Recently, one of my godsons gave me a book entitled “Priestly Fatherhood.” It is written by a wonderful priest by the name of Fr. Jacque Philippe, and I highly recommend it. What I appreciate most about Fr. Jacque’s writing style is how direct and simple it is. He gets right to the point and I appreciate that about him.
Now, I realize that I am the only priest currently living in Sabetha, but I am not the only father. There are many fathers living in Sabetha, KS. Many good fathers. With good hearts. Who love their children. And it is to these that I have decided to write this article. I would like to share with you men, some of what I have been chewing on since reading this book on fatherhood. Needless to say, it was powerful.
Brothers, fatherhood is a spiritual reality. We are called to be images of God the Father for our children (be they natural or spiritual). And while biology is a fact of nature, which accounts for the generation of new life, being a father is so much more than simply begetting children. That is the easy part. Far and away the more difficult part involves developing and acquiring the heart of a true father. Consider these examples of failure in fatherhood: absence, severity, chumminess, businessman, superman, power. Allow me to explain.
Some fathers abdicate their responsibility with their children, placing the entire burden on the mother. They do not dedicate time to their children, they are not present to them, they simply never find time to speak or play with them. And so, in a word, they abdicate their role. Do not be this kind of father.
Then, there is severity. Some fathers are just plain severe with their kids. They are just never satisfied and always ask for too much. And this leaves their children feeling inadequate because they are constantly being reminded of their limitations, insufficiencies and errors. Do not be this kind of father.
Another failure lies in what we might call chumminess. This is the father who simply wants to be buddies with his kids, without ever relating as a father. To be sure, there is nothing wrong with being warm or low key, but there is so much more to the heroism of fatherhood than chumminess. Do not settle for chumminess.
Then, there is the businessman. This deviation of fatherhood can be seen in the father who only has eyes for projects and work and efficiency. And because of this, he loses sight of the fact that children are not to be evaluated in terms of efficiency and work, but as unique and unrepeatable expressions of God’s love. Do not be the father who looks upon his kids as projects.
Then, there is the superman. This is the father who never willingly shows any sign of weakness or need for apologizing to anyone in the home. He tries to make sure he is beyond reproach and without any vulnerability at all times. And this can and will eventually lead to distancing himself from his own children so as to protect the image of superman. Do not be this kind of father.
Finally, there is power. And this can be found in the father who exercises authority in a way that communicates domination, rather than disinterested service. This deviation of fatherhood can quickly become an attempt to live vicariously through his children, rather than by decreasing, so that Christ may grow in them. Brothers, once more, do not settle for this kind of fatherhood.
We conclude with a message of hope. Father Jacque Philippe believes that motherhood is called to be a witness to unconditional love for children, while fatherhood is called to be a witness of unconditional hope. And the example he gives is found in Luke 15, the story of the Prodigal Son. In this story, there is a father who never stops believing in his son. Never stops hoping that he will one day come home. And then one day, he does. And this was only possible because his father had a heart filled with hope. For were that not the case, he would never have come home, even after his conversion.
Brothers, let us be fathers (natural or spiritual) of hope. And with God’s help, let us avoid the many failures in fatherhood that are out there. Pray for me and I will pray for you. And go find the work Priestly Fatherhood. There is much more for your prayer and discernment in that book.