Posted January 07, 2015:
The Vocation of a Father

by Michael O’Brien.

The cost of a happy family is the death of selfishness. The father must die to himself if he is to give life to his spouse and children.

An entire lifetime can be spent avoiding this truth. It is simply not enough to provide and protect. In themselves, of course, providing and protecting are good and necessary things. That is our responsibility.

But a father can provide a mountain of material goods for his family and defend it against all kinds of inconveniences, thinking he can rest easy, having done his part, and still have missed the essential thing. He is called to be an image of the Father’s love and truth.

The house which he provides, be it a straw hut or a mansion, must have at its core, a heart that prays, a heart that is willing to look at its own poverty, a heart that is humble enough to cry out for help. God fills the vessel that recognizes its emptiness and opens itself to receive real strength.

As long as we are convinced of our own strengths, our clever ability to endure, we will still think that we are in charge. We will behave like fatherless children. We will construct a lifestyle of eliminating difficulties at any cost. It takes a lot of padding if you are to avoid the unexplainable, unjust blows of suffering.

There will come a time, however, when God permits this elaborate defense system to crumble.

—Excerpted from Father at Night, (2011), p. 93, used with permission from Justin Press, Ottawa, Ontario.


Michael O’Brien, a friend and neighbor of Madonna House and the father of six grown children., is an iconographer, painter, and writer. His works include several best-selling novels, including Father Elijah and The Father’s Tale.


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