While men are often presented by secular society as being either dumb, clumsy, absent-minded, lazy or authoritative and controlling, this commercial hits a very loud chord that resounds a different message. It shows men who are observant, attentive, active and willing to sacrifice themselves for the needs of others.
In addition to showing fathers who are present and active in the lives of their children, it also displays the little regarded fact that true strength is often shown in one’s capacity to be patient and tender.
This tenderness is something Pope Francis has spoken of often, particularly in relation to God the Father’s attitude toward us as his children. Right before Christmas, he started a new series of catechesis in his Wednesday general audiences reflecting on the topic of the family, as a means of preparation for this October’s Synod of Bishops on the Family.
So far the Pope has reflected on the family as a whole as well as the role of mothers, fathers, children and siblings. While dedicating only one week to each of the others, Francis actually spent two weeks talking about fatherhood. Here are some snippets of what he had to say:
“Dear brothers and sisters, in our reflection on the family, today we focus on the word ‘father.’ ‘Father’ is a universal word, known by all, which indicates a fundamental relation whose reality is as old as human history. It’s the word which Jesus taught us to call God, giving (it) a new and deeper meaning, revealing to us the mystery of the intimacy of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, which is the center of our Christian faith.
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In our days, we have come to speak of a ‘society without fathers.’ The absence of the figure is understood as a liberation, especially when the father is perceived as a cruel authority that limits the freedom of his children, or when the children feel neglected by fathers who focus only on their problems, in their work, or on their own personal realization or are characterized by their marked absence from home. All of this creates a situation of orphans in children and youth of today, who live disoriented without the good example or prudent guidance of a father. All Christian communities and the civil community should be aware of the absence of the father figure, for it leaves gaps and wounds in the education of the youth. Without guides to rely on, youth can filled with idols that end up robbing their heart, enthusiasm and genuine wealth.
Sometimes it seems that fathers don’t know what role to play in the family or how to educate their children (so they evade and shirk their responsibilities) … It’s true that you need to be the friend of your child, but without forgetting that you are a father, eh. If you are only there for your child as a friend, it won’t be good for them.”
“Brothers and sisters, today I would like to reaffirm the positive and decisive figure of the father. Every family needs a father. A father who doesn’t boast of having a child be like him, but is glad to learn righteousness and wisdom, which is the only thing that counts in life. This is the best inheritance that can be transmitted to children, and you will feel filled with joy you see that they have received and taken advantage of this inheritance. Because of this try to teach what the child does not yet know, correct the errors they don’t yet see, guide their heart, protect them in discouragement and difficulty. (And) all of this with closeness, with gentleness and with a firmness that doesn’t humiliate. To be a good father, in first place, is to be present in the family, sharing the joys and sorrows with one’s wife, accompanying one’s children as they grow. The Gospel parable of the prodigal son shows us the father who waits at the door of the house for the return of his son. He knows how to wait, he knows how to forgive, he knows how to correct. Also today’s children, returning home with their failures, need a father who waits for them, protects them, encourages them and teaches them how to follow the good path. Sometimes fathers have to chastise their children, but never give them a slap in the face. Many times children will not admit it, but they need (this chastisement). We all need to go to the only good father, as the Gospel says, Our Father who art in heaven.”
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