Fathers have a little something to do with Christmas — and the Christmas story. And so it seems an appropriate time to talk to Brian Caulfield, editor of the Fathers for Good website, run by the Knights of Columbus. He interrupted Christmas Eve preparations to talk to National Review Online editor Kathryn Jean Lopez about the initiative.
KATHRYN JEAN LOPEZ: What is Fathers for Good? Are there Fathers for Bad?
BRIAN CAULFIELD: Fathers for Good is a new initiative for men and their families by the Knights of Columbus, launched as part of our updated web-based programs designed to show the truly dynamic face of the Catholic fraternal Order that has been serving our church and communities for 126 years.
Your readers may want to log on now to the site (www.fathersforgood.org) to post a New Year’s Resolution or hear a podcast on giving their wives the perfect gift. Or read “A Father’s Blog” on the miracle of the Virtue Tree, a true tale.
The website offers a wealth of information, interaction, inspiration, and opportunities for formation that will help men become better fathers and husbands, with the latest insights and research, as well as some age-old wisdom. For example, we have podcasts from Super Bowl champ Chris Godfrey about how to talk to your teens about sex, and the well-known pro-lifer Helen Alvare explains the meaning of the domestic church.
The name Fathers for Good has a double meaning: 1) every man in his heart wants to be a good father, even amid human frailty; and 2) once a man becomes a father, once he generates new life, it is “for good,” for the rest of his life. No matter the circumstances of his life or those of his child, that man will always bear the identity of a father. This is good news of great joy, and we try to help men live out that joy.
LOPEZ: Who is Fathers for Good? Are you theme-driven? What’s the goal?
CAULFIELD: The goal is to be of service to fathers in their often difficult vocation. Men in general and fathers in particular are often portrayed negatively on TV and popular media, and men need to know that their specifically male virtues and character are valued and have a place in the modern world. We also abide by Pope John Paul II’s insight that men learn their fatherhood through the love of their wives, so the relationship with their wives is key.
The first message we want to convey is that men have an understanding friend at Fathers for Good and in the larger community of the Knights of Columbus. We have 1.75 million members in 13,000 councils throughout the world, and the website is available in English, Spanish, French and Polish.
The purpose of Fathers for Good is explained in the 90-second video introduction by Carl Anderson, the supreme knight (CEO) of the Knights of Columbus, that is posted on the site. As he states, Fathers for Good is not an exclusive community — it is a site for men who are striving to do the best they can. We want to hear from men and women and there is an interactive feature for posting questions and answers.
LOPEZ: Is this an initiative just for Catholics?
CAULFIELD: It’s for all men, though the site is in keeping with the teachings of the Catholic Church, which is really a combination of natural law and common sense. Adhering to timeless truths actually gives us the freedom to explore new topics in a way that is not subject to the politically correct trends of the day.
LOPEZ: Why should moms want dads on your site?
CAULFIELD: Not only that, but dads should want their wives to visit the site. There’s a section called “Good for Mothers,” which has the motto, taken from Father Hesburgh, “The greatest gift a father can give his children is to love their mother.”
A wife should encourage her husband to visit Fathers for Good because he will find resources to improve his relationship with his wife and his children. We call men to the discipline of daily self-giving love, which is also the way of self-fulfillment.
LOPEZ: Does your site go against the male grain? Don’t you fellas not like reading directions?
CAULFIELD: Well, we don’t ask guys to go against nature, so we don’t expect them to suddenly start asking directions, or read them. But seriously, the site is about embracing the adventure of fatherhood. Men need challenges, goals, heroism, and we tell them that their greatest call can be found right in their own backyard, in the daily stuff of family life, which can be Christlike and sacrificial.
LOPEZ: Why is it not patronizing or sexist to say that fathers are “protectors”? Can’t women protect too? Why should feminists embrace the Fathers for Good version of fatherhood?
CAULFIELD: Well, fathers are protectors, and I think most mothers expect that of their husbands. Of course, mothers are protectors also, not only of their children but of their husbands. They can save men from the excesses of their characters and personalities, and make them fully the man they are called to be.
I think Christian feminists, at least, would be pleased with Fathers for Good. We’re getting beyond the angry, anti-male feminism to the authentic feminism that John Paul II talks about.
LOPEZ: When was your launch date? How many have clicked on and participated in one way or another?
CAULFIELD: We launched just this past August and have been focused on a target audience to test content, features and feedback, but now we’re moving out to a wider web audience. We appreciate any comments and suggestions from your readers. We need to work together in promoting authentic fatherhood, which is based on God the Father.
LOPEZ: Since it’s Christmas season: What should we be focusing on about St. Joseph as father? If we’re fathers? If we’re mothers? If we’re single? If we’re clergy? Did I leave anyone out?
CAULFIELD: We have a whole section on St. Joseph, whom we call the Patron of Fathers. St. Joseph was a “just man” who may have had dreams about a certain way of life with his young bride, Mary, but after hearing from the angel of God, he accepted the truth of his fatherhood immediately.
He was a laborer, a man of action and few words, who was told by the angel to get up and he got up, to go and he went, to flee and he fled, to return and he returned. He is a model to biological fathers in his guidance of Jesus, who learned to be a man under his care; to single men in his chaste attitude toward Mary; to priests in his celibate love, and also to women in showing them that good men can be trusted.