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Editorial | Fatherhood: An essential role

Look to the example of St. Joseph as a protector, nurturer

Father’s Day is an appropriate time to stress the essential role of fathers in the life of the family and in building a culture of life.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Respect Life Program explains that fatherhood has its origins in God, who chose to reveal Himself to us as Our Father, sending His only Son for the sake of our salvation. Pope Francis wrote in his apostolic letter on the 150th anniversary of the proclamation of St. Joseph as the patron of the universal Church that fathers have a special role “in revealing and in reliving on earth the very fatherhood of God” (“Familiaris consortio”).

Although society often seems to tell fathers that they have no say in the lives of their children before birth, and fails to recognize the dynamic and critically important role of fatherhood, the fatherly role is both a biological and spiritual reality. The bishops’ program explains that fathers are uniquely entrusted with the protection and defense of both mother and child and, in this way, in safeguarding the sanctity of human life. Yet research continues to show that the top reasons women seek abortions include lacking support from the child’s father and financial challenges, which are only exacerbated by a father’s absence.

Pope Francis reminds us that the Son of God came into our world in a state of great vulnerability. He needed to be defended, protected, cared for and raised by Joseph. God trusted Joseph, as did Mary, who found in him someone who would not only save her life, but would always provide for her and her child.

As a Church community, we need to encourage and support men to follow the example of St. Joseph and embrace their various roles as father. Even if a man is not a parent, he is still called to spiritual fatherhood — a fatherhood that fosters others’ relationship with God, protecting them from evil and providing an example of Christ’s love.

A father’s role is important. Fathers share their families’ joys and sorrows, hopes and hardships. It doesn’t come easy, but fathers show patience and forgiveness when required. They set the right example and demonstrate concern for others. They lead their children and others to God. For example, St. Louis wrote to his son: “And may the Lord give you the grace to do His will so that He may be served and honored through you, that in the next life we may together come to see Him, love Him and praise Him unceasingly.”

We praise fathers for persevering, sometimes even amid very difficult circumstances, as they offer loving, life-affirming support to their families and others. Lend a helping hand to a father when needed. Honor, offer thanksgiving and pray for fathers.

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