THE URGENT NEED FOR FATHERHOOD
An excerpt from Fr. Jacques Philippe's new book "Priestly Fatherhood"
As we all know, there is a crisis of fatherhood today. Fatherhood is often invalidated, all paternity or authority being suspected of abuse or of being overbearing. The image of the father in modern culture is often pale and oblivious, even to the point of being made a caricature, whereas the mother is seen as capable and strong. Men who present a positive image of paternity are lacking in modern society. Fathers of families don’t always play the role that they should assume, and they no longer know very well how to act. Paternity is in crisis in the Church; it is also suffering in the world of education and schools. Not to mention politics, where politicians more often give the impression of being argumentative children than people who may be given the chance one day to be recognized as the “father of the nation,” like some of their predecessors. There is also a crisis of masculinity, which is inevitable, really, given that true virility, in the end, can’t be accomplished without a certain form of paternity.
In spite of this context—or rather because of this context—the need for true paternity has never been greater than it is today. We are in a world of orphans, and so many people are disoriented and suffering because they haven’t had the chance of meeting someone in their lives who was a true father.
I notice it particularly in my own ministry. I encounter a great number of people, and I must say that I am hit by the realization of how desperate is the need for paternity. Whether it be children, young adults, couples, adults, or old grandmothers, all have this need for a father figure. It’s not always expressed outright because of fear or pride, which discourages acknowledging it, but it exists in all without exception. In my ministry, I’ve had important businessmen in front of me, people at the head of big enterprises, who nevertheless come up after a conference to ask for a big hug, at the point of tears when I embrace them.
Every man and woman needs to find a father on whom they can rely and by whom they are recognized, loved, and encouraged. This father is, of course, above all, the Father in Heaven; but each time that a man or woman finds him- or herself faced with someone who, by their manner of being, represents an authentic image of God’s paternity, it’s a great gift.
SUFFERING CAUSED BY THE ABSENCE OF A FATHER
The absence of a father figure (that of God himself, but also those who, in one way or another, are human versions of divine paternity) causes painful consequences in people’s lives. I don’t want to give an exhaustive list here, but will only mention four points.