Tuesday, January 17, 2012

To My Boys on the Occasions of Their Confirmation

It seems to me that every man worth his salt desires to have a son.  This longing is hardwired into him from his creation.  Some might argue that this hope for a son, aside from man’s basest animal desires, arises from his fear of death; in a son he can be assured that some part of him will live on in his heirs – they will carry his name.  Certainly we are proud by nature, and some portion of our vanity is fed with the arrival of a son, but in the end, such an explanation seems incomplete.  A man can create a lasting legacy by other means.  This was, after all, the aim of both Achilles and Hector.  By glory won in battle, they would achieve a kind of immortality.  That I mention them here is sufficient evidence that their presumptions were true.  For what purpose, then, does it rest so heavily upon a man’s heart to produce a son?

 To my mind, the beginning of an answer to this question resides in the humblest and most noble part of a man’s soul.  When he is honest with himself, a man recognizes that despite his triumphs, his successes, and his achievements, he remains weak, sinful, and less than the man he knows he ought to be, less than the man whom at his core he desires to be.  As a result, a man hopes for a son who will succeed even where his father has failed.  He hopes that one day, as he approaches the throne of judgment where he will plead his case before God Almighty, he will be able to say, “Lord, I have been miserable in all things but this: I raised a son who has become a better man than I am.”  And really, that is the long and the short of it.  Any father deserving of the title longs that his son will be a better man than himself.

A priest carries none of the burden of providing for and raising a family with his wife.  The longings of his heart, however, are much like those of any good man.  He hopes for a son.  Thus, every man preparing for priesthood experiences acutely the awareness that he will have no progeny of his own.  If he is observant, however, he quickly discovers that God seldom takes without giving something in return.  Thus have I come to see that while I will have no son of my own stock, Our Lord has given me a great many spiritual sons.   I am privileged to say that you are among them, and it is important for you to know that I could not be prouder of you.

As a father of sorts, my hopes for you are much like the hopes of your natural father.   I hope that you will be more successful than I have been -- smarter, more generous, more loving, more faithful, more honest, and more virtuous. I hope that you will be respected. I hope that you will be admired. I hope that when you reach the end of your days you will have lived a life worth remembering. More than all else, though, I hope you will know with deep intimacy Him who has loved us into existence, and that you will be holy, so much holier than I.  I want you to be a better man than I am.  I have prayed that this would be so for a long time now, and I will continue to do so.  Already I am beginning to see that God has looked kindly upon this request.  Within you rests the capacity to be not only a good man, but a great man.  Only one thing will prevent Our Lord from accomplishing this work within you.  Do not permit your own self to serve as the obstacle that tempts you to substitute mediocrity for glory.

Bear in mind that manhood has little to do with one’s age, attractiveness to women, or inclination to drink beer and smoke cigars.   It has everything to do with one’s willingness to sacrifice, even to the point of death, for the sake of Truth, Goodness, Beauty, and Love.  A good man always dies a martyr to something.  So must it be for you.

As I am not your natural father, I recognize that it does not belong to me to see you through each of the steps toward becoming a man. Because of the sacrifices he makes for you, there are certain privileges your father reserves to himself. Among these, it is for a natural father to teach his son to shave.  Nevertheless, as your spiritual father, I have borne witness to a less visible though equally profound and meaningful period of maturation in your life. As a result, I hope you and your dad will not find the gift which accompanies this letter too presumptuous. As with age, beer, cigars, and women, manhood has little to do with one’s capacity to grow a beard.  Nevertheless, there remains something iconic about a razor. To possess a razor of ones own marks a point of transition out of boyhood and into the true nobility that characterizes authentic manhood.   You are a good man, my spiritual son and the adopted son of the Father.  In due time, I expect that you will become a great man and a much better man than I am.  Beyond these, you are made to become a man of God.   For this reason I offer you a gift which, though perhaps mundane, carries with it the possibility of reminding you daily who you are and who you are meant to be.  Holiness, after all, is to be achieved in the way that we do the little things.  At the very least may this gift be a reminder of my unwavering confidence in your goodness and your capacity for greatness.

With much love and affection I remain,

You Father in Christ,

Fr. Tyler Dennis


  1. If I come home to a real life Sweeny Todd outbreak, I blame you.

    Theresa K.

  2. Beautiful!

  3. Very well stated and I hope the message is held and charished.


  4. Beautiful. I love your understanding of priesthood. Keep up the good work and great writing. :-)


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