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The Austere Offices of Manhood: The Labors of Christian Fathers

Loius R. Tarsitano

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My literature students read a poem called "Those Winter Sundays," by Robert Hayden. It begins with a description of the writer's father getting up by himself on Sundays and making the fire, "with cracked hands that ached from labor in the weekday weather." Called when the house was warm, the writer would get dressed...

I would like to tell you that these lines move my students to tears, or at least to some sort of paternal piety or reminiscence, but they mostly treat them like a message in code from another universe. After all, the poem was written in 1962, and that's ancient history.

A sociologist could probably provide a list of books to explain the general blankness that greets this poem. We would read of "cultural movements," "generation gaps," and "the redefinition of the family," all in the cause of explaining a new sort of person nave enough to believe that heat comes from thermostats, money comes from plastic cards, food comes from microwaves, and love comes from individual self-fulfillment. The real reason, however, is both simpler and more dire. Not very many young people today have encountered an ordinary, faithful, fallible, struggling Christian father.

Read the entire article on the Touchstone Magazine website.



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