A perspective from the Church: On the topic of Fatherhood, I want to turn to the early desert Fathers, our spiritual desert fathers of the third century through the sixth century.
Our hermit fathers doubted that religion and politics could ever produce a truly Christian society. They were on to something…you think?
For them, the only Christian society was spiritual and not of the world.
From our desert Fathers, the Church received three tremendous gifts:
1) These desert fathers gave us the basis of praying the psalms and other scriptural passages, which would later become the official prayers of the church called the Divine Office or the Liturgy of the Hours.
Today, these official prayers take about one hour each day to pray, which is required by all priests, nuns, monks, and bishops of our Church.
2) These same desert fathers gave Holy Mother Church methods of deep spiritual communion with the Lord by meditating, reflecting, and praying on particular sacred scripture passages and events from the Bible.
It is a method called Lectio Divina, the reading and praying of the Divine Readings of Sacred Scripture.
This method allows the Holy Spirit to speak to the individual so that sacred text comes alive, and God can speak to all people for all generations to new circumstances. Priests, for example, use this method to prepare for homilies.
3) Lastly, the Desert Fathers provide us with the unique gift of contemplative prayer, a specific type of prayer that, today, anyone can do, and only takes about 20 minutes.
First, contemplation requires sitting quietly and minimizing distraction while meditating on a word or image that brings a person into God’s presence.
One might use the word Father, Light, Life, Jesus, the image of the crucifixion of Jesus, or the Eucharist as the focus for the duration of contemplation. The experience is meant to raise our souls into union with God, gently taking away thoughts about our problems, work, or worries, and to just spend time with the Lord.
Words do not need to be spoken. If something is to be said, then God speaks to our hearts. Otherwise, one is to simply experience the joy of being in union with the Lord.
What gifts, then, have our spiritual Church Fathers given us!
When we see the many fruits of our early desert fathers, we must consider that much fruit is born by men rising up to become fathers in our families and communities.
Thus, I have also pondered deeply upon the importance our fathers as heads of families and the incredible influence fathers have on children, and the importance of having many fathers in our church communities.
Fathers are irreplaceable!
We often speak highly in our Catholic faith of the early Church fathers, or of the early desert fathers as mentioned above.
Fatherhood is so much of our day-to-day lives as Catholics that we call all priests ‘Father’. We are to look up to these spiritual fathers, and they are to be positive influences for all earthly fathers of our families.
The bottom line this: all men should strive to be great fathers for our community, for our families, for our sons and daughters, and for all children.
Bishop Olmsted of Phoenix Arizona said in a pastoral letter that all men have an innate gift from God to be fathers.
What does he mean by this? That God calls all men to be spiritual fathers, even before the majority of them get married and become biological fathers.
Stop and think about that for a while, and look at how much more we can do to help teenage boys and college-aged men to begin taking on the many virtues and responsibilities it takes to eventually become spiritual and/or biological fathers.
As Bishop Olmsted said, we need men to stand into the breach where our society has intentionally broken down and attempts to destroy the virtue of fatherhood among men.
This is the storm trying to destroy Christianity.
If Satan can destroy fatherhood in society, then he can destroy the lives of millions of families, millions of women, millions of children, and millions of sons and daughters who look up to see their fathers but see no one stepping into those roles and thus they fall into despair or grief.
Let us celebrate and honor fatherhood, both spiritual fatherhood within the Church, as well as the fathers of our families, who are called to be the spiritual fathers of their household.
And above all things, let us continue to honor, worship and adore our Heavenly Father, as we honor, worship and adore His Only Begotten Son who shed His most Precious Blood to free us from our sins.
Praise the Lord, that in baptism, Jesus grants us a boarding pass upon His Ship of Salvation.
He calms every storm if we but keep our eyes and hearts focused on Him who saves and who is the perfect reflection of our Heavenly Father to whom He calls all men imitate.