405. What ever happened to Fathers?

Here comes another reprint from five years ago,  June 15, 2018 to be exact. My excuses:

As most of you know, since February I have been serving as interim pastor in my home parish. Please pray for me. Our new Pastor arrives on August 1, when I can “re-retire”. Till then, some weeks I am pressed for time. And energy.

2  I came across this column a couple of weeks ago, and…  You writers, if there are any here present: Do you ever look back on your writings of former years and ask “How did I know all that?” The better question would be “How did I forget all that?” I read this column as if it was news to me, and (forgive me) I liked it and want to share it, especially with our newer readers.

What ever happened to Fathers?


I remember a little boy many years ago: His father would sit in his chair, and his son would sit in his chair. His father would cross his legs, and the boy would cross his legs. His father would turn the page of his newspaper; and his son would turn the page of his book. As time went on his father got so busy with his work that he left before the kids got up in the morning and got home after they went to bed, and the boy rarely saw him. His son also imitated that. After he grew up he moved far away, and after that his father rarely saw him.

The Role of Fathers

Fathers’ Day is observed in both the United States and Canada on the third Sunday of June. It is not a Church holy day. But fathers are holy – created by God as part of the system that requires both a father and a mother to produce children, to have a family. That’s obvious.

It should be equally obvious (but apparently is not these days) that the marriage of a man and a woman is therefore the normal, pattern for the family as God created it. Almost anything is better than children growing up unwanted as orphans, so I think we should allow other possibilities, but this is the natural family. Do I sound like a relic from the past? Yes, from at least the past 4500 years or so.


It should also be obvious (but apparently is not these days) that children need two parents. This is partly for practical reasons. God bless single parents who, through no fault of their own, must raise children by themselves, and I’ve known some who have done a very fine job of it. But that’s extremely hard to do.

Equally important, children need fathers. (I don’t mean to devalue mothers – far from it! – but the subject today is fathers.) Boys need good fathers to imitate. I believe the chief (but not only) reason many boys go bad these days is that they have had no father at home. A boy needs a father to emulate, so he will learn how to be a good man, how to take the macho male thing that many young men have and channel it, get it under control and use it for good. (By the way, over the years I have seen many very wiggly boys gain self-control by serving as acolytes/altar boys.) A boy needs to see in his father what true manliness is, how to be strong yet gentle and loving. *

  • pastedGraphic_2.pngIn my lifetime, in movies and on television, I’ve seen the male image change from kind and well-mannered into rough, ill-mannered, macho maniacs blowing up cars. What has happened to us? Why? Bring back Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart! If you younger people don’t know them, you should. Watch some of their old movies.

Look online, and you’ll find many studies which indicate  that, in social stability and mental ability, children raised by same-sex parents do as well as (or better than) children raised in traditional families. If this is accurate, why might it be? Is it because children of same-sex couples are all wanted – they are chosen, adopted – and are raised well in loving homes. While some children born into traditional families are not wanted, are not raised well. Have any studies taken this into consideration?

Men and Women in recent times

When I was young, women were often put down. I think of some of the nasty stereotypical things men used to say about women –  incompetent “women drivers” and the like. Some of us old people remember:

At that time, men and fathers were usually portrayed as solid, wise and intelligent. “Father Knows Best”, “Ozzie and Harriett” from 50 years ago seem kind of hokey now – did these families never have any real problems? – but the man always came off well,.

Then we went through a period when women came into their own. (And I’m all in favor of that. When I see intelligent well-spoken capable women on TV news or in politics, I’m sad for all the feminine talent that was once wasted for so long. America has been way behind many pastedGraphic_3.pngnations in this regard.) But at that time fathers and men were often put down or ignored. In many commercials men were portrayed as weak or goofy, and women alone solved the problems. Some years ago I went into a book store here in Cedarburg. The shelves for “women’s studies” were filled with books; the shelf for “men’s studies” had 1 book. One! I hope things are more balanced now. * However, unless I’m mistaken, these days few TV shows portray any kind of traditional family.

  • A few days ago I searched on Google and found the following figures regarding “interdisciplinary academic field devoted to topics concerning men/women, masculinity/femininity, gender, culture, politics and sexuality”. Women’s studies: 1,360,000,000 results. Men’s studies: 297,000,000 results.  The women win by about four to one.

So… what ever happened to fathers? We’re still here. But we also need a lot of  attention and guidance, and I don’t think we’re getting much. So let’s begin like this:

The Theology of Fatherhood

Some say that people created God the Father in the image of human fatherhood. That is not the way it happened. In the Old Testament there are a few references to God being like a father. In Greek and native American mythology there were father gods who ruled within the celestial realm and were like human fathers. (In the case of the Greeks, a very randy human father!)

But God our Father is above the heavens. He created all things.

Stand outside on a clear night.


Look up into the heavens –  if you can find a place without light pollution – the billions upon trillions of stars and galaxies stretching out into the unfathomable distance. Then think of the One who stands behind it all, who created it and keeps it all going – this universe and who knows how many more universes beyond our own? (“In my Father’s House there are many rooms.”   Try pastedGraphic_5.pngto imagine this God who was before all time, who will still remain after all the lights of the cosmos go out, who dwells in timeless eternity, in approachable light, “whom no man has seen or ever can see”  – and I ask you: Would you even then think of saying, ‘Why that’s just like my father. Hi, Dad.”

We call God our Father because His Son Jesus Christ taught us to “dare to pray Our Father”. We call God our Father because the only begotten Son of God has made us His brothers and sisters by Baptism. Indeed Jesus said we should call this unimaginably great God “Abba/ Daddy”, of all things! He taught us – it hardly seems possible – that the infinite One, the Creator of all actually loves us, cares about each of us individually: Not a sparrow “will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. Even the very hairs of your head are numbered. So do not fear; you are of more value than many sparrows.”  Matthew 10:29-31 We believe God is our loving Father because Jesus said so.

The Theology of fatherhood

The truth is not that we created God the Father in the image of human fathers. Rather human fathers are created in the image of God the Father. We fathers are pale shadowy icons of God’s fatherhood. * So if we want to know how to be good fathers, our pattern is God the Father. Yes, guys, all we have to do is be like God!

  • Women also are created in the image of God. “So God created mankind in His own image; in the image of God He created him [generic]; male and female He created them.” 1:27  But we’re giving men some attention here.

Really?! But, yes, pastedGraphic_6.pngthere’s a basic pattern here. In a way we fathers should be distant like God. We should not be buddies to our little children. There should be no question who’s in charge. But fathers should also be extremely close to their children, “there” for their kids, as we say – loving them, never turning away, always available, “Abba, Daddy”. And in fact we already are “like God”. We can’t help it. We are created in His image. All we need to do is “be who we are”.

The key to being like God is found, as are all things, in our Lord Jesus Christ. On Holy Thursday night, the apostle Philip said to Him: Just one thing “and we shall be satisfied. Lord, show us the Father.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you do not know Me? He who has seen Me has seen the Father.” John 14:9 Jesus Christ is the image of God the Father.  In Jesus we see the Father. Not the depths of the Father’s Being – that we will never see – but Christ shows us the character of God, what the Father is like. So, you fathers, if you want to know how to be like God the Father, learn from Jesus. Every day pull out your Bible or go online, and read the Gospels. Know the life of Jesus inside and out. Learn from Him and try to become like Him.

Learn from him how to be “lord” of our children, but not aloof – like Jesus the Lord of all who walked the roads with His disciples, ate and drank with them, was there with them. Like Jesus who taught them to love children: “Let the children come to me.” Matthew 19:14