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For Your Marriage

Teachings about Catholic marriage from our Holy Father.

The Positive Roles of Fathers

On February 4, the Holy Father continued his focus on fatherhood for his catechesis on the family, following up from his reflection the previous week.

Turning his attention away from the problems of absent fatherhood in society, Pope Francis looked at all the positive aspects of fatherhood. He began with St. Joseph, the “father of the Family of Nazareth,” who overcame the temptation to leave Mary.

“Every family needs a father,” Pope Francis affirmed, and every father is called to take pride in “transmit[ting] to his son what truly counts in life, namely, a wise heart.” A wise, mature father says to his child: “I will be happy every time that I see you act with wisdom, and I will be moved every time I hear you speak what is right… I taught you things you did not know, I corrected errors that you did not see. I made you feel a profound and, at the same time, discreet affection… I gave you a witness of rigor and firmness, which perhaps you did not understand… I had to put myself first to the test of wisdom of heart, and to watch over excesses of sentiment and resentment, to bear the weight of the inevitable misunderstandings and find the right words to make myself understood. Now, when I see that you seek to be like this with your children, and with everyone, I am moved. I am happy to be your father.”

It is difficult to be a good father; it “costs,” said the Pope. But it is well worth it, and gives “a joy that compensates for every effort, that surpasses every misunderstanding and heals every wound.”

Pope Francis pointed to the “first necessity” of fatherhood: presence. A husband and father must be close to his wife and share everything with her. He must be close to his children at all times, in the good and the bad. The Holy Father notes that being present is not the same thing as being controlling, which means not allowing the child to grow.

The Gospel highlights the fatherhood of God in the parable commonly called the “Prodigal Son.” Pope Francis said, “How much dignity and how much tenderness in the father’s waiting, who is at the door of his home waiting for his son to return! Fathers should be patient, many times there is nothing else that can be done other than to wait. Pray and wait with patience, gentleness, magnanimity and mercy.”

Fathers must be both strong and gentle, the pope said. They must “correct without discouraging,” and “protect tirelessly.”

Pope Francis pointed out that children need their fathers but may not show it. “They will do everything not to admit it, not to make it seen, but they need him and in not finding him opens in them wounds that are difficult to heal,” he said. He pledged the Church’s support for fathers, “because they are, for the new generations, irreplaceable custodians and mediators of faith in goodness, in justice and in the protection of God, as Saint Joseph.”

In closing, the pope said, “A special thought goes to young people, the sick and newlyweds. Tomorrow we celebrate the Memoria of Saint Agatha, Virgin and Martyr. May her young existence make you understand, dear young people, the value of a life lived for God; may her indestructible faith help you, dear sick, to trust the Lord in moments of discomfort; and may her strength in martyrdom indicate to you, dear newlyweds, the values that truly count for family life.”

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