This picture by Norman Rockwell was originally published on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post on May 16, 1959. It documents how men of the previous generations were derelict in their duties to pass along the faith to their children, particularly their sons.

There has been an exodus of Catholic men from the Church since this picture first appeared.  Perhaps, in part, we now know why.  Our fathers lacked faith.

Note the father slumping down in the chair, reading the latest news, at least with passing guilt for his poor example, but not sufficientl guilt to actually get off his ass and lead his family to church. By the look of the papers, the full ashtray and the empty cup, the man has had plenty of time to read the paper.  While he appears to be more interested in his own selfish pursuits, in the trivia of the sports section in the news, than the Good News of Jesus Christ, there is clearly something else going on than simply his interest in the paper.

Of note:  The man is taking a pretty cowardly pose, slumping in the chair, avoiding eye contact with his wife.  This man is not manly.

Also look closely at the man’s hair: Rockwell has subtly given the man devil’s horns.  Indeed.

The man doesn’t want to go to church.  He’s done reading the paper, done smoking his cigarettes and has drunk his coffee.  He doesn’t think that church is manly and doesn’t want to follow the line of women to church.  Perhaps the man doesn’t want to be “lectured” by some priest.  Clearly, whatever the excuse, assuming the man is Catholic, he doesn’t understand the miraculous Sacrifice of the Mass, he doesn’t understand the Infinite Gift of the Eucharist Christ is prepared to give him.  And he has no idea that his kids, especially his son will follow him into being a Prodigal.

Author’s disclosure:  In the past, sadly, Rockwell could have painted that picture with my face.

Note too the young man.  For now, he is forced by his mother to go with the women to church.  But clearly, the son sees the father and will come to emulate his example.  What “Dad” is saying: “Church is for women.”

The Cat’s in the Cradle is a bit of a sappy sentimental song, but Harry Chapin has a point with the key line: “You know I’m going to be like you, Dad, you know I’m going to be like you.”  True.

Before moving on, we should also note the man’s wife.  She has given up on her husband.  This too is abandonment.  Men resist Church for they haven’t been evangelized.  Women are called to evangelize, starting with their husbands.  It is time for women to “Woman up” and to persistently and persuasively with the help of the Holy Spirit evangelize their husbands.

The faith of the fathers (or lack thereof) is passed along to their children. Today,  less than half of Catholic men even believe that it is highly important for their children to remain Catholic.  This failure to pass along the faith is particularly acute in young men.  The lack of men in the pews sends a signal that it is not manly to be Catholic.  A Notre Dame study concludes that the paltry level of men’s involvement in teaching the faith in parishes, leads large numbers of young men to turn away from the faith.

But grudgingly going to Mass once a week, without a firm commitment to Christ is insufficient.  Kids can read their parents like a book; the little snidely remarks, the boredom in posture and so forth.  Dads, we can’t fool our sons.  They will emulate our passion for the faith…or the lack of passion.

Catholic men: we need to grow in our commitment to the faith, not only in just getting out of the chair and getting to Mass, but with a growing commitment of our hearts and minds to Jesus Christ and the Church.

Catholic men need to be all in:  the souls of our sons are at stake.

Perhaps dads should get a copy of Norman Rockwell’s picture and post it on their wall.