Celebrating All Of the Fathers


It’s a pillar on which the Catholic faith has rested since the very beginning. We call God our Father. Our bedrock prayer begins with the invocation, “Our Father.” Every time we make the Sign of the Cross, we begin with the words: “In the name of the Father.” The title we give our ordained priests is…Father. 

“Honor your father and your mother,” reads the biblical verse Exodus 20:12. In fact, more than just a verse, it is one of the Ten Commandments, the literal tenets of our faith. 

But the Bible doesn’t stop there when it comes to mentioning the role of fatherhood. In fact, Matthew 23:9 states unequivocally to the faithful that “you have but one Father in heaven.” The message, for those that believe, is clear: regardless of what our family situation is here on earth, we are members of the family headed by God the Father. 

However, by no means does the Bible omit what should be expected of God’s children during their earthly journey. “Hear O children, a father’s instruction, be attentive, that you may gain understanding.” reads Proverbs 4:1. Who among us has not heard those words and heeded them, or, worse, hasn’t listened, and later wish they had? 

There will be times when father and child won’t agree, and when a child will disobey the directives of a father, and father may feel the need to punish that disobedient child. But the meting out of punishment should not be confused with the withdrawal of lasting love, says 2 Samuel 7:14-15. 

“I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me,” those verses begin. “If he does wrong, I will reprove him … with human punishments; but I will not withdraw my favor from him.” 

Another instance in which a father’s love can conquer all is found in the parable of the prodigal son, Luke 15:20, which reads: “While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him.” 

In addition to support and forgiveness, one of the most enduring gifts a good father can give to his children, says Proverbs 14:26, is his faith. “The fear of the Lord is a strong defense,” the verse reads, “a refuge even for one’s children.” Perhaps there is no better symbol of that refuge than the protection that Joseph gave Mary and their child, Jesus, on the day our Savior was born. 

This edition of The Tablet has a couple of articles on fatherhood. In the Up Front & Personal, Veronica Szczygiel says that “like God the Father who gifts each of us with unique talents, my father saw that his daughters were not similar and were not always similar to him — and that was OK.” There is also a story on the lessons we can learn from the fathers who are featured in the Bible. 

Family, with fatherhood at its center, is what Catholicism is all about. So as another Father’s Day is upon us, those of us who are able to honor our fathers because they are still with us, and those who can honor not their presence, but their memory, should pause to remember all of the valuable wisdom, discipline, compassion, faith, and love that is wrapped up inside fatherhood.