The Holy Father and Father’s Day

On this Sunday, we celebrate Father’s Day and recognize the value of both natural fathers of families and spiritual fathers, including the two new priests ordained for this Diocese last week, Fathers Colin Davis and Joseph Rampino.

On this occasion, it is helpful to recall the observations of Pope Francis in his latest apostolic exhortation The Joy of Love.  In paragraph 56, he criticizes “various forms of an ideology that denies the difference and reciprocity in nature of a man and a woman and envisages a society without sexual differences, thereby eliminating the anthropological basis of the family.”

To counteract this ideology, he offers in a later part of the exhortation a reflection “on the love of a father and a mother.”  With regard to father, he points out in paragraph 177 that “God sets the father in the family so that by the gifts of masculinity he can be close to his wife and share everything, joy and sorrow, hope and hardship . . . [a]nd to be close to his children when they grow.”

He also criticizes a society in which fathers are often absent or uncertain of their roles and culture does not respect their authority, but rather replaces it with “the communications and entertainment media.”  This unfortunate situation “hinders the proper process of development that children need to experience.” It is difficult for people in the modern era to understand the complementary roles of a husband and wife, and of a father and mother.  Because such complementary cannot be easily reduced to statistical analysis or laboratory experiments, people are inclined to deny the balancing altogether.

To understand the complementarity of masculinity and femininity, it is helpful to reflect upon other forms of complementarity, such as that of harmony and melody in music, primary and pastel colors in art, curves and straight lines in design, rhyme and meter in poetry, or nouns and verbs in prose.  From Scripture, there is the balance between the thundering masculine voice of prophesy and the feminine and maternal voice of Lady Wisdom in the books of Proverbs, Wisdom and Sirach.

In the New Testament, Jesus organized men as the twelve Apostles, while the Holy Spirit and the angels guided Mary and the holy women in a more subtle way.  In these and many ways, we receive images of the balance of masculine and feminine that give glory to individual families and to the family of God.