The Essential Role of the Father

February 10, 2014

Divorce rates skyrocketing; adultery rampant; non-married cohabitating couples; children abandoned by their fathers or mothers; “same-sex unions” adopting children and calling this the “modern family”; pornography invading homes, leading to powerful addictions and total alienation from other members of the family: all of this is a bird’s eye view of the family situation in the modern world.

Nonetheless, followers of Jesus Christ lift up the banner with the word HOPE. Hope is one of the three theological virtues that are infused in the soul in the moment of Baptism: Faith, Hope and Charity.

Hope is the virtue by which we place our total trust in God. Despite our failures, weaknesses, shortcomings, our sins and total fragility we know that God is our Rock, our Fortress, and our Light in the midst of the dark tunnel.  As the Archangel Gabriel announced to Mary, “Nothing is impossible for God.”

In this brief essay we would like to present one theme to strengthen families that are under assault, and that is the importance of the father in the formation of wholesome, solid and holy families.  The mother is the heart of the family but the father is the “head” of the family.

What then are goals that every man who is called to the marriage vocation should aim to attain so that indeed he can live out what is true “fatherhood” in a world of “drop-out dads”, negligent fathers, and overly timid men?

First, to be a good father he should first be a good “Son of God the Father”.  The Father of the family represents and reflects the image of God the Father. If a father has an identity crisis in the spiritual realm—that is to say, he does not understand his intimate relationship to God the Father—then he will not be able to transmit to his children and family an authentic vision of God the Father.

However, if the earthly father has encountered God the Father in an intimate, personal, filial, and convincing way then he will be able to transmit this fatherhood to those whom God will place under his care.

A prime example can be found in the life of Karol Woytyla— the future Holy Father, Pope John Paul II.  He lost his mother at 9 years of age and then spent much of his time with his father; they even shared the same bedroom at night.

Young Karol recalls waking up in the early hours, way before dawn, and seeing the figure of his father kneeling, deeply absorbed in prayer.   This example of his father left an indelible impression on the young Karol.  His earthly Father had a deep and intimate relationship to God the Father and transmitted this to his son.

Then Karol would become the great “Holy Father”—Pope John Paul II, one of the greatest and clearest reflections of true fatherhood in the history of the world.

Second, after placing primary emphasis on his relationship with God the Father, a true father should love his wife.  The love and friendship that he has with his wife should be indispensable.  This love should not stagnate, or worse yet, fizzle out.  On the contrary this human love blessed supernaturally by the sacrament of Holy Matrimony should blossom, grow, and flourish until the moment of death.

All too many marriages lose their vibrancy; the love grows cold to the point that both live in the same house as if they were strangers to each other. Obviously the children will suffer the consequences!

How can spouses maintain the flame enkindled and burning bright? As in any activity, sport, or profession, the relationship between spouses demands work, and hard work—blood, sweat and tears.

First of all both should cultivate an ever deeper relationship with God. How? Prayer (both individual and family, calling to mind the words of the Rosary priest Father Patrick Peyton, “The family that prays together stays together”); the Sacramental life (frequent confession and Holy Communion); devotion to Mary manifested by the daily recitation of the Holy Rosary—of these are part and parcel of growing in a mutual relationship with God.  This, of course, will foster unity between themselves as husband and wife.

Other activities should not be excluded such as a Marriage Retreat on an annual basis, Marriage Encounter, as well as cultivating good friendships among other good Catholic couples!

Third, the father should love his children and see them as a precious treasure that God has given to him with the primary purpose of bringing these little ones to their ultimate destiny which is heaven.   A child is a gift given to father and mother but with the primary purpose of the parents being ladders by which the children can climb to heaven.

An authentic father first should provide for the spiritual need of the child. He should teach his child to pray as soon as possible. Little children are like sponges. The nature of a sponge is to absorb; it can absorb dirty water or clean water. Likewise a child can absorb the dirt of the modern world or, through the help of a good father, absorb that which is pure, noble and uplifting.

