June brings us the month in which we honor our fathers here on earth and those who have gone before us. Some of our parishes will honor fathers by saying a special blessing for them, preparing breakfast after Mass, or by giving them a carnation. This is such a beautiful gesture because it shows that we, as Church, recognize the role of the father as being extremely important in the life of a family. The role of the father is just as important or even more important in the life of the child if he is separated by divorce or if he fathered a child outside of marriage. The role of a foster father is also important, if that is what God is calling you to be.
St. Joseph is an excellent role model for all Christian fathers. Fathers can learn a lot from him. St. Joseph loved Mary so much and when finding out she was with child, it had to be so heartbreaking to him. Yet, he taught us through his actions that he was obedient to God and that he was a man of faith by taking Mary and becoming a foster father to Jesus. His life with Mary and Jesus teaches us how much he loved Mary and that he loved Jesus as his own. He provided for his family as a carpenter and he humbly served the Lord. He taught Jesus his trade. St. Joseph also protected Mary and Jesus.
The role of the Christian father is that of providing a solid base for their family and especially their children to grow spiritually and to grow to love and serve God. Fathers need to provide the good soil that will allow those who have been entrusted to them to grow to be strong and loving people in our Church and society.
There is no manual anywhere that can tell you exactly how to be a father. It is not an easy task especially today with all the pressure of work and a society that asks more of our time. The questions we need to ask are: Am I present to my child not only physically but emotionally, relationally and spiritually? Do I make time to know what my child is struggling with? Do I know who my children hang out with? Do I make time to go to see him or her play at their school games? Do I make time to pray with them? Am I making time to listen to them?
If I'm a father living away from the child, does that child know I love him or her or them? Do I make special efforts to contact them and show them that they are important and I want to get to know them? Are you at peace with the child's mother? Listen and take time for building the relationship between father and son or daughter. Past experiences and statistics show us that the absence of a father in the child's life can cause psychological and moral imbalances in the child that can last a lifetime. Keep an open communication between you and your child. Listen carefully and let go of the machismo sometimes. A strong oppressive presence of machismo in a family can also develop unhealthy family relationships.
There are two ingredients that are essential and if you begin with these two ingredients LOVE and PRAYER, you can go a long way. With love and prayer you can overcome a lot of barriers that can get in the way. Make time to pray together as a family. Teach your children to pray.
Let us thank God for the fathers who have given us life and have shown us love. Let us praise God for them. Let us pray that they may be strengthened as Christian fathers. May their example of faith and love shine! Let us also pray for all those whose fathers have been a source of pain and hurt. Heal their wounds. May they find in you and in others the nurturing, sustaining love that is needed for their growth and wellbeing.