A blog for Catholic men that seeks to encourage virtue, the pursuit of holiness and the art of true masculinity.
An October Farm Retreat With Your Son
October 1, 2018
We started farming for the sake of my family, especially my sons. When we had our second son my wife asked, “Where do you see us in 5 years?”
“On a farm,” I answered, “back home.”
“Home” was North Carolina (we were living in Denver, CO), but the “farm” part we had not figured out. Six years later we have a dairy. But, through my work with Fraternus, this very site, and others, and by having five sons myself, we saw the need for an apostolic aspect of our agrarian life that helped men, especially fathers and sons. That’s St. Joseph’s Farm.
Boys, like men, have an intensely “outward” sense to them. They learn and mature by and in action, experience, and, especially, adventure. Boys even “fidget” when they are learning or receiving something, which is why they might play trucks on the floor as you read them a story. They are listening, and sometimes moving helps them retain and receive better. Sadly, boys are often suppressed in this aspect of their masculinity. Simple rambunctiousness can be labeled violent or aggressive. In reality, to suppress these things is to suppress the God-given masculinity of a boy, and it dramatically impairs his ability and even desire to grow into a man. We cannot make strength and outward-ness onerous to him.
So, who can help? In the past, that was simple enough. Cultures and societies throughout history have done one simple thing when it was time for boys to become men: they handed them over to the men. Alongside men, they did not learn to suppress their strength but to hone, direct, and develop it. As puppy love can mature into sacrificial love, so too the growing power of a boy can be disciplined into a man of character, willing to sacrifice, fight, and love. But this can only happen alongside men of character that are willing to sacrifice, fight, and love. And, among those men, none is more important than the father.
Too many men let that wisdom sleep too long. They know that experiences with their sons are essential, but before you know it their son is a late teen, in college, or a young adult and is more and more distant from their father. I am guilty of this. I get in the mood to get things done and forget some of the most essential things. It takes mere moments for me to stop and give my sons some time in the day. For whatever reason, this takes a greater act of intentionality than it should.
We can’t let the time of adolescence slip by. It is a time of intense growth in a boy’s mind, heart, and body. He needs fatherly experiences that will imprint on him what it means to be a man. He can’t endure snaps of discipline and spoken codes of conduct. He needs stories to tell. He needs to see and hear his father teaching, directing, and affirming his masculinity. He needs the love that only a father can give.
Our farm retreats do just that. Along with content that directed to both fathers and sons, the experiences themselves are meant to shake us from screen-induced slumbers and the numbing nihilism of the day. To see a pig die and then later to partake in a festive meal – this cultivates true thankfulness and awe. To be instructed on skeet shooting or to take a walk by the river, to laugh around a fire with other men, to be in silence together – all of these things are stories and memories imprinted in a young mind, and they communicate something that cannot come from a few words between getting off work and bedtime. These are things experienced alongside your son; they aren’t lessons spoken at him in a classroom.