The father should be the teacher to the child especially in prayer.   He should be always mindful of the immortal saying of Father Patrick Peyton:  “The family that prays together stays together.” With respect to the art of prayer, the father should exercise three different aspects of prayer: 1) He should be a man of prayer and not be afraid to manifest it publicly.  There is a saying that praises prayer as such: “The man is greatest when he is found on his knees!”   Why? Because he recognizes that true greatness comes from the Father of all good gifts, God Himself. 2) He should pray with the family—the blessing of the meal, the family Rosary and the active participation in holy Mass which is of course the greatest of all prayers. 3) Finally, a true father should be like Moses who elevated his arms so that the Jews could win the battle against their enemies. A father should pray frequently and fervently for his family for their protection from all evils— physical, moral, spiritual—and for his family’s sanctification and salvation.

An authentic Christian father should have his eyes fixed on heaven at all times and stay aware of the world and the dangers that menace the flock (his wife and children) entrusted to him.

The greatest desire of the father for his family should be the salvation of their immortal souls. Jesus said, “What would it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his soul in the process? What can we offer in exchange for our immortal soul?”

Until we have restored the essential role of the father in the family to his proper place the world will suffer intensely. Man who is called to the vocation of marriage assumes an enormously important responsibility.   The end of the vocation is holiness of life and the heavenly reward.

However, man (the father) must strive daily to cultivate a deeper relationship to God. His wife must be cherished as his greatest gift on earth.  Then, as God sends children, they should be treasured as priceless gems. The father must receive them willingly from the hands of the Father, the Creator. They should be formed by the father emotionally, intellectually, morally, but especially spiritually.  Indeed the father should do all in his power to instill in them a deep-rooted Fear of the Lord, but even more, a tender and loving trust and love for our Heavenly Father.

Let us turn to the best of earthly fathers, the good Saint Joseph, and beg for his powerful intercession. St. Joseph, ornament of the domestic life, patron of families, patron of fathers, pray for us!

This post is by Fr. Ed Broom, and it originally appeared on Catholic Exchange. It is reprinted with permission.

Sam Guzman


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Reader Interactions


  1. Amthony says

    I already strive for this, but this comes at a wonderful time as my second child, Ambrose Henry, was just born yesterday. We already have the baptism scheduled.

    Thank you for all of your wonderful articles.

  2. henry says

    One of the gender theory’s goal is to destroy the father’s role (the mother’s role as well) to introducing sex confusion.

    I am telling you that because in this moment the debate is quite intensive in France and government is trying to introduce gender theory in schools.

    But don’t worry: On Ne Lâche Rien!!!! ONLR (means we don’t give up)

    God bless fathers and their families!

  3. Sasha says

    If only this were the dominant way of thinking of men and fathers, families would stay together and women would be much happier. And children of course too! And they would be much stronger in the context they have to live in, schools, etc. !

  4. Michael says

    It’s irresponsible to simply write off gay men and women with scare quotes. For some people, the nuptial meaning of life is found in the encounter with a person of the same sex. To dismiss the experiences and needs of gay persons out of hand betrays a narcissistic prejudice that cannot tolerate the idea that there exist people not like oneself. It also reflects the narcissist’s limited capacity for empathy—an exercise in stepping out of the self to imagine the feelings of others.

      • jackmichaelson says

        Morality begins with empathy. This is what Jesus taught us in the greatest commandment. We shall love the Lord God with all our heart, soul, and strength, and we shall love our neighbor as ourselves. This is a commandment to live empathetically. Those who ignore gay persons and deny that gay persons can have genuinely loving human experiences and encounters that lie potentially within the will of God seem unable to see past themselves and apply a modicum of empathy to challenge the belief that being just like them is the only acceptable model.

      • Jarrod says

        No, I’m afraid morality begins with obedience. You cannot love God and encourage others to disobey Him because they feel like it, no matter how strong those feelings. Likewise, you cannot love others and encourage them to endanger themselves by disobeying God.

        “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” (Jn 14:15)

        Now, this is not to say anything about ignoring the people who suffer from temptation to behave improperly (which, in our own ways, is all of us), or about doing anything other than loving them. But this does not mean we should pretend that the liaisons they have are whatever they want to call them.

        • jackmichaelson says

          Well, that’s right in the sense that we are to obey God’s commandment to empathy. Matthew 22:36-40 says it pretty clearly. “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.” I encourage all others to follow Jesus’ commandments.

