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For Your Marriage

Teachings about Catholic marriage from our Holy Father.

Pope to Fathers: Be Present in Your Children’s Lives

On January 28, 2015 the Holy Father continued his series of catecheses on the family with a reflection on fatherhood. He noted that the word “father” has a particularly meaningful place in our lives as Christians, since that is what Jesus taught us to call God. Because of this, the word “father” was given a “new depth” and manifested “the blessed mystery of the intimacy of God, Father, Son and Spirit,” which is “the heart of our Christian faith.”

The relationship indicated by the word “father” is “fundamental” and “as ancient as man’s history.” But today, Pope Francis said, we are becoming a “fatherless society” in which the father is “symbolically absent, vanished, removed.”

The Holy Father noted a number of distortions of fatherhood that have taken place throughout history, particularly authoritarianism, but said that “pass[ing] from one extreme to another” is not the answer. The problem today is not the oppression of the father but rather his absence. “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.” Pope Francis said that he always used to ask fathers in Buenos Aires if they played with their children, and they would make excuses. He said that this paternal absence in the life of children “produces gaps and wounds which can also be very grave,” and leads to disruption and deviance. “The sense of orphan-hood that so many young people live,” said the Holy Father, “is deeper than we think.”

Pope Francis exhorted fathers to speak with their children, educate them, and model for them principles and values. He urged them not to feel inadequate to the task and “withdraw and neglect their responsibility.” He addressed the necessary distinction between companion, or friend, and father: “It is true that you must be a companion to your child but without forgetting that you are the father. However, if you only behave as a companion on a par with your child, you will not do the child any good.”

Society, too, has a sort of paternal obligation toward its young people, the Pope said. They need homes, teachers, ideals, and hopes to sustain them. “They are filled perhaps with idols, but they are not given work; they are deceived with the god of money and are denied the true riches.”

Finally, Pope Francis ended with Jesus’ promise in Scripture, “I will not leave you orphans: (John 14:18).” He also promised that he started with the negative situation of fatherhood today in order to speak of its beauty next week. “I chose to begin from the dark to come to the light.”

In the section of the audience reserved for greetings and prayers, Pope Francis sent out a special thought to young people, the sick and newlyweds. Evoking the intercession of St. Thomas Aquinas, he prayed, “may his meekness indicate to you, dear newlyweds, the style of relations between spouses within the family.”

Full text here: Pope Francis’ General Audience on Fatherhood