In a conversation with Father Marco Pozza, an Italian prison chaplain, Pope Francis offers his insight into the words that Christ taught us to pray. But his thoughts on the Our Father don’t just center around the words to a prayer. In Our Father: Reflections on the Lord’s Prayer, Pope Francis also recognizes the importance of earthly fathers.
Raising a family in today’s culture can be a challenge. But Pope Francis wants to let fathers know that they’re not alone. Here are five pieces of wisdom from his writings that fathers can take to heart:
Be present to your family
“The first thing needed is this,” Pope Francis said, “that the father be present in the family. That he be close to his wife, to share everything, joys and sorrows, hardships and hopes. A father needs to be close to the children as they grow up; when they are playing and when they are working on a task; when they are carefree and when they are troubled.”
Pope Francis commented that being present doesn’t mean being in control, though. “Fathers who control too much are crushing their children, they are not letting them grow up.”
God the Father gives fathers here on earth such an example to follow. Pope Francis mentioned the story of the prodigal son, which he says is better described as the story of the merciful father.
“What dignity and tenderness there is in how the father stands at the door of the house, waiting for his son to come back! Fathers have to be patient,” he explained. “So many times there is nothing that can be done but wait in patience, kindness, generosity, and mercy, and pray.”
Correct without discouraging your children
Patience and forgiveness go hand in hand for fathers. This doesn’t meant that you can’t correct your children, though. However, fathers must be aware to correct without discouragement.
In Our Father: Reflections on the Lord’s Prayer, Pope Francis offered a story to illustrate his point. “One time at a conference on the topic of marriage, I heard a dad say, ‘Sometimes I have to discipline my kids a little, but I never humiliate them.’ How beautiful! The father has a sense of dignity. He has to reprimand, but he does it in the right way, to correct behavior, and then moves on.”
Recognize the importance of fathers
The presence of a father is an undeniable, immeasurable gift in the life of children. “For the younger generations,” Pope Francis said, “fathers are the irreplaceable guardians and mediators of faith in the goodness, of faith in the justice, and faith in the protection of God, like Saint Joseph.”
When children return after mistakes, they need to see their father, Pope Francis said. “Children need to find a father who is waiting for them when they return from their failures. These children will do all they can in order not to admit their mistakes, not to let their embarrassment show, but they need this security. Not finding their father at the door opens wounds inside them that are difficult to heal.”
Rely on your Heavenly father
Raising children in today’s culture can be a challenge. But you’re not alone in the journey as a father. God, the perfect father in Heaven, offers grace to help you along the journey.
“Without the grace that comes from the Father who is in Heaven, fathers lose courage and abandon the field,” Pope Francis explained. God the Father speaks through His bride, the Catholic Church, as well. “The Church, our mother, is committed to supporting the good and generous presence of fathers in the families,” Pope Francis said.