          Secondly, I’d like to make you aware that your tone is demeaning. The word liaison as you mean it is defined as “a sexual relationship, esp. one that is secret and involves unfaithfulness to a partner.” Here we have a fundamental disagreement, and it won’t be solved by internet posts. My only goal in posting here was for you to be more contentious about the grace in the lives of gay people and to avoid using inflammatory language because you feel this is a safe space to do so. I’d like to encourage you to take that up as a practice.

          Christ’s peace.

      • Xenocles says

        Indeed we do disagree fundamentally, my friend. I admit that accepting the Church’s teachings on this matter was one of the hardest parts of my conversion, harder even than accepting the teachings that made me turn away from my own temptations. I think the teaching is Scripturally sound, so I am left with only my own desire that it not be so – which is a terrible guide for assessing truths of any kind.

        I am sensitive to criticism about tone – the first priority is to bring people to God and to let Him change them later, which is not accomplished by putting up walls of any sort. But we must balance that by being true to God’s commandments – eventually we must all change our ways to conform with God’s will. Empathy is a virtue to the extent that it helps us be compassionate and love others. It is a vice once we use it as a license to sin (either for ourselves or for others). By itself, all the empathy in the world will not help remove the beams from our respective eyes. At some point love means helping people turn from their tendencies to sin, which to some extent are inborn for all of us. An inclination toward homosexual conduct is not made less of a temptation to sin by the fact that it is a congenital trait, any more than a tendency toward satyriasis would be. (And note well it is the conduct, not the inclination, that is the sin in all cases.)

        In the end we are all called to take up our own crosses as Jesus did. If it were not a tremendous challenge, fraught with terrible suffering, it would not be a cross. We might help someone to bear his cross, but it is unthinkable to encourage him to throw it down.

      • dranderson says

        Dear JACKMICHAELSON, you are correct “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind”, and “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself”, but this is not all contained in scripture. Truly these are the greatest, but the greatest of many. Can Jesus’s teachings ,and that of the whole bible, be reduced to two sentences. Why then would we have the rest of the scriptures?

        Same sex attraction is not a sin, it is who a person is. But that doesn’t mean we act out on our desires. That is part of the discussion. It is the same as when men a women act out on their desires (and not just sexual). We potentially end up with broken families, broken marriages, death, war, pestilence.

        Does our desire trump God’s nature, or natural law? Obviously, if you do not believe there is a order to creation, this is a pointless discussion, but if there is, and this nature can be known, we need to ask ourselves in what way are we to participate in this order? Some it is celibacy of presthood/religous life dedicating themselves to the service of God, and others marriage and the domestic church, and still others it is the single life of temperance and fortitude.

        The prize is heaven, and we have been given a road map in the Bible, and a guide in the Vicar of Christ and His Church. Sins can and is be forgiven but we must resolve to become and better person and sin no more.

    • Shannon Marie Federoff says

      The nuptial meaning of the body has to do with our specific gender DIFFERENCES. A homosexual (same sex) relationship cannot be nuptial. It can be passionate, it can be overwhelming, it can be playful, it can be orgasmic, but it cannot be nuptial.

      Lets be frank and biological… the sex act as performed by two men uses an orifice designed for defecation. It is not possible for new life to come from it. It in no way mirrors God’s life-giving love for us.

      We are all searching for love- both Divine and human. I empathize with that. We were made to love. But we will never be fulfilled in a same sex relationship. Some us us may never be fulfilled in a marriage (heterosexual, of course). But we can all seek our place in God’s love and obey his moral law.

  5. Paul says

    This is great! I’d just like to recommend a book by Steve Wood for anyone that wants to be a better dad called “Legacy: a father’s handbook for raising godly children.” It is very good and worth the read!

  6. laywomansterms says

    I agree whole-heartedly that Catholic fathers need to develop their relationships in this order! There is so much wisdom in knowing how to prioritize your relationships and putting God first, and your spouse next! It teaches children how to have healthy relationships and priorities too!

    I wanted to add that in addition to cultivating good friendships with other Catholic couples, it is important to develop relationships with non-Catholic couples. By living out our spousal vocation faithfully, married Catholic couples provide such a powerful witness to an increasingly secular society regarding the values of marriage.


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