By Fr. Tirso Villaverde
Pastor, St. Bartholomew Parish
As May is usually the month to honor our mothers, the third Sunday of June has been dedicated to the men in our lives who have served as father to us. Whether it is our birth fathers, stepfathers, godfathers, uncles, or what have you, this is the month to express our gratitude and affection to all of those men who have been a father to us in any way. At the same time, though, fatherhood in our day and age is a concept that has become confused that has left many children growing into adulthood with a skewed sense of what it means to be a father.
We, of course, have the old time image of a father. He was the “head of the family.” He was the one who provided for the family in every way. The father was the one who went to work while the mother stayed at home to raise the children. When he came home, the mother would have dinner ready and the children would look to him for wisdom. That was also the time when the father’s authority was unquestionable. Granted that some of the old time images and ideas of fatherhood are somewhat chauvinistic and degrading to women, many current developments in our society’s lifestyle make it difficult to come to a clear understanding of what it means to be a father.
For one, sadly there are many children who are growing up without a father in the home. I am not including in this the unforeseeable circumstances such as the early death of the father that has left the mother with no other choice but to raise the children on her own. Such things are beyond anyone’s control. I do speak, though, of the situations where either the father is unwilling to commit to the children they helped bring to life or the relationships where the father and mother, for whatever reason, have chosen not to make a life together as a family.
In the first instance, when the father is not in the picture, it makes me wonder why the father would not want to have an active part in the life of his child. The gift of a child should be so precious that any man should be happy to have the relationship of being a father to a child. It seems to me that men who refuse to fulfill their obligations as a father run the risk of subjecting their children to a life of confusion. When children grow up with a healthy example of a family life, the more healthy and balanced their lives will likely become.
In the second instance, I find myself asking, “what is it about the relationship between the mother and father that, even though they could come together in the act of sex, they cannot come together in love to raise the child they both helped to conceive?” In many ways, it shows a lack of being able to commit on the part of both the mother and the father. Too often, men and women are having sex with one another without the desire of really becoming a family when a new life is conceived in the mother’s womb.
There is also the tendency in today’s society to eliminate completely the role of the father. I speak here of scientific developments that have allowed women to become pregnant without the benefit of an intimate relationship with the father. There are procedures that allow women to be artificially inseminated. Today, the whole process of bringing new life into the world can be done without the man even being present. As long as his sperm can be extracted from his body, science has all it needs. Yet, what we do not account for is the damage that such cold and artificial methods does to the intimacy that ought to be an essential part in the act of bringing new life into the world. There is something very incomplete in the lives of everyone involved when mother and father do not come together in that most intimate of actions.
In creating the world and ordering the things of the universe, God had infinite wisdom in commanding that male and female come together in a relationship of love and commitment to multiply the population of the world. Without those two elements, the idea of fatherhood may continue to be confused and blurred. The love between both the father and mother is essential to the healthy growth of the children. Furthermore, living in a relationship where father and mother have committed themselves to each other in Holy Matrimony helps them to reflect the fidelity of God to His People. It will also encourage the children to do the same for their own future sons and daughters.
As we honor the men who have been a father to us, may all Christians come together to pray that the idea of fatherhood may again reflect the divine Fatherhood of God. May we also pray that men and women will again come together in relationships filled with love and faithful commitment to each other for the benefit of the children that depend on them.•