The Father of the Family: A Christian Perspective
by Clayton C. Barbeau
“The act of helping to conceive a child–one of the greatest of a man’s privileges–may make a man a biological father but not a true one.” So writes Clayton C. Barbeau in the introduction of his 2013 revised edition of The Father of the Family: A Christian Perspective, originally published in 1990. True fatherhood, in Barbeau’s words, is “found in love and responsibility,” and in this sense all men are called to be true fathers. With this foundation, Barbeau sets out to write a book specifically for married men who are fathers through the gift of conceiving a child naturally or through adoption, AND who are striving, with grace, to be “true fathers,” living the truth of their fatherhood in heart and spirit.
The book includes seven chapters, each of which considers a dimension of fatherhood. “The Father as…Creator, Lover, Christ, Priest, Teacher, Breadwinner, and Saint.” These categories or descriptions are not exclusive to men and fathers, and they are not intended to be. The beauty of Barbeau’s reflections is that he is firmly grounded in an authentic Christian anthropology which recognizes the beauty of sexual difference and avoids undermining it by stereotypes.
If there is an essential hermeneutic or key lens to fatherhood that Barbeau invites the reader to gaze through, it would be the reality of marriage as the permanent, faithful, and fruitful union of husband and wife, and particularly marriage as a sacrament of Christ’s new covenant. Over and over again, Barbeau grounds fatherhood in its most important relationship–that between husband and wife, sanctified by God’s grace. Fathers who read this book not only will benefit from the wisdom and practical advice for loving their son(s) and daughter(s), but they will be invited and challenged to follow through on what’s most vital for their children: loving the mother of their children.
Barbeau is a licensed marriage and family therapist and a father of eight, so The Father of the Family contains a great deal of practical wisdom. In addition, the author is clearly well-formed in the faith; a strong emphasis on virtue and an insightful use of Scripture and the Second Vatican Council mark the text. This book is a valuable and accessible resource. While it was originally written before the time of internet pornography (which has spread even further through mobile devices) and the redefinition of marriage in the law which removed sexual difference as essential to marriage, the principles of the book are timeless, and the subject matter remains timely and highly relevant for today.
So fathers, read this book! May all fathers recognize themselves as, in Charles Peguy’s words quoted by Barbeau, “the Great Adventurers of the modern world” and live their vocation to the full. As Barbeau himself writes: “Not in spite of marriage and our family will we become holy, but because of them.”
Reviewed by Dr. Andrew Lichtenwalner
Disclaimer: Book reviews do not imply and are not to be used as official endorsement by the USCCB of the work or those associated with the work. Book reviews are solely intended as a resource regarding publications that might be of interest to For Your Marriage visitors.