On Raising Fathers

Pope Francis has declared this year, “Year of St Joseph”. Giving attention to the role of St Joseph in the Church encourages us to reflect on a number of important themes we find in his life. One theme in St Joseph’s life that is worthy of particular attention at this time is that of the role of father.

There is mounting evidence showing that the absence of fathers is very damaging to the upbringing of both boys and girls. In response to this problem, many are seeking ways in which fatherhood can be better fostered. In our society now one in three families are fatherless, and 40% of teenagers grow up without their biological father. Over one million Australian children live in a home with only one parent, usually the mother.

In his book, “Raising Fathers”, Robert Falzon provides some sobering statistics on the effects of fatherlessness.  Approximately 60% of teen suicides come from fatherless homes, along with about 70% of violent rapists, 80% of youth in prison, 70% of adolescent patients in chemical abuse centres, and 80% of children with behavioural problems. These are very disturbing statistics.

Our society needs fathers, good fathers, who are present to their children in their formative years. St Joseph stands as a model for faithful, responsible, dedicated and loving fatherhood.  

Pope Francis in his announcement of the Year of St Joseph stated that fathers are not born, but made. This is very true. Further, he said that, “A man does not become a father simply by bringing a child into the world, but by taking up the responsibility to care for that child. Whenever a man accepts responsibility for the life of another, in some way he becomes a father to that person” (Patris Cordis 7).

It is often said that there is no preparation offered for becoming a father. Men rely on the experience of their own fathers, either to emulate them or try to avoid the shortcomings they experienced.

The Pope went on to say, “Our world today needs fathers. It has no use for tyrants who would domineer others as a means of compensating for their own needs. It rejects those who confuse authority with authoritarianism, service with servility, discussion with oppression, charity with a welfare mentality, power with destruction. Every true vocation is born of the gift of oneself, which is the fruit of mature sacrifice” (ibid).

Fatherhood is about the generous gift of self to wife and children. While many men long to be good fathers, they find this role difficult and challenging.  We, as a society, and particularly the Church, need to offer them concrete help, guidance, encouragement and inspiration.

On Saturday 31 July the Archdiocese will be participating in an online National Men’s Gathering. Men from across the nation will gather on this day to discuss and reflect on the qualities of Christian manhood. I believe this event will provide great support and encouragement to fathers.

Along with attending this event I would strongly recommend that fathers get a copy of Robert’s book, “Raising Fathers”. The book is a series of 12 stories of men who have tried to be the best fathers they can be. The experiences shared by these men are very illuminating and profound.

This year of St Joseph provides an opportunity to focus on fatherhood and encourage all fathers to more deeply reflect on the very important role they play in the lives of their children, and the contribution they make to our society.

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