By Josh Low
Now more than ever in today’s society, the father figure is in danger of becoming more and more hidden or even absent.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, there are currently close to 1 million single parent families in Australia, of which more than 80 per cent of single parents are female.
The Census however, does not also take into account fathers who may be physically present, but emotionally distant.
Speaking about fatherhood in 2013, then Pope Benedict XVI raised the issue of fatherhood in the modern world.
“It is not always easy today to talk about fatherhood. Especially in our Western world, the broken families, increasingly absorbing work commitments, concerns, the fatigue of trying to balance the family budget and the distracting invasion of the mass media in daily life are some of the many factors that can prevent a peaceful and constructive relationship between fathers and children,” he said.
Pope Francis reiterated those comments two years later in 2015 in a series of catechesis on the family, saying that we have come to the point of affirming that ours is a ‘fatherless society.’
“The figure of the father, particularly in our Western culture, is symbolically absent, vanished, removed.
“The problem of our days does not seem to be so much the invasive presence of fathers, but rather their absence, their hiding,” he said.
“Fathers sometimes are so concentrated on themselves and on their work, and at times on their own individual fulfilment, that they even forget the family. And they leave the little ones and young people alone.”
Pope Francis said there is a great need for a father be present in the family, close to his wife, to share everything; joy and sorrow, hope and hardship, but also to his children as they grow.
“When they play and when they strive, when they are carefree and when they are distressed, when they are talkative and when they are silent, when they are daring and when they are afraid, when they take a wrong step and when they find their path again; they need a father who is always present,” he explained.
“To say “present” is not to say “controlling”! Fathers who are too controlling cancel out their children; they don’t let them develop.
“A good father knows how to wait and knows how to forgive from the depths of his heart. Certainly, he also knows how to correct with firmness: he is not a weak father, submissive and sentimental.
“The father who knows how to correct without humiliating is the one who knows how to protect without sparing himself.”
The importance of fatherhood in our society and the role it plays in reflecting the God the Father is a topic which has been discussed for decades, with Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI emphasising that being a good father requires looking to the example of God the Father.
“It is God who shows us what it truly means to be a father, which can be seen especially in the Gospel which reveals the face of God as a Father who loves even to the giving of his own Son for the salvation of humanity,” he said.
“God is a Father who never abandons his children, a loving Father who supports, helps, welcomes, forgives, saves… the love of God never fails, never tires of us, it is a love that gives to the extreme, even to the sacrifice of His Son.”
Through looking to and following the example of God the Father, Pope St John Paul II declared in his Apostolic Exhortation, Familiaris consortio that fathers are called to live heroic lives.
“In revealing and in reliving on earth the very fatherhood of God (cf. Eph 3:15), a man is called upon to ensure the harmonious and united development of all the members of the family.’
“He will perform this task by exercising generous responsibility for the life conceived under the heart of the mother, by a more solicitous commitment to education, a task he shares with his wife (cf. Gaudium et spes, 52), by work which is never a cause of division in the family but promotes its unity and stability, and by means of the witness he gives of an adult Christian life which effectively introduces the children into the living experience of Christ and the Church.”
As our current Pontiff outlines, if there is someone who can fully explain the prayer of the “Our Father”, taught by Jesus and described as the ‘cornerstone of prayer life’, it is the one who lives out paternity in the first person.
From pages 14 and 15 of Issue 11: ‘Adult Faith: Australian Bureau of Statistics and the Book of Numbers’ of The Record Magazine