By Eric Martin
Returning to his catechesis on the Lord’s Prayer, Pope Francis identified the key theme for each of the seven articles, before expanding on each, drawing out modern examples and explaining their relationship with the spiritual truth of each petition, beginning with the first line: “Our Father who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name.”
“How many times there are people who say ‘Our Father’, but do not know what they say! Do you feel that when you say ‘Father,’ that he is the Father, your Father, the Father of humanity, the Father of Jesus Christ?” Pope Francis asked.
“Do you have a relationship with this Father? When we pray this prayer, we are connecting with a loving Father; it is the Holy Spirit which gives us this connection with Him, the feeling of being God’s child.”
‘Father’, he said, is the one word “which Jesus taught us to call God, giving new depth and richness to the mystery of the intimacy of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, which is the centre of our Christian faith.”
However, given the sad modern reality of high divorce rates and the number of fatherless families across the globe, the Pope drew attention to the fact that we now live in a “society without fathers, in which the crisis of fatherhood can lead one to associate the term with authoritarian and repressive tendencies” he stated.
“When children feel neglected by fathers who focus only on their problems, on their work or their own personal realisation, this creates a situation of orphans in the children and youth of today, who live disoriented, without the good example or prudent guidance of a father.”
The effect of this fatherlessness is far reaching, the Holy Father explained, as our young people and children are being shaped without the influence a necessary role model – with the world’s focus on self, children are too easily neglected and forgotten because, “their fathers focus too much on work, personal achievements or are constantly away from home”.
“Fathers are so necessary as examples and guides for our children in wisdom and virtue. Without father figures, young people often feel orphaned; left adrift at a critical moment in their growth and development,” he continued.
“Without guides to rely on, youth can be filled with idols that end up stealing their heart, enthusiasm and genuine wealth.”
Despite the widespread experience of fatherlessness and the world’s seeming rejection of a father’s love, the Pope stressed that this does not exclude people from “the fundamental experience of the Christian faith,” he said, “of knowing that you are a beloved child of God, and that there is nothing in life that can extinguish his passionate love for you”.
“Saints and sinners, we are all brothers loved by the same Father,” Pope Francis affirmed.
“Those words solve the problem of our isolation, our sense of being orphans,” he continued.
“We can stay all the time in prayer with that word alone: ‘Father’. And to feel that we have a father, not a master or a stepfather. No, a father,” he added.
“The Christian addresses God by calling him above all ‘Father’.”
“This is a perfect love,” Pope Francis continued. “If all our earthly loves also crumble, and there remains nothing but dust, there is always for all of us, burning, the unique love of God.”
The reference to Our Father “in Heaven” is meant to express a difference in the quality of God’s love, not a distance or separation between man and God, he explained.
“It is a tireless love that never ends and is always within reach.
“At the end of prayer, at the end of a time when we are praying, at the end of life: what is there? There is a Father waiting for everything and waiting for everyone with his arms wide open. We look at this Father.”