In Tribute To Fathers

by Rev. Mark Connolly

Fathers day for many of us means various things. To the young child it means getting dad a new tie, the golf balls, or some gift reminding him that dad is quite important. The rest of the family comes up with ideas such as shirts and sweaters and whatever they think father needs. That has been an American tradition to honor fathers in this way during the month of June.

If you go back into the history of the Church, the role of the father has been highlighted not just for one day in June, but for many centuries. St. Thomas, perhaps the greatest theologian in the church, echoed the words of St. Paul when he said the father is the principle of generation, of education, of discipline and human life. The late Pope Pius XII reminded husbands of their tremendous responsibility of sanctifying their wives by the example of a virtuous life. "Let them", he said, "learn from your industrious life the courage of enduring the hardships and suffering that are never lacking in home life." There is no question that fatherhood does not get a fair shake by way of television shows. He is often the country bumpkin, the one who is made the object of a joke, the one who is the last to hear of anything important and oftentimes, his opinion does not count in any way.

When you compare what society teaches about the role of the father and what the church teaches about the role of the father, there is a night and day difference. Each one of us can argue about the role of leadership that is demanded of a father or a mother. Both of them have leadership obligations at particular times especially in the raising of children. When you speak of the role of a father and the word leadership, it does not mean that the father assumes the attitude of a dictator or a tyrant. But it does mean that in the language of St. Thomas, he is the principle of generation and education and discipline and therefore, his words should carry some weight. No one denies the impact and the leadership role of the mother, but our country has developed a mentality that fathers should be seen and not heard. Every father knows his strengths and weaknesses. Every father knows his obligations and responsibilities. Every father knows that he is accountable to God for the obligations and responsibilities he assumes on the day of his marriage. Every member of the family should see in him a man whom God has created to give them the ideals for a happy life. It is not only from the mother, but also the father of the home that they should receive an awareness of their duties to God and the members of the family. It is from him they should learn a sense of justice and honesty. They must look upon him as a leader given the care of not only their bodies, but their souls.

Of necessity, the man of the house must realize that he must be firm without being dictatorial, gentle and yet not weak. Fathers not only need the charity of Christ, they need the tolerance of Christ. Tolerance gives the father of the home the vision that enables him to see things from another point of view. It is this fatherly tolerance that gives to others the rights to their own opinions and individuality. It is this unsung virtue that wins for a father the love of his children and brings him the respect his position deserves.

Who is the successful father as far as God is concerned? He is the father who has lived so well that his children want to be like him. He is the man of the house who has won the undying love of his wife and children. He is the father who is eagerly awaited as he returns from work. He is the father in whom the children will confide. He is the father who knows he has done everything to make a home for the woman he married. He is the man whose name will never appear in the newspaper except at death. His name will never be found in the hall of fame, but to his family, there is no one like him. There never will be. He is one whose life has been an inspiration and whose memory will be a benediction.

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