Happy Father’s Day to all dads and granddads, plus to all those about-to-be fathers! This is also a day to remember our fathers who have gone ahead of us to be with their Creator. What we are today is the result of the footsteps and fingerprints that our fathers left imprinted on our lives.
What really is supposed to be the father’s role in the family? I ask this question because I have been concerned lately about reports of an abandoned male child about to be given to a one-gender ‘family’ (a female couple) for adoption. This bothers me … I wonder where this young boy will find his male role model. To address this issue, let me share with you some thoughts a Catholic priest, Fr. Phillip Chavez, shared during a newspaper interview.
Fr. Chavez firmly believes that the role of man as the father in the family can be summarized as “leader, protector, provider”. He is concerned about the subtle shifting of the man’s role, especially in Western society, as it is influenced by the egalitarian model of femininity and masculinity, the women’s liberation movement, the gay movement, and the growing need for both father and mother to work.
He says that such challenges confronting men’s traditional role in family and society many times result in a host of insecurities for men, creating both mental and spiritual doubts and fears re their masculinity.
In his work with young men, helping them restore their Christian identity as leaders, protectors and providers, he focuses on fatherhood and what he calls “the journey of sonship.” Like Christ, he says, young men need to hear from their fathers that “you are my beloved and in you is my delight’ if they are to become fully rounded men, capable of raising a family, and fulfilling their purpose in life. Men must be mentored by other men in order to fully understand the manly role of fatherhood and family leadership/headship as one “who lays it (his life) down, who sacrifices, who dies to himself” rather than someone who bossily pushes his weight around.
Men and fathers of today, he maintains, need to regain their Christian orientation, and be strong husbands, fathers, and leaders in society, as well as cultural champions of mature masculine character and courageous spirit. This three-fold role of man as the father in the family relates to the natural order, but at the same time is grounded in the supernatural summons to all Christians to share in the three-fold office of Christ as Priest, Prophet, and King in building up the Kingdom of God, now, in today’s society, in today’s world.
Pope Benedict XVI during his May 14, 2009, visit to Nazareth, Israel, had these comments for men and fathers: “We think of St. Joseph, the just man whom God wished to place over his household. From Joseph’s strong and fatherly example Jesus learned the virtues of a manly piety, fidelity to one’s word, integrity and hard work. In the carpenter of Nazareth he saw how authority placed at the service of love is infinitely more fruitful than the power which seeks to dominate. How much our world needs the example, guidance and quiet strength of men like Joseph!”
–Written together with Nancy R. Catan.