dad walking w daughter retro - smallWritten By: Naomi Toms

On this day after Father’s Day, and on this feast day of St. Thomas More, a great and courageous father and martyr, I am compelled to say a word or two about our deep and ingrained desire for Fatherhood.

Caricatures of fatherhood have become a widespread part of our cultural experience. Comedians and TV shows crack jokes at weak, passive fathers on the one hand, and on the other hand, our culture insists that there is no place in civilized society for manliness. The idea of fatherly authority is rejected as archaic and overbearing, and displays of manly protectiveness are chided as chauvinistic.

And yet, there remains a deep and powerful need, an aching thirst, for fatherhood. It comes from our very core and foundation. We long for that affirmation of our identity, for a father’s blessing and approval; we desire that protection and guidance of a loving father; we yearn to be inspired by the strength of a courageous father’s leadership, virtue, and example.

The vocation of fatherhood is incredibly impactful. In Katrina Zeno’s words, if lived well, fatherhood becomes “a source of strength, protection, and exhortation. In the presence of a spiritual father, we feel an inner security to take risks to explore the world and act on it.” [1] John Eldredge goes on to add that fathers are given the additional role of bestowing upon their children confidence in their identity. He goes on to elaborate:

“The plan from the beginning of time was that his father would lay the foundation for a young boy’s heart, and pass on to him that essential knowledge and confidence in his strength […] and give him his name.  Throughout the history of man given to us in Scripture, it is the father who gives the blessing and thereby ‘names’ the son.” [2]

And though Eldredge writes mainly for a male audience, a similar reality is true for daughters. Daughters, too, yearn to be able to look up to their fathers, to learn from them that essential knowledge of what it means to be a person of strength and virtue. Both yearn for their father’s blessing – that affirmation of their worth, and that encouragement to become whom they were born to be.

An additional spiritual dimension builds on top of all these natural fatherly responsibilities. For the fatherly vocation is actually a spiritual form of the priestly vocation. [3] As the spiritual priest of the domestic church, the family, the father is also called to strengthen, purify, and inspire his family to grow in their own vocations and journeys of faith. To put it more starkly, Katrina Zeno writes, “In the presence of the spiritual priest, we feel inspired to lay down our lives and to imitate God’s self-sacrificial love no matter what the cost.” [4]

Fathers, don’t buy into that cultural bias against fatherhood. You have an incredible calling! God has blessed you with a certain sacred authority and influence over your children, whether you realize it or not. And they crave your blessing, your approval, your guidance and your strong example to liberate them to be all that they were created to be. Please, I ask you from the bottom of my heart, own that calling.

May God bless you and strengthen you in your vocation.

Abba, father us.

 

 

[1] Katrina Zeno, Discovering the Feminine Genius, (Boston, MA: Pauline Books & Media, 2010), p.130

[2] John Eldredge, Wild at Heart, (Nashville, TN: Nelson Books, 2001), p. 75

[3] Katrina Zeno, Discovering the Feminine Genius, p.130

[4] Katrina Zeno, Discovering the Feminine Genius, p.130

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