I write this article on the first anniversary of my father´s death and first year in heaven. And it is not presumption or bragging: my father died one Saturday morning, wearing the Scapular of Our Lady of the Mount Carmel and with the final Sacraments administered by his grandson (a priest).
For this reason, today’s video, The Lighthouse, fills my heart in a very special way: as my father’s son, I see the good work he did with his twelve children and his more than 60 grandchildren. And as the father of my children, who are just entering adolescence, I see the task that lies ahead for me in continuing to try to be a good father.
The video is beautiful from every point of view. Both the father and the mother are decisive in forming the character of children, but our culture glorifies and praises motherhood almost exclusively, as if paternity was dispensable, perhaps interchangeable, or as if fathers did not need recognition for our role in the formation of children.
A father’s contribution to the rearing of children is immeasurable. In the difficult task of raising children, men have a unique challenge: we must show both firmness and tenderness. Be firm without being hard, and be tender without being soft. From our firmness, our children will gain the confidence and the strength of personality that they’ll need to face the world.
In this short film, symbolically set in a lighthouse with a pier, the father accompanies the child on his confidence-gaining journey, poetically symbolized by the increasingly larger ships used by the son. The father plays with the child, but at the same time gives him growing confidence, according to his age and ability. There is a precious moment where the father looks at the son who has already matured and continues to see him as a child.
It is in that gaze that the inner tension of the father resides: as a dear friend says, “paternity is a beacon of expectations, dreams, love that is always in tension towards the future.” Our children are our main concern, our life’s central responsibility and our most important investment in the future.
We prepare our children to be independent, strong, confident… but even when we trust them, that does not mean that our own hearts feel such confidence. There are many times when, like the father in the film, we need to feel confident that our “kids” will be well, but this feeling doesn’t come without suffering and loneliness.
Another masterful touch of this short film is the music. On the one hand, the composition creates an intimate and wonderful mood. From my interpretation, the music symbolizes the transfer of paternal wisdom. The father places the child in front of the piano and the child wants to play capriciously, without even knowing how. The father stops him, takes his hands and places them on the keyboard correctly, until the boy is able to follow the melody.
Later, upon the return of the now-grown son, the elderly father has lost the ability to express himself with music. While his son interprets it, he removes his hands from the keyboard and puts them aside. Then the son plays the same music for his own son, but it’s enriched and filled out by his own experience.
Pope Francis has done a beautiful catechesis on fatherhood when he says:
“Every family needs the father. Today we focus on the value of his role and I’d like to begin with some verses found in the Book of Proverbs, words that a father addresses to his own son, and says: “My son, if your heart is wise, My heart too will be glad. My soul will rejoice, when your lips speak with righteousness (Pr 23,15-16). […] This father does not say, “I am proud of you because you are just like me, because you repeat the things I say and what I do.” No, he does not say that. He says something much more important, that perhaps we could interpret this way: “I will be happy every time I see you act with righteousness. This is what I wanted to leave you, so that it becomes a thing of yours: the attitude of listening and acting, of speaking and judging with wisdom and righteousness. And, so that you could be like this, I have taught you things that you did not know, I have corrected mistakes that you did not see. I have made you feel a deep affection and at the same time discretion, which you may not have fully recognized when you were young and uncertain. I have given you a testimony of rigor and firmness that perhaps you did not understand, when you had only wanted complicity and protection. I myself, first of all, had to put myself to the test of the wisdom of the heart and watch over the excesses of feeling and resentment, to carry the weight of the inevitable misunderstandings and find the right words to make me understand. (Pope Francis, Catechesis of February 4, 2015).
To examine ourselves, we might ask: How is my relationship with my children? Did I firmly convey both confidence and affection? Do I support them in their successes and comfort them in their failures? Can I convey my wisdom to my children without imposing my opinions? Can I help them find their own way?