“The world has forgotten God, the Father: it has become an orphan because it has turned aside from God,” said Pope Francis recently. “All of us, to exist, to become complete, in order to be mature, we need to feel the joy of fatherhood: even those of us who are celibate,” taught the Pope on June 26. “Fatherhood is giving life to others, giving life”. Here he means ennobling and enabling others – a supernatural fecundity – and not just physical fecundity. As one – in my view – rather brilliant ‘How to Dad’ Cheerios TV commercial puts it ‘when a rule is broken, we’re the enforcement…but when a heart is broken, we’re the re-enforcement and we wouldn’t have it any other way.’
And in this sense the Pope was right to remind celibate clergy that “it is pastoral paternity, spiritual fatherhood, but this is still giving life, this is still becoming fathers.” There are reams and reams of stuff now almost daily on the web and elsewhere about why men and fathers are absolutely vital to the well-being not just of children but to the life and mission of the Church and to the whole of society. The Holy ‘Father’ – emphasis mine – has been saying some pretty eloquent things about this under-cherished and under-valued pillar in the plan of God for human creation and its redemption.
So let’s not wait for the annual Father’s Day to show appreciation for paternity – let’s big it up now for the men and the boys in our families. And help the boys and young men who haven’t known a father or whose fathers have woefully let them down that that doesn’t have to be their story. The Prophet Malachi puts it most succinctly as to what’s at stake – “and he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.” Mal Ch4:v6.
St. Augustine of Hippo once addressed the fathers of his congregation as his “fellow bishops!” Yes, that’s right – the overseers and shepherds of their own small domestic churches. Or as the man says in the Cheerios commercial, ‘this my friends is how to dad’ and “Being awesome isn’t about breaking rules. It’s about making them.” (It’s only 2 minutes in length so worth watching and passing on!)
– Edmund Adamus
Director, Office of Marriage and Family Life – Diocese of Westminster