that is chaste and responsible. Enthrone her.
Wow. This hit me hard. I know now what it means to protect my daughter from perps and the crap in our society. But this man was pushing it further … as a husband, I needed to protect my wife’s purity not only from predators, but … from myself – my own selfish passions. My job as a husband is to love my wife chastely and responsibly.
The words of the great Karol Wojtyla, in Love and Responsibility ring in my ears:
Without the virtue of temperance, without chastity and self-mastery, it is impossible to educate and develop tenderness in man, so that he does not hinder love but serves it.
Men, myself included, need to be educated in tenderness in order to serve love. Tenderness, Wojtyla explains, is
The ability to feel the whole man, the whole person, in all, even the most hidden movements of the his soul, but always bearing in mind the true good of the person.
Taking responsibility for the love of have of my wife means learning to love in tenderness through self-mastery.
I need to defend my home not just from the thief in the night or the wild coyote in the woods, but from the impurities of our sexualized western culture. It is my responsibility to keep our home a sanctuary of holiness. It is my responsibility to protect my wife and daughters from Sodom and to keep myself unsullied in the process.
The Grandpa’s face darkened a shade as he told the story of his next daughter. This daughter had also fallen in love. The boy was a predator, a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Pregnancy soon followed, the relationship fell a part, and the boy (for a boy is what he was) refused to financially support his new son. Mr. MacNamie shook his head and removed his glasses to wipe them. I waited quietly. “I don’t know what I did wrong with her …” he started off slowly, “Perhaps … perhaps … I sheltered her too much … or not enough … I allowed her to work at a gas station … she met the boy there …”
He looked at me, took a drink of his coffee and stated quietly:
Your job is to protect the purity of your wife and daughters. Pray for
wisdom. Pray for courage. Pray.