Ask a Franciscan

Spiritual Role of Fathers

Q. What does the Catholic Church teach about the role of fathers in the family? This seems to be a neglected area.

A. The Rite of Baptism for Children may say it best. After the priest or deacon blesses the mother, he blesses the father, saying: “God is the giver of all life, human and divine. May he bless the father of this child. He and his wife will be the first teachers of their child in the ways of faith. May they be also the best of teachers, bearing witness to the faith by what they say and do, in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.”

All fathers have a natural duty to protect, provide for and educate their daughters and sons while being loving and supportive husbands. Catholic fathers have an added responsibility to be role models of faith and of virtue as companions on the faith journeys of their children. That instructor/companion role, which is influenced by their family and cultural upbringing, changes as children age but never disappears.

The Bible offers many teachings, especially in the wisdom literature of the Hebrew Scriptures, about the role of fathers. The New Testament letters address this responsibility, especially in 1 Thessalonians 2:11-12, Ephesians 6:4, Colossians 3:21 and 1 John 2:13-14. Everything that Jesus says about being a disciple applies to dads.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church addresses the duties of parents in Sections 2221-2231. The text advises parents to regard their sons and daughters as children of God and to respect them as human persons (#2222).

In recent years, both single and married Catholic men have begun participating in men’s prayer groups, Scripture study and retreats on male spirituality. The National Resource Center for Catholic Men can offer local contacts.

Many books, tapes and CD’s address the same issues. For example, Richard Rohr has written From Wild Man to Wise Man: Reflections on Male Spirituality and Quest for the Grail. In Signposts: How to Be a Catholic Man in the World Today, Bill Bawden and Tim Sullivan present 52 topics, with Scripture and Catechism references, plus a real-life story and reflection questions.

May the Lord bless your own faith journey, with its challenge of being a good, Catholic father!

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