ARCHIVES: It's been a busy few weeks, so I'm pulling today's post from my college paper archives. I wrote the following as a theology paper my junior year - turns out I've been analyzing and discussing the roles of men and women in relation to the family for well over a decade. I hope it doesn't bore you too much.
|Our Tridentine High Mass Wedding.|
In the very first chapter of Genesis, God creates man and woman to be companions who will together populate the earth and subdue it. They were created equal with different duties to perform within the family. The man is the head of the house, the protector and provider of the family, while the woman is the heart of the home, the nurturer and homemaker. The creation of a family is not possible without both the husband and the wife. The husband’s role is the more external of the two insofar as it is he who must work to support his wife and children as well as protect them from danger. It is the father who goes out each day and earns the income by which he provides for his family’s livelihood. This more external role is depicted in the image of the father as the head of the household. It is the head which makes the decisions which aid the rest of the body as does the husband whose decisions affect the life of his family. The wife’s role, on the other hand, is more internal insofar as it is she who cares for the home and the children. To the wife is entrusted the care of the house, keeping it clean and peaceful for the return of the husband from his work providing. It is she who brings the children into the world and from her that the children first learn the most basic lessons in life. Her more internal role is epitomized in the characterization of the wife as the heart of the home. Just as the heart controls the emotions, the ups and downs of the body, so, too, does the wife handle the innumerable outbursts and disagreements as well as the example of how truly to show love to one another. Thus, just, as a body cannot function without both an head and an heart, only through both the husband and the wife is the family unit able to function. The roles of the husband and wife complement each other. Both roles are equally important although they are most certainly different. It can be seen, thus, that both the husband and the wife have unique duties within the family unit as the head and the heart which work together to bring the family towards its earthly perfection and its heavenly goal of eternal life.
The role of the husband is that of protector and provider for his family, the head of the household. In his letter to the Ephesians, St. Paul clearly lays forth the essence of this duty:
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no man ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. (Eph. 6:25-30)
The husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the church; that is, he is meant to die to himself in order that she might live. This sacrifice of self is accomplished by the husband in his efforts to provide for his family and protecting them from all harms both material and immaterial. It is explained, too, by Pope John Paul II (JPII) thus:
A man is called upon to ensure the harmonious and united development of all the members of the family: he will perform this task by exercising generous responsibility for the life conceived under the heart of the mother, by a more solicitous commitment to education, a task he shares with his wife, by work which is never a cause of division in the family but promotes its unity and stability, and by means of the witness he gives of an adult Christian life which effectively introduces the children into the living experience of Christ and the Church. Familiaris Consortio.
Generally speaking, this simply means that God entrusts the husband and father with a very specific and special task of caring for and defending his family, most especially through his labor to support them. This trust is best epitomized by St. Joseph and the Holy Family, as JPII says, “Work was the daily expression of love in the life of the Family of Nazareth.” Redemptoris Custos. St. Joseph labored hard each day in order to provide for his wife, the Virgin Mary, and Christ, the Son of God, both of whom had been entrusted to his care by God. So, too, must the husband strive as he demonstrates his love for his family. Concerning the protection of his family, by far the most important way in which a man does this is through being present in his children’s lives. JPII states, “Love for his wife as mother of their children and love for the children themselves are for the man the natural way of understanding and fulfilling his own fatherhood. . . . The absence of a father causes psychological and moral imbalance and notable difficulties in family relationships.” Familiaris Consortio. It is from the father that sons will learn how to treat women properly and from whom daughters will learn how they should expect to be treated by men. Without a father, or at the very least a father-figure, the children are less likely to develop these all important habits and expectations, leading to a decline of morality and moral standards. He is the ultimate authority in the discipline of the household. Thus, it is the role of the husband and father to protect and provide for his family, depicted as the head of the house.
|Taking care of the house and making sure my husband and future family have a warm, clean, and inviting home is one of the greatest joys of my vocation as a wife and (hopefully) mother.|
Together, then, the husband and the wife are the binding force of the family, the head and the heart of one body. Pope Pius XI speaks of their bond in his encyclical Casti Connubii:
This mutual molding of husband and wife, this determined effort to perfect each other, can in a very real sense, as the Roman Catechism teaches, be said to be the chief reason and purpose of matrimony, provided matrimony be looked at not in the restricted sense as instituted for the proper conception and education of the child, but more widely as the blending of life as a whole and the mutual interchange and sharing thereof. Casti Connubbii.
Looking at marriage in the full sense, it is the husband and wife’s first duty to draw each other closer to Heaven and eternal life with God and, secondarily, to conceive, bear, and raise children in good morals. Man and woman, husband and wife, were “made to complement each other. To ‘complement’ means to complete or make perfect. That is what man and woman do for each other - spiritually, psychologically, physically, and sexually.” The Power of the Christian Woman. The distinct roles of the husband and wife complement each other. Both roles, though different, are necessary for the completion of the family unit. As JPII states, “Above all it is important to underline the equal dignity and responsibility of women with men. This equality is realized in a unique manner in that reciprocal self-giving by each one to the other and by both to the children which is proper to marriage and the family.” Familiaris Consortio. It is through their specific duties that men and women are able, through union in marriage, to develop a family. Both of their roles are equally important. Just as a body cannot function without both head and heart, so too the family unit cannot function without both the husband and the wife. It must have both in order to be complete. JPII says, “The future of humanity passes by way of the family.” Familiaris Consortio. Without the family, the human race will cease to exist. It is, thus, crucial that both the father and the mother fulfill their specific roles within the family as they raise their children to live in the truth and follow the good way on their pilgrimage to Heaven and eternal life. It is, therefore, through both the head and the heart, the husband and the wife, that their respective roles are fully completed as their complement each other, working together for ultimate union with God.
In summarization, the husband and the wife both have unique roles to perform within the family. The husband is the head of the house as he provides for and protects his wife and children. Through his work the husband lays forth himself in self-sacrifice out of love for his wife and family. He must also be a firm example for his children, leading a moral life which they may admire and imitate. The wife is the heart of the house, caring for the home and the children. She cares for the home, ensuring the comfort of her husband when he returns from work, thus showing her love for him. It is also the wife and mother who raises the children through their most critical years, ensuring that they receive a good moral understanding. She, too, must set an example of morality for her children to imitate. Together, the husband and wife complement each other through their individual roles, aiding each other on their journey to Heaven and eternal life with God. It is also only through the union of man and woman in marriage that children may be procreated and humanity continued. Together the husband and wife must raise their children in the truth. It is seen, therefore, that both the husband and the wife have specific and different roles within the family unit which are equal in importance and without which the human race could not continue except for the complementarity of their roles. Truly, the husband is the head and the wife the heart of the body of their family