THE EDITOR: Today is Father’s Day. We don’t need research to tell us how important it is for children to have both parents in their lives. And while the nuclear family is under threat, this does not absolve either parent from ensuring that they play a key role in their children’s lives.
As Krystine Batcho states: “Although both fathers and mothers can be sensitive and effective parents, some theorists argue that fathers serve a special role in their children’s development (Paquette, 2004)...With many fathers living separately from their children, it’s important to remember that the essence of closeness isn’t geography; it’s love.”
Pope Francis states: “Every family needs a father. I ask that you have the grace to be very close to your children, letting them grow, but being by their side. They need you, your presence, to be there, your love!...fathers are the irreplaceable guardians and mediators of faith through their goodness, justice, and protection.” Read what he said in his apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia (“The Joy of Love”): On Love in the Family paras172-17).
A father whose son was murdered in TT said to me: “I still grieve for my son. My father left home when I was a child. By the time I was 12 he was murdered because of his involvement in a gang. When my son was born I was so proud. I wanted to give him the love that I never had from my father. I thought this meant buying him the latest designer wear and showing him off in my neighbourhood. Then I lost my job. After constant arguing, my relationship with his mother broke up. I could not pay maintenance for my son so I moved out of the area and never went back to see my son. I still have feelings. When I heard that my son was killed, it broke me. I never had a chance to influence his life in a positive way.” I recall Barack Obama’s speech at Morehouse College, USA, 2013, about fatherhood and family. It is not only among the poor that we find absentee fathers. Indeed, even in two-parent families, many fathers are “missing in action” and play little or no part in rearing their children.
Inter alia, Obama said: “I sure wish I had had a father who was not only present, but involved. Didn’t know my dad...I want to be a better father, a better husband, a better man...Be the best father you can be to your children. Because nothing is more important...It’s hard work that demands your constant attention and frequent sacrifice...Everything else is unfulfilled if we fail at family, if we fail at that responsibility.”
And then there are the children who treat their fathers - and mothers, really badly, but in spite of this, their parents continue to love them.
As Pope Francis said: “Everyone knows that extraordinary parable of the Prodigal Son, or better yet, the Merciful Father (Luke 15:11-32). What dignity and what tenderness there is in the expectation of that father who stands at the door of the house waiting for his son to return! Fathers must be patient. Often there is nothing else to do but wait; pray, and wait with patience, gentleness, magnanimity, and mercy. A good father knows how to wait, and he knows how to forgive from the depths of his heart. Certainly, he also knows how to correct with firmness: he is not a weak father, submissive and sentimental. The father who knows how to correct without humiliating is the one who knows how to protect without sparing himself…”
I thank God that my father, now deceased, had many of the qualities of a good father. Let’s help our fathers to meet their responsibilities. God bless them all.